Fear and Fearfulness

Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.’”—Daniel 1:9–10 (NIV)

Did you know there’s a difference between fear and fearfulness? On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference, right? But when you peel back the layers and dive a little deeper, you discover there’s actually a huge difference. 

You see, fear is the visceral, raw, instinctual, and natural emotion we feel when threatened or under duress. It’s a reaction to perceived danger. Everyone feels fear; it’s completely natural and unavoidable. And it’s something that comes in a moment and can be overcome, dispelled, and cast out. 

Fearfulness is the state in which we linger in fear and allow fear to dominate and consume our lives. It takes the natural emotional response and turns it into a lifestyle. Fear is a feeling; fearfulness is a mindset. 

In today’s verse, we see the administrator over Daniel operating out of a state of fearfulness. He was fearful of his reputation, his status, and his life. He lived in a constant state of fear, particularly as it pertained to King Nebuchadnezzar. 

And truthfully, friends (and I say this with gentleness and a delicate heart) . . . non-believers have cause for operating out of a state of fearfulness. Why? They have no hope, no confident assurance, no security or peace to cling to, walk in, and rest on. They have no power to draw strength from and no foundation to stand strong in. But contrast the modus operandi of this official with that of Daniel and his friends (Daniel 3:16–18; 6:10–16). You see the difference? Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego had a true and living hope because they had put their trust in the true and living God. They may have experienced fear of a fiery death and being locked in a hole with ferocious beasts, but they didn’t operate from an attitude of anxiety or fester in fearfulness. 

2 Timothy 1:7 (HCSB) tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” And Romans 8:15 (ESV) declares, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” And let us not forget 1 John 4:18 (NIV), which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”

So, friends, as believers we don’t have to live in a constant state of fearfulness. We can live in victory and freedom. We can cast out fear and overcome anxiety by the power of the Holy Spirit as we let our roots go down deeper into Him and our faith is built up strong upon Him. 

DIG: What’s the difference between fear and fearfulness?

DISCOVER: How have you seen this to be true in your life?  

DO: If you are struggling with anxiety and fearfulness, know that there is hope for you and that you can overcome this. Today, I encourage you to pray about what your next steps should be—speaking to a pastor, seeking biblical counseling, etc.) There is no shame in this. There is nothing wrong with you. Freedom is waiting.