The Antidote to Fear

Recently my family took a vacation to Flagstaff, Arizona, where we spent some time taking in the majesty of the Grand Canyon, as well as other sights in the area. We found ourselves one morning in Sedona at Slide Rock State Park, where water flow and rock formations create a natural water slide set against the most scenic backdrop imaginable. At one section of the river, children and adults alike lined up on the edge of the rocky overlook above the river, some 10-12 feet in the air, and jumped off into the water below. To my surprise, my 10-year-old daughter, who I assumed would approach such a stunt with great trepidation, lined right up and jumped in without hesitation. I had seen her attempt other feats much more cautiously, so what was it that allowed her to jump without pause? Was she more fearless than I realized?

In his excellent book on organizational culture and inspiration, Creativity, Inc., Pixar President Ed Catmull makes the profound statement that "the antidote to fear is trust." His point is made in reference to creativity and risk-taking in the workplace, suggesting that environments where employees trust their managers, leaders, and processes will wield more authenticity and originality than cultures where fear and mistrust persist. 

The antidote to fear is trust. It's a statement that immediately resonated with me as both obvious and accurate. I have often heard or assumed that the antidote (or near-opposite) of fear is having courage, or that having courage somehow eliminates - or at least mitigates - the fear one experiences in a given moment. Catmull's point, however, is that fear is a human instinct and can never truly be eradicated. What we need is not to become fearless, per se, but to loosen the grip that fear has on us.  That happens when we have something or someone to trust in. My daughter could jump off a cliff because she had seen so many others do it. She trusted that it was safe and that the water would catch her. A bungee jumper dives from a bridge because he trusts that the cord will hold. 

One of the most common phrases in the Bible is, "Fear not." This command, and other variations of it, occur hundreds of times throughout Scripture. Over and over again, when people are facing all kinds of trials, God's first word to us often seems to be, "Fear not."

  • To the mother afraid for the life of her child, "Fear not." (Genesis 21:17)

  • To those facing threats from their enemies, "Fear not." (Exodus 14:13)

  • To those who would speak up for justice and truth, "Fear not." (Deuteronomy 1:17)

  • To those who ride into battles of any sort, "Fear not." (Deuteronomy 20:1)

  • To those facing persecution, "Fear not." (1 Samuel 23:17)

  • To those who can't see a way out of their predicament, "Fear not." (2 Kings 6:16)

  • To those who worry about provision, "Fear not." (Luke 12:22-24)

  • To those who pray for a miracle, "Fear not." (Luke 8:50)

On and on the list could go. Interestingly, on the other side of every one of these "Fear not" statements is an affirmation that God is powerful and in control of everything. The reason we need not fear is, if Catmull’s logic holds, because we can have trust in God. The essence of what God is communicating in each circumstance is that we can trust Him. In all things, in all circumstances, with all questions, we can trust Him. Thus, the more we know God and know of Him, the more fear will loosen it's grip on us. 

The antidote to fear is trust. In Whom or in what do you trust?

When I am afraid, I will trust in you / In God, whose Word I praise / In God I will trust; I will not be afraid. - Psalm 56:3-4a


Dan is a pastor, writer, and speaker. He is the host of the Ordinary Faith Podcast and currently serves as a Campus Pastor for Southland Christian Church in Georgetown, KY.