What Are You Afraid Of?

The wind howls, rushing in from every direction. As the rain pelts you in the face, you furiously wipe your eyes trying to maintain direction. You’re battling the storm. The fear within. The sea is angry and the waves begin breaking over the bow. Your vessel begins taking on water as the intensity of the squall rises. It feels like God is asleep. He’s left you to drown.

Through your fear and desperation you cry out, “God, Do you care that I’m drowning?!”

With simple words, He speaks, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind and waves die into complete calm.

Then, he looks at you and gently says, “Why are you so afraid?”

(From Mark 4:35-41)

Within the storm

Within the storm

There is one question we avoid.

One question we often think about, but never verbalize.

If we don’t talk about it, maybe it will go away. Maybe the storm will calm if we just keep going.

However, we reach a breaking point when all hope is lost and we cry out. Then the question comes.

“Why are you afraid?”

I asked this same question to a large group.

I wasn’t expecting the answers I received.

I share them with you today because I believe they resonate throughout all of our hearts and minds.

Deep down, we are afraid. Fear is real.

“So what are you afraid of?”

  • “Dying without having fully lived”
  • “Being generic. Mediocrity. Never doing anything that really mattered. Standing before God one day to explain why I went about my life getting up and working unimportant jobs and binge watching Netflix and eating buffets while children died of preventable diseases and hunger and lived like animals in garbage dumps with no parents to love them, and I did NOTHING ABOUT IT.” 
  • “Playing too small”
  • “Leaving this world without leaving the biggest impact possible with the resources I’ve been given scares me. In fact it may even be what paralyzes my dreams.”
  • “My greatest fear would definitely be to reach Heaven and see Jesus and have Him show me how I could have done so much more for Him.”
  • “Failure” 
  • “Rejection”
  • “Poor parenting choices.”
  • “Spending my life waiting for the “perfect” timing.”
  • “Spending my life attempting to please my unappeasable people.”
  • “Never actually getting around to doing the good and fun things I keep saying I “want” to do.” 
  • “I’m afraid I’ll never get to get married and have kids, and that my life won’t make a difference to anyone”
  • “The possibility that THIS is as good as it gets.”
  • “Remaining in a dead end corporate job instead of changing my career path.” 
  • “That my life would reflect a love for myself before a love for God
  • “Dying and leaving my three little ones without a mama.”
  • “That I will never see my dreams come true. I don’t want to waste another second of my life. The enemy has stolen much. I am trusting God.”
  • “What Helen Keller said, ‘The worst thing is to have sight with no vision.'”
  • Making music that people don’t end up liking.”
  • “That I missed out on the best there was having settled for all that I thought there was.”
  • That I’ll never get up the guts to be anything more than a baker at a small diner. I started at 13 and just haven’t gotten up the confidence to leave yet.”
  • “Stopping”
  • “That I will emotionally check out.”
  • “I am afraid that I will never figure out what I am supposed to be doing.”
  • “I think mine would be having a purposeless life.”

Do any of those answers sound familiar?

I know they do to me. One of them is my own response.

As I read through each response, relating to the rawness of the answers, I see one common theme:


We are never promised the absence of pain and the answers above seem to reflect that understanding. I believe we know that we are never promised a life without storms. However, we wonder if it all matters. Is there significance, is there meaning in the midst of it all? We’re left with little confidence.

However, we are given hope that there can be peace when we feel consumed.

We can find significance.

The words come to us from John who was on the boat during the storm. He saw Jesus calm the waves. He heard Jesus say, “Do you still have no faith?” He watched Jesus die on the cross. He saw the holes in hands, feet, and side.

John knew fear. He had lived it. Just like you and I.

Yet, he found confidence. And he shares it with us:

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence…there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” – 1 John 4:16-18

John was given confidence despite his fear because he knew that there was something bigger.

As you go into today, the wind and the waves may be very real.

Fear is real.

So is love.

Significance is waiting.

Waiting for us to love.

Because he first loved us.


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12 Responses to What Are You Afraid Of?

  1. Sarah March 22, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    What an eloquent post. I find these words borne out everywhere I look, from my friends lives to my family’s to my own. We DO know that pain and loss will come our way, and although we don’t look forward to it, we understand and accept that these feelings are a part of life. The much deeper fears, it seems to me, lie in not wanting to turn back one day and realize we never lived while we could. I might be revealing too much about my free time, but a quote from Commander William T. Riker always stuck with me: “You think you have all the time in the world until you don’t.” Every day is a gift, and you are guaranteed nothing beyond today. Wise words.

    • Matt Ham March 22, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

      Hey Sarah! I love that quote from Riker! Thank you so much for stopping by and adding such great value with your words.

  2. Chris Peek March 23, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    Great post, Matt. I find the responses very interesting – that pretty much everyone has this deep desire to pursue their unique calling and do something that matters. I am amazed that so many people openly admitted this fear because so few people seem to be willing to discuss it in daily conversation. Even fewer are pursuing such a life. Once we’ve admitted this is our biggest fear, the question becomes, “What are we going to do about it?”

    • Matt Ham March 23, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

      …and that’s where your “take action” comes in to play. I was in a coaching session witha 32-year-old between jobs and happened upon the question, “What is your greatest fear?”

      I then posted the question on a facebook group page and got the replies you read above.

      I found them so insightful I had to share.

      Thanks for stopping by brother!

  3. Chad Biggerstaff March 25, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    Great stuff! I find that nothing in life truly makes sense apart from my walk with Christ… Success, failure, struggle, pain, triumph, loss – it all has to be seen through the lens of our lives in Christ and the impact of the Gospel! Mike always says “God created life, and He alone gets to define it.” To many that is a scary thought, but to me it is comforting. There have been seasons in my life that have clung to that truth with everything that I had! As the song says, “Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times He calms His child….”

    • Matt Ham March 25, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

      Yessir brother! Amen to that…

      It’s so hard not to see our lives through our own lens.

      • Chad Biggerstaff March 25, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

        Absolutely… And I’m not saying that it’s easy by any means, especially as a guy! My gut reaction is almost always to think of self first… We have to have a deeper foundation though.

  4. Dan Black March 25, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Powerful post Matt!!! We all face fear but those who take action and move through it will come out better on the other side. Fear is often False, Evidence, Appearing, Real. The fears we have really don’t happen, it’s just a mental game.

    • Matt Ham March 26, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

      Thanks Dan – action is a great way to triumph fear.

      • Dan Black March 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

        Glad to share.

  5. Joel Fortner March 26, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    The theme that stood out to me is “Am I good enough”? It’s related to significance. It’s amazing how many of us carry through each day not thinking we’re good enough. It’s a poison that limits us so powerfully until we realize and believe we ARE good enough.

    • Matt Ham March 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

      YES! Seeking the approval and validation of others can be such a burden – actually I love the word poison. Thanks for dropping by brother!