Fear is uncomfortable at best and unhealthy at worst, but it’s something we all face. The majority of people can confess to being afraid of things like spiders, public speaking, heights, rejection, or death. Some fear is necessary—it can stop you from getting stuck in a dangerous situation (like getting too close to the edge of a cliff). However, there’s another fear that affects most of us to one degree or another, and it’s much less healthy: the fear of loss.
There are a lot of things that we try our hardest not to lose: our possessions, our health, our relationships, our future, and our control over how our lives go (or our illusion of control). There’s nothing wrong with being blessed with good health, good people, and a good source of income, but not being willing to lose it all can lead down a slippery slope of fear into idolatry.
So how is fear idolatry?
I’ve had to learn this the hard way. For the last ten years, I’ve watched some people gain what I thought I should have, others suffer losses I would never wish to experience, and my own life not add up to what I thought it should be as quickly as I thought it should happen. I turned to fear instead of God, and while I still did my best to follow and trust God, fear stole his place as the greatest influence in how I lived my life. In the end, it never felt right, and it never got me anywhere. I never gained true control over my life—and I wasn’t supposed to.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Fear, especially fear of loss, becomes idolatry when we let it take God’s place at the center of our lives. When God says to trust him and we fear, we’re putting the fear first. When God says he will provide and we fight to protect our assets above all else, we’re choosing not to trust him. If fear is influencing your life, think about these three things you’re doing when you idolize the fear of loss:
1: You’re valuing treasures on earth.
Matthew 6:18–20—“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The Bible tells the story of a rich young ruler who asked Jesus how he could be saved. Jesus knew the one thing that stood between the man and wholeheartedly following Christ was his wealth—he cared too much for his money. The young ruler walked away sadly when Jesus asked him to give away his possessions and follow him—he valued his material security over the chance to know Jesus (Luke 18:18-27).
Are you afraid to lose your possessions? What if your house burned down with all your keepsakes in it? What if an accident totaled your only vehicle? Would you still be content? God calls us to store up treasures in heaven—ones that can never be stolen or destroyed. Learn to value what God values, and you will never have to be afraid of losing it.
2: You’re not trusting God to provide.
Philippians 4:19—“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
It’s easy to worry about not having enough in the future—nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. Even here in America, countless people have lost everything this year to wildfires, hurricanes, or other unexpected disasters. If you are struggling to gain and retain control over your own future, you are not acknowledging that God is good and in control.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Even when we make plans for our lives, we don’t get to choose what happens to us—only God knows the plans he has for our future. What we do get to choose is how to respond to our circumstances and whether or not to believe that God will provide.
3: You’re not believing that God is enough.
Psalm 73:25—”Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
Several years ago, I spent a weekend at a friend’s cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan. I was struggling at the time with a lot of fear and “what-ifs” of the future not going a certain way. On that trip, I slowed down and took in the tall pines, misty air, and forget-me-nots blooming around me. It was beautiful. I felt like God was asking me a question: if I lost everyone and everything I was holding so closely, would I not still be happy with the company of the one who made all the beauty around me?
How could I say no? No matter where I go in life, God will be there with me. The apostle Paul wrote, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). When you recognize that God is enough, you won’t need to be afraid to lose everything else—it will be like a loss that you’ve already accepted.
So what should you do when you do feel anxious about loss or afraid of not having what you need?
Bring it to God. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The closer you get to God, the more you’ll grow into a stable relationship with the one who provides and who will always be enough. When you offer everything to him—all your needs, desires, fears, and dreams—he will give you his peace, no matter what troubles and losses you face in your life. Say no to your fear of loss and your desire for control, and let the peace of God protect you every day.
About the author
Elizabeth Buege graduated from the University of Northwestern—St. Paul with a B.A. in English Writing. She works as a freelance book editor, offering writing and editing tips alongside her services at www.elizabethbuege.com. She also teaches weekly writing classes as the secondary writing tutor for the ESCHEL homeschool co-op in Oakdale, MN.
When Elizabeth isn’t working, you can probably find her reading or writing for fun. She also loves gardening, cooking, exploring parks, and hanging out with big dogs and small children. She attends First Free in Maplewood and is thankful to have found such strong fellowship so close to home.