Turning Your Fear into Courage

Karen Del Tatto

Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 05, 2024
Turning Your Fear into Courage

Oftentimes, it is the things we fear doing the most that will have the greatest Kingdom impact.  

Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one

Does the definition of courage frighten anyone else out there? As someone who has struggled with anxiety for a good part of her life, I can get sweaty palms and a fast heartbeat just entertaining the idea of doing something that makes me fearful.

When I was a little girl, every 4th of July, a carnival would come to town. The first time it came, I tried all the rides. That was my downfall… I didn’t like any of them. Interestingly, at about age 20, I started dealing with benign positional vertigo. Now, I can’t even stand next to a merry-go-round without it making me feel dizzy. But I digress… 

Every subsequent year, as the 4th of July approached, I would start to feel anxious knowing the carnival was coming again. You might ask, “Was someone forcing you to go on the rides?” And I would respond, “No.” However, having friends who went on rides and not wanting to seem silly that I wasn’t going on rides caused me to become even more anxious. So, I would reluctantly go on the rides with my friends and was very glad when the night was over. (One good thing, I’m not someone who gets sick as a result of being on rides. So that’s a plus, lol!) Now, let's add to that my fear of loud noises… On the last day of the carnival, they would have fireworks which I could see and very much hear from my bedroom window. I hated them! Especially the finale!  Needless to say, when the carnival finally left for the year, I breathed a sigh of relief.

You might say, “Well you showed courage by going on the rides despite your fear.” But did I? Although the definition above does say being able to do something you're afraid of, I did it more out of fear of what my friends might say, not out of proving something to myself. Hence, the feeling of relief when it was over. As an adult, I have found that when I am truly courageous, it’s not relief that I feel after doing the anxiety-provoking thing, but a sense of accomplishment, a building of confidence that I can do scary things—most especially that I can do scary things with the Lord as my strength.

I’ve always admired the Apostle Paul as someone who never showed fear, especially with all he faced. I could relate way more to the Apostle Peter or Thomas. However, in my most recent read-through of the Book of Acts, I have discovered three separate times when the Lord spoke to Paul and told him not to be afraid. Clearly, then, there were times Paul was afraid. Yet, he had the faith and dependence upon the Lord to turn his fear into courage time and time again.

Let’s take a look at how we can turn our fear into courage:

In Common Grace

In a read-through of the Epistles, we can quickly see all the trials the Apostle Paul went through, not the least of which was a shipwreck on his way to Rome to plead his case before Caesar.

“When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, “Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.” Acts 27:21-26

Having read the above verse this weekend, I was so struck by the timing of it. You see, this weekend my husband and I were taking a ride down country roads to our favorite walk. All of a sudden, there was a commercial van that crossed over into the other lane, and I don’t even know how it missed the other car coming in the opposite direction. It absolutely should’ve been a head-on crash. Even my husband was like, "I have no idea how that did not happen. We would’ve been the next car and there is no way we would not have avoided crashing into them, and, honestly, I’m not sure if there wouldn’t have been a fatality… It was that close." I then asked my husband, “Do you think that God’s common grace for those other people protected them because we were riding behind them? Did God’s protection over us protect them?” Fast forward a day later to this verse where God, in His protection over Paul, was going to protect all the other men on the ship because of Paul.

So what does this have to do with courage? If Paul hadn’t the courage to appeal to Caesar as the Lord had directed him to, he would not have had the opportunity to witness to the people on the ship and for them to see that God's word would come to pass. They were all protected, and there was no loss of life. The Lord told Paul not to be afraid, so he had to believe first and trust that God would do what He said he would do before he could be an effective witness to the others. I’m sure that it took some courage and boldness on Paul’s part to speak out boldly to the men about what God had told him because, remember, he was a prisoner on that ship.  

Our fear turns into courage when we take God at His word and apply it to our circumstances. You never know, you may end up saving a person’s life both spiritually and/or literally by doing so.

In the Works God Prepared for You to Do

When Paul appeared before the council, he emphatically stated that he was on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead. Fearing the crowd would tear Paul to pieces, they brought him to the barracks. And then this happened...

“But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, 'Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.'” Romans 23:11

Each one of us has been assigned Kingdom work to do. These assignments were handed out before even one of our days came to be. And you know what else? The day God has ordained for our death will not happen until we have completed the works He gave us to do. You might say, “Well I’m not a pastor,” or “I’m not in a specific ministry.” Although, yes, those are areas where some have been chosen to complete their assignments, all of us can bloom right where we are planted. It could be as simple as saying a kind word to a stranger. For an introvert like me, and I’m sure for many of you out there, that can take quite a bit of courage. Yet, if we allow fear to stop us from even speaking a kind word to a stranger, we may have missed an opportunity to be the only bright spot of that stranger’s day. Or what if we have a tug to go into ministry but have decided we are not gifted enough or qualified or, honestly, just afraid to move forward? God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. 

Our fear turns into courage when we step out in faith in the works God has prepared for us to do. Oftentimes, it is the things we fear doing the most that will have the greatest Kingdom impact.  

In Sharing Your Faith

When Paul visited Corinth, he was met with a lot of opposition:

“And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.' And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” Acts 18:9-11

Remember, on the road to Damascus, Jesus told the Apostle Paul that he would suffer for his namesake. He didn’t say what that would entail, but as Paul starts to experience opposition, I can definitely see where fear would enter into the picture. In fact, 1 Corinthians 2:3 says, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”

It’s starting to feel scarier and scarier to share our faith in the world we live in today. Some areas more so than others… But if we can learn anything from Paul, it’s that he did indeed suffer many things for the name of Christ, but he lived by the words he shared in Acts 27:25: “Keep up your courage. Believe God. Everything will turn out just as He intends.” He knew that God had a mission for him to complete. To testify not only to the Jews who would actually listen but primarily to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We all know what happened to Jonah when he decided that the Ninevites were not worthy of hearing the Gospel, yet God still used him to spread the Gospel after having him go through the pain of being in the belly of the whale. God’s will prevailed as it does in our life, especially when it comes to testifying to God’s love, grace, and mercy.  

It takes courage to share your faith even in the most innocuous setting. But you can turn your fear into courage by applying Ephesians 6:19-20, which says, "Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." If ever there was a prayer that would be answered, that is one of the many!

Your fear will turn into courage when you take God at His word, step out in faith, and pray!

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/heckepics

Karen Del Tatto is a blogger, author, women's ministry leader, pastor's wife, mom, and grandmother who is passionate about the Word of God. Her blog Growing Together in Grace and Knowledge and her books Choosing to Trust God: Breaking the Habit of Worry, A 30-Day Devotional and Choosing to Trust God Companion Journal reveal her heart for providing Biblical insights to encourage women to grow in and through their struggles while equipping them to overcome. Karen and her husband live in Rhode Island and enjoy walks in the woods, owling, and spending time with their grandchildren.