Since 2014, researchers at Chapman University have conducted the Survey of American Fears. Their most recent reportcatalogues 88 things of which Americans are “afraid” or “very afraid.” The top 10 fears include corrupt government officials, pollution and climate change, loved ones becoming sick or dying, terrorism, and lack of money.
And fear seems to be rising. In the survey’s first report, 35.5% of Americans feared the last item in that year’s top 10 list, while 60.6% feared the first. In its most recent report, 55.7% feared the last item, and a whopping 77.2% feared the first.
The researchers haven’t yet published 2020 results, but it’s a safe bet fear has risen even higher. Fear of government? Check. The pandemic? Check. Social unrest and a bad economy? Check.
Fear is a natural, instinctive reaction to a threat, whether that threat is immediate or long-term, real or perceived. Christians have such reactions, so we have fears too. The question is whether fear will gain the upper hand in our hearts.
Surely the answer is no!
Consider this: The first quotation in Matthew’s Gospel is the angel of the Lord’s command to Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” (1:20). And Jesus’ first post-resurrection word to His female disciples is, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). In both cases, fear is the obstacle to obeying God — specifically, to accomplishing His mission.
And in both cases, God himself overcomes human fear through revelation and resurrection. If fear is a natural, instinctive response, we must always keep in mind that God’s power is greater, closer, and more enduring than any threat we may face. What is there to fear if God can create life in a virgin’s womb and raise the very dead?
The answer to that question may not make our fears disappear entirely, but it certainly will diminish their stronghold in our hearts and minds.
So, in a culture of rising fear, do not be afraid. The Resurrected One is present and in control, and we have a job to do (Matthew 28:18–20)!
P.S. This article appears in the April–June 2021 edition of Influence magazine.