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  • Writer's pictureMark McMinn

Nothing to Fear. Really?

Updated: May 19

If you’re a psychologist, counselor, or in another helping profession, do you ever wonder why we do this work? So much of it comes down to bearing witness to the suffering of the world and experiencing the honor of walking alongside others as they journey through shadows. 


Last month I was asked to give a devotional for a mental health and ministry conference near Atlanta. I spoke on fear.


The topic causes tension in me, for two reasons.

First, sometimes we manage fear in an offensively superficial way, like telling people just to stop. It’s easy to find Bible verses to support our superficiality:

  • “Do not fear” (Isaiah 41:10)

  • “We will not fear” (Psalm 46:2)

  • “Do not be afraid” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

  • “I will fear no evil.” (Psalm 23:4)

Really? Is this the best advice we can offer?


We live in a world bombarding us with natural disasters, serious economic problems, political strife and polarization, and international conflict.

Oh, and there was that pandemic where shops and roadways sat in eerie silence as people died alone in hospitals while healthcare workers languished under monumental workloads and unrelenting expectations.

We should just stop being afraid when there is so much to fear?


Each year since 2006 the Gallup organization tracks negative experiences around the world. Not surprisingly, they are increasing. Perhaps more surprising, our angst was heading upward even before Covid-19 squished us.

A team at Chapman University surveys Americans every year to discover what we fear. In short, we fear lots of things.

It's not helpful to tell people to stop being afraid.


My second tension with fear is that it’s personal. Fear has been my regular visitor since getting "hit by a bus" three years ago. It wasn’t really a bus, and I’ll withhold details here as I did in my devotional, but I still have nightmares most weeks.


Fear isn't well-contained in graphs or Shutterstock images or words about a fading pandemic or any sort of academic treatise. It shows up in each of our personal lives alongside medical diagnoses, worries about the future, struggling relationships, personal failures, and strident animosities. It wakes us up at 3 am.

Within days of getting hit by that bus I secured an appointment with a highly-regarded psychologist and talked with him for 2-1/2 years. Near the end of one session he looked through the Zoom screen and said, “Mark, I am so sorry for your suffering.” His words were as genuine as any words I have heard before or since, and they still mean the world to me.

The genuineness is also true "on the other side of the couch." In my work as a psychologist, I am truly and deeply sorry for the suffering of the world and especially for those dear souls who talk with me week after week. They are not crazy or sick or weak. They're human beings who carry the same sort of fear and loss and shame that all of us carry in seasons of our lives. It is an honor to sit with them in their awakening, exploration, and liminality.


This takes me back to those scriptures that seem so trite at first glance. They are not. In every case, the promise of these passages is presence.


  • “So do not fear, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

  • “God is our… ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (Psalm 46:1-2)

  • “Do not be afraid… for the Lord your God goes with you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

  • “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)


Every mention of fear comes with the assurance of God being with us. It’s not so much about turning off fear, which can’t be done even if we try, but more about having companions—sacred and human—on the journey.


My primary companions were God, my dear wife who understands and loves me more than I can comprehend, my psychologist daughter who helped me ponder neurodiversity, a few caring friends, and my therapist.


A kind pastor sent this song about fear, which comes from the Porter’s Gate Worship Project.(2) I played the YouTube recording of this song at the end of my Atlanta devotional, only to learn later that some of the people in the audience are involved in the Porter’s Gate project. It brought me great joy to speak with them.


If you’ve made it this far, maybe spend three more minutes listening to the Porter’s Gate recording, Nothing to Fear.

Eradicating fear from our lives is about as likely as gravity failing to work. But when fear shows up it's good to look around, to notice those who are walking with us through the shadows. Many of us look upward, too, to a divine companion who promises to be with us even in valley of the shadow of death.(1)

It’s more about presence than shutting off fear. If you’re in one of the helping professions, I know you understand.

  1. Lisa Graham McMinn and I have a book coming out soon, An Invitation to Slow, which includes a chapter on fear. As always, I would love your thoughts if you have a chance to read the chapter.

  2. The Porter's Gate Worship Project is a beautiful example of creative, artistic collaboration within a diverse community of faith.



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