When You're Caught in Fear's Grip
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.” John 20:19-20a (NIV)
Audrey pulled the cover over her eyes.
“Check for bears,” she said.
I checked for bears one more time. I had tried telling her there were no bears under the bed. When she persisted, I made a game out of looking. I held up a dust bunny, and we laughed because that certainly wasn’t a bear. Every time I left the room, I heard my sweet granddaughter’s trembling voice.
“Gaga, the bearrrrr.”
Finally, I climbed in the bed with her until she fell asleep, her tiny form pressed against mine.
There was no bear, but there was fear. When I pulled her closely in my arms, that fear fled.
Have you ever had someone tell you not to be afraid? They discount the feeling, because they don’t feel it. Perhaps they give advice.
The problem is, you already know that fear isn’t healthy. You know there’s no “bear” under the bed, but that hasn’t eased your anxious thoughts.
In John 20:19-20, the disciples are gripped with fear. They’d walked with Jesus for three years. They heard Him promise that He’d rise again. They sat at His feet as He assured them He’d always be with them. Yet, they also witnessed His arrest, a brutal flogging and then a tragic death on a rugged cross. They thought they were going to build a kingdom with Jesus, not attend His burial.
When the women ran to them, saying the tomb was empty, the disciples raced to the site. (John 20:2-4)
Was it a trick? Had the soldiers hid His body? Was it possible Jesus’ words came true? Unsure of the answer, they trudged back and hid behind a barred door, still bound by fear.
Jesus suddenly appeared among them in the room. The door was still barred. Their circumstances seemed to be the same, except for one thing: Jesus was with them.
There was no condemnation for their fearful thoughts. He didn’t give them a three-step plan. He didn’t point out all the truth they forgot. He simply came close. He breathed peace over their hearts. He invited them to feel His side and touch the nail prints in His hands and feet.
Fear fled, and joy overwhelmed them.
When you’re caught in fear’s grip, you may feel anxious and uncertain about what to do. That’s OK. It’s less about what you do and more about what Jesus will do for you.
Further along in John 20:21-22, we see how Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to empower the disciples after He returned to Heaven. “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)
There are times when I’m caught in fear’s grip where I even feel guilty or “less than.” Those feelings can keep me in hiding. But Jesus promises to breathe peace over our hearts. He invites us to come close. He reminds me that I’m not alone. That His words are true. His strength will carry me until I am no longer afraid, and He will grant courage to walk in faith, not fear.
Audrey is 4 years old now. She no longer believes a bear lives under the bed, yet other fears sometimes try to creep in. She knows if she calls for her Gaga, I’ll be there. We’ll lie close together until fear flees and peace settles in. Jesus wants to do the same for you and me.
Heavenly Father, I’ve felt shame over fear, and that doesn’t come from You. Help me find the courage to walk in faith, not fear, because the Holy Spirit is at work within me. As You speak peace over my heart, I want to receive it. Instead of hiding from You, I will turn toward You. I bring my anxious thoughts to You, for You are my strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (NIV)
Psalm 94:19, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Romans 8:1 explains how there is no condemnation for those who love Jesus. No blame. No criticism. No disapproval. No judgment! That’s good news.
Fear can lead to shame, or it can lead to Jesus. Which will you choose?