When the Lord’s apostles were on a ship in the midst of the sea, Jesus went to them, walking on the water, and they were afraid.
“Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”
To which Peter responded: “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Jesus said: “Come.”
Peter immediately jumped down out of the ship and began to walk on the water to go to Jesus. But perhaps noticing the height of the waves and ferocity of the wind, “he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:27-31).
Fear is a natural emotion meant to protect us from impending danger or pain, but, like Peter experienced, it can also be debilitating, overwhelming and cause us to figuratively “sink” under its weight.
Making a decision from a place of fear can often lead to outcomes that are misguided, self-centered or defensive rather than proactive. In some cases, it may even paralyze us, effectively stunting our progress and growth.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then of the First Presidency and now of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, noted: “Fear rarely has the power to change our hearts, and it will never transform us into people who love what is right and who want to obey Heavenly Father.
“People who are fearful may say and do the right things, but they do not feel the right things. They often feel helpless and resentful, even angry. Over time these feelings lead to mistrust, defiance, even rebellion” (“Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear,” April 2017 general conference).
Although the Lord frequently admonishes in the scriptures to “fear not,” fear is prevalent throughout the earth, said Elder Derek A. Cuthbert (1926-91), then a General Authority Seventy. “It stifles initiative, saps strength and reduces efficiency. It weakens faith, brings doubts, and begets mistrust. Indeed, it tends to impede the very business of being. How negative, frustrating, and futile is fear” (“The Futility of Fear,” New Era, November 1985).
Some suffer from the fear of criticism, failure, death, ridicule or loneliness. Others experience a real fear of catastrophic events, such as natural disasters or accidents. Some fear the past, while others worry about the future. And some are burdened with anxiety concerning change.
To those who grapple with such feelings, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly” (“God Hath Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear,” October 1984 general conference).
The antidote for fear, President Hinckley continued, is found in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
We can overcome fear and doubt in our lives by replacing them with love — love of God, family, friends, Church leaders and our neighbor. For, as it says in 1 John 4:18, “perfect love casteth out fear.”
The world will continue to be imperfect, Elder Uchtdorf taught. “Far too many innocent people suffer because of circumstances of nature as well as man’s inhumanity.”
But despite the hardships and the challenges of life, Elder Uchtdorf said, “I don’t believe God wants His children to be fearful or dwell on the evils of the world.”
God has given an abundance of reasons to rejoice, he said. “We just need to find and to recognize them. The Lord often reminds us to ‘be not afraid,’ to ‘be of good cheer,’ and to ‘fear not, little flock’ ” (Luke 12:32).
For those “sinking” under the weight of fear and anxiety in their lives, Elder Uchtdorf said, “I pray with all the strength of my soul that we may become liberated from this fear by the divinely appointed antidote to fear: the pure love of Christ, for ‘perfect love casteth out fear’ (1 John 4:18).
“Christ’s perfect love overcomes temptations to harm, coerce, bully, or oppress.
“Christ’s perfect love allows us to walk with humility, dignity, and a bold confidence as followers of our beloved Savior. Christ’s perfect love gives us the confidence to press through our fears and place our complete trust in the power and goodness of our Heavenly Father and of His Son, Jesus Christ.
“In our homes, in our places of business, in our Church callings, in our hearts, let us replace fear with Christ’s perfect love. Christ’s love will replace fear with faith!”
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that godly fear can help dispel mortal fears. Godly fear, he explained, is both edifying and spiritually helpful. “[It] encompasses a deep feeling of reverence, respect and awe for the Lord Jesus Christ, obedience to His commandments and anticipation of the Final Judgment and justice at His hand.”
This kind of fear is loving and trusting in Him, Elder Bednar said. “As we fear God more completely, we love Him more perfectly. And ‘perfect love casteth out all fear’ (Moroni 8:16). I promise the bright light of godly fear will chase away the dark shadows of mortal fears as we look to the Savior, build upon Him as our foundation, and press forward on His covenant path with consecrated commitment” (“Therefore They Hushed Their Fears,” April 2015 general conference).