Four Types Of Fear

Editors’ note: Today we continue a series of articles on overcoming fear, worry, and anxiety. The first dealt with uncovering our fears. The second article contrasted godly and ungodly fears. Today’s article will seek to define and describe four types of fears. The fourth and fifth articles will focus on a biblical response to fear by examining how you can fight fear with fear and how you can fight fear with truth.

by Karen Helmer

About now you might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t really struggle with fear. I’m not afraid of nothin’! Show me a snake and I’ll rip its head off. Airplanes were made to jump out of!” Well, if those were the only fears we faced, I might let you off the hook. Unfortunately, there are deeper, easier to hide fears that we all tend to struggle with. Let’s take a look at them and as we do, I invite you to ask God to show you where you struggle.


Worry is legitimate planning run amok. It’s planning on steroids. Where God’s Word says that we should make plans (Proverbs 21:5James 4:13ff) the worrier tries to imagine and plan for every possible scenario. Worriers live in what I call the mystical land of “What if…” They wonder about and fear what might happen. “What if this happens? What if this doesn’t happen?”

The problem is, the mystical land of “What if” doesn’t exist! They’re living in a land of make believe. Worriers imagine every possible (negative & horrible) scenario and replay them over & over again in their minds until they seem to be real. You’ll notice that worriers never imagine every possible good & wonderful thing that could happen! It’s always 34, cloudy, and rainy in the land of “What If.” Who wants to live there?

Ed Welch in his book, Running Scared, writes: “Worriers are visionaries minus the optimism. An experienced worrier can go for days leap-frogging from past to future and back again, never landing in the present. When they travel into the future they see it in Technicolor & vivid detail.”

And the problem is, a worrier won’t listen to reason. How many times have you said to a friend who is worrying (or how many times has this been said to you?): “Stop worrying! You can’t do anything about it. Worrying won’t help anything!” Yeah, I’ve heard that a few times, too.


Anxiety is the twin sister to worry. Where worry is concerned about the future and what might happen, anxiety is concerned about right now! Worry says, “I think there might be trouble ahead.” Anxiety says, “I can’t handle the trouble I have right now! It’s too much for me! I’m overwhelmed. This is going to take me out!” Anxiety is being overly troubled and filled with dread. There’s a sense of heaviness to anxiety. Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weights a man down…” Anxiety can cause a person to withdraw from life and/or relationships. It’s too hard “out there.” It’s much safer “in here.” Relationships are too hard. It’s too vulnerable. I’m fine on my own, thank you very much. Anxiety can also cause a person to be over-occupied with something.It’s like you get something stuck in your mind and you can’t move past it. Has that ever happened to you? If left unchecked, anxiety can quickly lead to panic and panic attacks.

Fear of Man

The world calls this “peer pressure,” but Scripture calls it “living for the approval of others.” The fear of man asks, “What do you think of me?”

You probably know this fear well:

  • I’m afraid that people will reject me when they discover the “real” me.
  • I’m afraid that people will judge me.
  • I’m afraid that people will look down on me for my past mistakes.
  • I’m afraid I’m not good enough, smart enough, good looking enough, etc. …
  • I’m afraid of letting people down.

The fear of man needs things from other people: approval, acceptance, love, security, respect, identity, etc. . And so, we either fear not getting these things from others or losing them. When we think that we need something and we think that only other people can give it to us, then we become enslaved to their opinions of us. We hand over all those things (approval, acceptance, love, etc.) to other people and they become the keepers of our identity and sense of self. We hand over control to them and what they think of us.

Fear of Failure 

The world calls this “insecurity” or “low self-esteem.” Scripture actually calls this “pride.” The fear of failure asks, “What do I think of me?” My opinion of myself becomes the most important issue to me. The fear of failure sets an impossible standard for self. It’s a standard that I will never be able to attain because it requires perfection. I become a brutal, unsatisfied taskmaster. I could always have done more or done something better. I am my own judge, jury, and executioner.

It goes something like this: I will be a complete failure if…

  • I don’t have devotions 7 days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • I don’t homeschool my children.
  • I don’t work out every day.
  • I don’t provide enough for my family to go on a 2-week vacation every year.
  • I don’t shop at the farmer’s market and use only organic products.
  • I don’t succeed in my career
  • I say the wrong thing and look stupid.
  • My kids walk away from the Lord.
  • I fall into that same sin…again.

What burdens have you placed on yourself? What have you determined you must do (or not do) in order to be a “success” in your own eyes?

All these fears, worries, and anxieties are too much for us to bear. God has not laid them on us…we’ve put them on ourselves. They will either crush us, or we will learn to lay them at the feet of Jesus.

Remember Matthew 11:28-30 says, “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.”

I want rest for my soul. Do you? Join me for the next post where we’re going to start finding rest for our souls as we learn to fight fear with fear.

A few recommended resources:

Fear of Man –

  • Pleasing People, Lou Priolo
  • The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Timothy Keller
  • When People Are Big and God Is Small, Ed Welch

Fear of Failure –

  • Because He Loves Me, Elyse Fitzpatrick
  • From Good to Grace, Christine Hoover