The Leader and Emotion: Fear

We all face situations that bring fear. Fear can be a very natural response to a situation that presents danger or harm to us. Our bodies react instinctively either to flee or fight. David also experienced fear.

1 Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; 2 hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught 3 because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. 4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. 5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me… 22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. 23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you (Psalm 55:1-5, 22-23).

David faced his fear and learned to overcome this powerful emotion and he guides servant leaders on their own journeys with fear.

Fear should be recognized. David recognizes his emotion. “Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” David’s enemies are speaking against him and making threats. The natural response is to be afraid and David recognizes this fear which was overwhelming to him.

Leaders often believe the lie that strong people should not experience fear. So, they find it very difficult to identify the emotion of fear and may call it anger, worry or something else. But servant leaders learn to recognize fear and are not ashamed to admit, “I am afraid.” They know that they won’t correctly respond to fear until they can name it.

Fear should be revealed. As David recognizes his fear he reveals it to God. As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” David revealed his fear to God three times a day!

When servant leaders recognize their fear and reveal it, they can begin to process it more thoughtfully as David did. They can examine the fear to determine if it is a rational fear that will keep them from danger or they may find that it is an irrational fear that is crippling and harmful based on false or incomplete information.

Servant leaders learn to reveal fear, but they are careful to reveal it to the right persons. Certainly, as David did, it is appropriate to reveal the fear to God, not because He is unaware, but because we need to acknowledge it! But it is often helpful as well to reveal our fear to someone else. Servant leaders look for others who will help them deal correctly with their fear. They avoid revealing it to those who will only increase the fear.

Fear should be restrained. David shows leaders that fear does not need to control our leadership. He concludes this Psalm with hope. “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you… But as for me, I trust in you.” David learns to bring his fears to God and to learn to trust instead of fear.

Fear can cripple a leader and make it difficult to move forward. The fear may be real when a serious threat is experienced. Or it may be an imagined fear of what others will think that keeps a leader from making a difficult decision. David teaches servant leaders that the solution to fear is trust! He chooses to focus on God during his fear and this frees him to trust in God. David realizes that God may not literally remove all the things he fears, but God will not let him be shaken.

Servant leaders learn to restrain their fear. They say to themselves and those they lead, “Our fear is with us, but our God is bigger than our fears.” Servant leaders turn fear into trust and lead on!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • What do I fear most often? Is my fear a rational fear to keep me safe or is it irrational? If irrational, what is the reality?
  • When I am afraid, am I able to reveal this appropriately to others or do I try to hide it? Who is or could be a helpful person to whom I can reveal my fear?
  • How significantly is my leadership shaped by fear? Am I able to openly admit my fear as David did? Do I regularly choose to turn my fear into trust? How do I communicate this to others?


Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.