It was late one night when my wife was pregnant with our second child, and I couldn’t sleep. A looming sense of dread and fear settled over me. How could we afford a second child when we were barely making it as a family of three? I could taste the fear and it was bitter, but there was nothing I could do to change the circumstance—I had to change my response.
Fear impedes progress, paralyzes action, and stymies thought. Everyone has fears; the challenge we all face is overcoming those fears. There are many examples in the Bible of people conquering their fears. Some golden lessons come from Jacob’s reunion with Esau (Gen. 32, 33). The last time they saw each other, Esau was ready to kill Jacob. As Jacob approached Esau’s land 20 years later, he was afraid Esau still wanted to kill him. When Jacob was told that Esau approached, he was “greatly afraid and distressed” (Gen. 32:7).
First, Jacob prayed. Jacob admitted to God his fear and asked for deliverance (Gen. 32:9-12). For the faithless, prayer is the last resource during moments of distress. But for believers who trust in God for deliverance, prayer is their first step toward victory.
Second, Jacob prepared. He set aside gifts to offer to Esau. He divided his camp, so some were guaranteed escape, and prepared his family to meet Esau a little at a time. He prayed knowing only God could deliver him. Then he prepared like God wouldn’t deliver him. Sometimes, God’s deliverance comes through our preparation. Other times, God intervenes in ways we never conceived. Either way, we need to prepare to overcome our fears.
Third, Jacob gained perspective. The event he feared didn’t happen. Instead, when Jacob and Esau met, “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him…and they wept” (Gen. 33:4). Usually what we fear never eventuates. If we gain the perspective that our fears rarely come true, our hearts will not be so burdened with fear.
Fourth, Jacob prospered. In the end, Jacob gained his brother because he was willing to face his fears (Gen. 33:10). We can face fear or run from it—only one gains victory. History is filled with successful people who overcame fears in the beginning to prosper in the end.
We will never eliminate fear. We can only choose to be courageous despite it. That’s the spirit of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7).