When Fear is Real and Reasonable
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Sometimes evil has a face and a name.

What kind of person grabs a little girl off the street, from her mother’s hand, and takes her somewhere to abuse her?

But that happened in Fort Worth, Texas. Thankfully, some heroic citizens worked with police and the little girl was found and rescued.

She is safe today, but will she and her family ever feel safe again?

I didn’t want to write about this story because everything about it is sad and dark. But her rescue has been described as a miracle. I wrestled with this blog post, not wanting to think about this story, but knowing that a miracle should be discussed.

The rescue was a miracle, but healing will require a choice.

Most of the time when Christians write about fear, the spiritual lesson is “fear not.” Jesus often told his disciples not to be afraid, even when they had every right to feel fear. He taught them not to worry because God loves them.

But how could that mom feel anything but fear as that car drove off with her little girl inside? How will she ever not worry? She was just walking down the street, holding her daughter’s hand—and evil succeeded.

For that matter, how do we not worry when our fears are both real and reasonable?

Does God ask the impossible of us?

The simple answer is yes.

The spiritual answer is found in:

  • Luke 1:37: Mary said, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
  • Matthew 19:26: Jesus told his disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
  • Philippians 4:13: Paul said, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

It seems like God has asked Christians to walk through this world with enough faith to believe the impossible is possible.

Is “fearlessness” too much for God to ask?

The impossible is impossible for us, not God.

There is a mom in Fort Worth whose life has been permanently changed. She has known fear at a level most of us will never experience. That said, all of us will experience real and reasonable fears. Everyone will face the impossible choice that Jesus called us to make when he commanded us to “fear not.”

The only choice we will have in our moments of very real, very reasonable fear, is to know that the impossible is only possible with God. The only answer to some fear is knowing God “can” because we also know we “can’t.” It isn’t possible for human beings to live without fear. It is possible for human beings to trust God is bigger than whatever we are afraid of.

A lot of our fears are real and reasonable. Evil exists. Bad things happen. We know that God can protect, but we also know that sometimes his choice is to walk us through the pain or fear, rather than remove it.

Is it possible to trust that God will be enough for our real and reasonable fears?

Jesus, help our unbelief.

Jesus sent his disciples out to do ministry in his name. They encountered a man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit. The disciples tried to cast out the demon but weren’t able. When Jesus walked into the situation, he told the son’s father to bring the boy to him.

The father had been disappointed by the disciples but handed his son to Jesus, saying, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). Jesus reacted to the man’s words, saying, “‘If you can!’ All things are possible for one who believes” (v. 23).

Everything in me relates to the father in this story and not to Jesus.

As I write this blog, a wonderful friend and mom is admitting her cancer will win and she will soon go to heaven. Both she and her kids seem too young for this to be happening.

A man we know needs a new heart to live, but he will need to wait to see if a heart will become available.

And a Fort Worth mom in the news will bring her little girl home from the hospital with physical healing, but recovery from her emotional pain will be more difficult.

I know that many people who will read these words have similar stories of their own.

I hope all of us will remember the words the possessed boy’s father prayed. He looked at Jesus and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 19:24). The Lord understands our struggle but wants us to trust him anyway.

My favorite prayer for real and reasonable fears

David understood fear. King Saul, and many others, wanted him dead. David wrote these words in Psalm 56 that I have found comfort in praying when I face real and reasonable fear. David wrote:

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
(Psalm 56:1–4)

It is when, not if, even for the faithful.

It is impossible to walk through this life without fear because fear is a reasonable response for any human being.

That said, when we are afraid, there is something to do. We need to continually and faithfully decide what we are going to do with our fear. Some fear is real and reasonable, but we can ask God to do the impossible and give us the strength and peace to survive even our greatest fears.

When evil is real, we will have to trust that God is real too. When fears are defined by a doctor or a set of circumstances, our choice is defined by God. When we are afraid, we need to be like David and understand that God is larger and stronger than anything that can attack our earthly lives. We can trust God to handle what we can’t.

Some fears are impossibly difficult for us, and it is difficult to believe our faith is sufficient. God understands. And Jesus promised us that we don’t have to fear. Jesus stepped out of his grave and proved Christians will too. So, we can pray the words of that father, saying, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” We can echo King David’s words: “I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”

We can believe that, with God, even the impossible is possible for our greatest fears.

A little girl was hurt, but she was also saved. The two people I know who desperately want to continue their earthly lives also know they will live eternally in heaven. Fear and pain are real and reasonable, but so is our faith.

When you are afraid, trust in God. He is as real as your fear, and many years of ministry have taught me that God is enough for all the real things that happen in this world. And God’s promise can be trusted for all the real joys that will reward our faith.

Lord, we believe; help our unbelief.