Does fear have a place in the life of a Christian? Is it the opposite of faith? Can I be fearful yet still have a sense of peace?

By Regina Marcazzo-Skarka

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

2 Timothy 1:7 … for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 

Fear is a paralyzing emotion that really has no place in the life of a Christian except when it relates to fear out of reverence for God. However, it is an emotion that I have struggled with for years including my many years as a follower of Jesus. 

When my son Zack was diagnosed with cancer almost a decade ago, I was filled with fear. I feared losing him first and foremost. I somehow maintained my composure through the whirlwind of events that took place and decisions that needed to be made in those early days of his illness and I attempted to remain calm for my 18-year old Zack. Truth is that he had a much better handle on the fear factor. At one point he said to me, “Mom, fear is the opposite of faith. If you are fearful then you do not trust God.” Woah.  He was actually a little hard on me, yet he was right and I knew it. Those words didn’t necessarily make it any easier as I really wanted to just lie on the couch and stare into space indefinitely. 

As years have passed, I have retold that story to numerous people and have gotten different reactions, including from those who felt that his words were too harsh because it was only natural to be fearful. But I contend that he was right and that we must trust God in all circumstances and be thankful. 

I remember sitting in the hospital for days reading, walking laps with Zack around the fifth floor of Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City and sitting on my chair bed reading Bible verses that friends would send me. Although we were going through really tough times, I definitely had a sense of peace. 

I recall feeling thankful as I roamed the streets near the hospital and sat in the hospital for days at a time. Sounds of fear and even anger could be felt in the halls and rooms of the hospital, but I can truly say that I had peace and that I was so grateful for it. It was tangible. It was like I could touch it. One day walking back from getting myself lunch to bring back to our room, I literally felt like I was floating down the sidewalk. I felt such a sense of peace. It could not be more clear that that feeling of peace was coming straight from above. 

Another classic Zack happened one evening when we were home from the hospital but needed to monitor his temperature. We were warned by the doctors that a fever of 101 or higher could be very dangerous for someone on chemotherapy and that we would immediately have to go to the hospital. Of course, I felt his forehead about 100 times an hour and stuck our brand new thermometer in his ear a few dozen times a day, a little bit of an exaggeration but not too far from the truth. At one point, he stopped me and said, “Mom! Stop! If I get a fever and if I die, I’ll be with Jesus. What could be so bad about that? I’ll just see you later.”

We made it through those months of in-hospital intense chemotherapy followed by major surgery. Zack went back to college five hours away. I worried a lot yet I grew more in my faith during those days than ever before. Zack was a light to me and to many around him, people of all ages. He was and still is.

I memorized Philippians 4:4-7 and continue to recite it regularly as I am always a work in progress and need to be reminded constantly. It reads, “Rejoice always. I will say it again, Rejoice. The  Lord is near. Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

These words in Philippians help me as I continue to be a worrier. It’s something that I really wish I could overcome. I do know, however, that God is for me and that He is always good. He gives me peace that takes away crippling fear. 

I’ve since added Philippians 4:8 to my repertoire of memorized verses. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” 

Memorizing God’s word has helped me greatly. 

Zack’s cancer did come back about 10 months after his big surgery, this time to the brain. He continued to be a warrior for God going through it all including whole brain radiation. Everything I read on the internet was not hopeful. I felt helpless yet filled with peace. That was almost 10 years ago. My Zack has been married to his beautiful and talented wife, Joy, for over four years. He is currently discipleship director at a Christian college, teaches theology and is working on his Ph.D.

I still struggle with fear and worry, but I try to take captive my negative thoughts. One thing I do have is the peace of God.

Please read the posts on FEAR written by my fellow Hope*Writers How to Help Kids with Anxiety and Fear By Ashley Olivine 

Living Fearless By Sharla Hallett

Why I am So Scared By Amy Cobb

I ain’t afraid: Reflections on turning 50 By Jessica Weaver

When Hidden Fear Creeps Our By Dianne Vielhuber

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