I opened my eyes as I was jostled in my dad’s arms. He carried me downstairs to the basement where a crack of thunder jolted me awake.
“Is there a tornado?” I looked at my mom for an answer as Dad set me down on the sofa.
Mom covered me with a warm afghan and smiled. “There’s nothing to worry about. We’re safe in the basement. Just go back to sleep, and it will all be over when you wake up.”
My parents’ relaxed demeanor and comforting tones pushed the sound of thunder and fierce wind to the background. I drifted back to sleep, confident that Mom and Dad could keep me safe from the raging storm.
Those were the days. In time, I grew older and wiser—perceptive enough to detect the worry and fear my parents had been able to hide when I was younger. I grew cognizant of the reality that my parents can’t actually protect me from storms, either weather-related or storms of life.
With these realizations came the loss of the sense of safety that had enabled me to peacefully sleep through danger as a child. Fear grew within me, not just of thunderstorms, but of life’s dangers and problems that my parents can’t always keep at bay.
Some people would argue that many of those fears aren’t bad. So-called “natural” fears like being afraid of tornadoes, fire, or scorpions are labeled healthy instead of sinful—touted as instinctive fears that ensure our survival through warning us of danger. By that argument, my anxiety while driving in treacherous road conditions as I had to do last August was normal and healthy.
So if I was in a boat at sea and a vicious storm blew in, rocking my boat with every real possibility of ending my life, I wouldn’t be wrong to be afraid. I would just be a normal person with a healthy response to danger, right?
That’s not what Jesus says.
His disciples were out in a boat when a powerful storm came and raged about them, waves crashing over their vessel. They were definitely in danger. And they were terrified.
But Jesus Himself was in the boat with them.
He wasn’t afraid. He didn’t display a “natural” response to danger. No, He was sleeping.
When the disciples roused Him in a panic, with what many would call a reasonable belief that they were going to die, He didn’t tell them that being afraid was okay. He didn’t say they were right to be afraid of the real danger they were in. He didn’t tell them they were responding with a healthy instinct that was meant to keep them safe from danger.
Instead, He dismantled their fear with a simple, pointed, soul-stripped-bare question:
“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)
As He always did and always does, Jesus went immediately to the heart of the matter. The disciples’ fear was not acceptable, not okay or right, healthy or normal. Like all fear except that of God, their fear of the great storm stemmed from a lack of faith.
If they truly believed in God—believed that He is good, that He controls everything (including the weather), that He is merciful, and that nothing could happen to them outside of His perfect will—then they would have had no fear.
If they had believed in Jesus Christ, Who at that very moment was with them in the boat, they would not have feared even if the storm had capsized the vessel and plunged them to their deaths.
I look at the disciples in this story and judge them as ridiculously faithless. Jesus is right there in the boat with you! I think to myself. If He was in a boat with me, I wouldn’t be scared.
But Jesus IS in the boat with me.
He who promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), was with me in the car as I drove on dangerous roads. He was with me every time I’ve a near-miss with tornadoes, lightning, and other physical dangers. He’s with me every time I go through a different kind of storm—the turmoil of conflict, death, betrayal, loss, and tragedy.
If you know Christ and belong to Him, Jesus is in your boat, too. Through each and every storm you face in life, He’s right there with you. His fearless peace is yours through the Holy Spirit inside you.
So don’t believe Satan’s lie that your fear of snakes, hurricanes, heights, or whatever such anxiety plagues you is “healthy” or “natural.” The Bible tells us that such fears are wrong. We can recognize danger without needing to fear it. In fact, Scripture tells us over and over again not to fear danger of any kind.
When we face danger, Jesus calls us to faith instead of fear. He calls us to truly believe and live what we say we believe—that our God is greater than all dangers that confront us and that He will bring about His plans for our lives, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11b).
In his powerful little book, Fearless Faith, Jonathan Stephen shares a verse from “Begone, Unbelief,” a hymn by John Newton that was previously unknown to me. But since reading the lyrics in Stephen’s book, I’ve taken to reciting them in my mind when assaulted by fear. I’d like to share them with you now in the hope that they will also strengthen your faith as you fight against fear of the storms you face.
My Saviour is near,
And for my relief
Will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle,
And He will perform;
With Christ in the vessel,
I smile at the storm.
— John Newton, “Begone, Unbelief”
Do you struggle with a recurring fear of something dangerous? What do you do to defeat such fears? Please share!