5 Signs You May Be Controlled by a Spirit of Fear
You might feel terror when faced with a deadly threat. You may feel anxious about getting on stage to speak. These are natural feelings.
But you also might be controlled by a spirit of fear.
The term “spirit of fear” comes from 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” (KJV).
Sometimes, this fear can be difficult to recognize, and might manifest in different ways than one might expect. Below, we’ll explore five signs that you might be suffering under a spirit of fear.
What Is a "Spirit of Fear"?
A spirit of fear comes from not being able to put our trust completely in God.
The NIV translation of 2 Timothy 1:7 reads, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
The Spirit here is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not timid, but full of power. When we are in right relationship with God, there is no need for fear, because God has given us His Spirit.
The Bible reminds us over and over again not to fear; some estimate that this directive is included as many as 365 times, but it is certainly over a hundred.
It is important to note that there are different kinds of fear mentioned in the Bible. One type is actually good: the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is not being afraid of God. Rather, it is a reverential awe of the Lord, a proper respect for His glory. The fear of the Lord comes from knowledge of His greatness and leads to wisdom and worship (e.g. Psalm 111:10).
However, it is foolishness to fear anything other than God, for He is greater than all things. In Joshua 1:9, the Lord reminds Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
A spirit of fear doesn’t have to mean abject terror. Here are five signs that you might be suffering from a spirit of fear.
5 Signs You Are Being Controlled by a Spirit of Fear
1. Feeling Unloved by God
This might not seem like a symptom of fear. However, this may be the most important indicator that you are suffering from a spirit of fear.
If you are feeling unloved by God or questioning His love for you, this is likely seated in a fearfulness or unwillingness to trust His goodness.
The enemy would like nothing better than for us to hide from God, believing He does not love us. When we’re feeling unloved by God, instead of hiding from Him, we must run to Him and cling even more tightly. Psalm 32:7 reminds us, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
Sometimes it can be difficult to believe God loves us when things aren’t going the way we think they should or when life is hard. At times like these, it can be scary to simply trust that God does love us and does have a plan.
The opposite of fear is faith. If we know that our infinite God loves us, what do we have to fear? 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Believe that God loves you. Draw close to Him, and watch His perfect love drive out fear.
2. Avoiding the Bible, Church, and/or Prayer
You may have heard it said that when in danger, we have three responses: fight, flight, or freeze. Sometimes this leads us to flee from the very things that might help us.
Do you ever find yourself avoiding God? Perhaps it’s intentional. Or perhaps you’re not even sure why you’re doing it. I’ve been there before. Once I reflect and wonder why I so vehemently don’t want to go to church, or read my Bible, or even write about a specific topic, I usually realize that I am worried or concerned about something, and instead of bringing the problem to God, I am avoiding dealing with it.
If you are avoiding God, remember that He is the only one who can truly help you. Jesus told us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
3. Difficulty Engaging in Relationships
This does not apply just to romantic relationships, though they are included. At times, we may have difficulty connecting with friends, family, peers, or coworkers.
This is for many reasons: fear of rejection, fear of being hurt, fear of being responsible for someone else, or of having to give something up for others, fear of becoming dependent.
This spirit of fear keeps us from living out the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
This can hurt not only those around us, but ourselves. God made us for relationships with other humans; in the beginning, when He created Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), and He created Eve.
It can be difficult to love if we’ve been hurt before. However, it is far easier when we realize that the most important relationship in our lives is our relationship with God, not with others. If He is our priority, if we lean on Him, then even if humans fail, as we all do, we will have the steady foundation of God’s love to stand on.
4. Worry and Indecision in Making Choices
Have you ever been paralyzed by a decision? What is the right course to take? What will happen if you make the wrong choice?
It can be immobilizing as we contemplate what could happen if we make a mistake. However, often, the fear inside of us makes the consequences or problem seem much more earth-shattering than they truly are.
Instead, we must trust that no matter what happens, even if we make the wrong choice, God is still holding on to us. He is always with us, no matter what path we take.
When making decisions, we should remember Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path,” and James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
We must consult God, do our best, and then move forward in confidence that He is with us.
Compromise in interpersonal relationships is essential. Compromising on morals is not.
Sometimes, when it seems like it’s the only way to survive, to keep people happy, to get what we want, we will compromise our morals. We will do things we know we shouldn’t—or not do things we should—in order to attain that which we seek.
Sometimes it feels like compromising might be the best course of action. Will God really mind if we do something He said we shouldn’t, just this one time? Will He care if we deny Him, just around certain people, as long as we pray to Him afterward?
This is a dangerous path. Recall when Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where sin and suffering began. The serpent asked, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1).
Does God really mean we shouldn’t cheat? Is He really serious that we shouldn’t steal?
When we compromise, we are essentially saying that we do not trust God to take care of us. We believe that we need to do things our way. This feeling that we cannot trust God to provide stems from a spirit of fear—fear that God will not keep His promises.
What Can We Do to Fight off Fear?
On our own, we should fear. We have no control over the world. We don’t control the weather, our health, other people, or anything else, as much as we may try to prepare for every possibility.
However, God does have full control. He also knows exactly what is going to happen. The only way to fight fear is to put our trust in Him.
Recall 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” God’s love is perfect. With the knowledge that He loves us, we have no need to fear.
When we need reminding, we can turn to His Word to read His promises, for example these verses about fear. We can pray to Him. We can talk with spiritual mentors. The closer we cling to Him, the more we will learn not to fear. It may take time, but we must allow God’s love to cast out fear.
As imperfect humans, we will never fully conquer our fears. However, in the journey, we have so much to learn about our Lord, and such room to grow in love and faith.
Alyssa Roat studied writing, theology, and the Bible at Taylor University. She is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., the publicity manager at Mountain Brook Ink, and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing Services. Her passions for Biblical study and creativity collide in her writing. Her debut novel Wraithwood releases Nov. 7, 2020. She has had 150+ bylines in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Find out more about her here and on social media @alyssawrote.