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Falling Chinese rocket had us worried: A guide to seeking God’s wisdom when faced with fear

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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NASA had some harsh words for China recently after pieces of the latter’s Long March 5B rocket reentered Earth’s atmosphere and scorched the pre-dawn sky on their way to landing in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives this past weekend.

Said NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson, “It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.” And while it appears no one was seriously harmed as a result of the event, it served as a reminder that we can now add flaming space garbage to our list of things to worry about. 

Unfortunately, that list is getting pretty long. 

Perhaps it always was, but before social media and twenty-four-hour news kept us up to date on the latest tragedies from around the globe, we were just able to live in a more blissful state of ignorance. Either way, how we choose to respond when every day brings new examples of things to fear has quickly become one of the most important and pressing decisions we face. 

How to manage fear wisely

In the scripture most often quoted in the face of such such worries, 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul tells his young disciple “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 

Unfortunately, it can be easy for that passage to instill a sense of guilt over being afraid more than the necessary courage to face our fears well. After all, fear is not always an emotion that we can—or should—simply try to wish away. Often, it’s there for a reason. 

So how should we embrace Paul’s message and find the courage to move forward when faced with a long list of reasons why making such a choice can be very difficult? 

Part of Christ’s solution was to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Seeking the Lord’s wisdom for not only how we should manage a frightening situation, but also if we should be afraid of it in the first place is a necessary first step to embracing the spirit of “power and love and self-control” of which Paul wrote. 

One of the chief reasons why so many walk around in a constant state of anxiety and fear today is that they have not stopped to weigh the degree to which they should actually be afraid. Yes, there is a chance that a piece of junk could fall from outer space and kill you today. Yes, you could get into a car accident on your way home from work. Yes, you could catch Covid and end up in the hospital or worse. 

Each of those is part of a much longer list of bad things that could theoretically happen to us on any given day. But how likely are they? 

The next person to die from falling space debris will be the first. While people die each day in car accidents, chances are you take that risk without a second thought on a near daily basis. And the survival rate for Covid is greater than ninety-nine percent, assuming you haven’t already gotten the vaccine or have antibodies from a previous infection in which case it’s thought to be even better. 

Again, none of the information in the previous paragraph eliminates the potential risk posed by each. But taking the time to prayerfully think through our fears before allowing them to dictate our actions and approach to life is essential to experiencing the kind of life to which we’re called. 

A lesson from cancer

This month marks the 9-year anniversary of when I completed my treatment for cancer. By the grace of God and the wonders of modern medicine, it hasn’t come back, and I pray it never will. 

That I’ve been cancer-free for almost a decade, however, doesn’t stop me from waking up in a cold sweat at times at the thought that it’s returned. There are still far-too-frequent stretches of time where I have to sit down and ask God to help me face those fears well. 

Again, it’s not that such thoughts are misplaced or irrational. I’ll deal with that fear for the rest of my life. But by asking God to help me process it and approach it through the perspective of his wisdom, the fear doesn’t dictate my actions or dominate my life. 

I don’t know what fears are gnawing away at your courage today, but I promise that either way the best path forward is to seek out the power, love, and self-control God wants to put in their place by allowing him to help you process them with wisdom and courage.

Will you start now?