To Overcome Fear

To Overcome Fear

I’ve dealt with fear my whole life as a mom. I was so excited about the process, but fear spoke to me constantly, telling me lies about my capability, my circumstances, and God’s faithfulness. Listening to fear caused a loss of joy as I believed these lies. I prolifically read parenting books in an effort to overcome my negative thoughts and be a good mom, but the thing that really made an impact was literature, and as a Charlotte Mason homeschool mom, I was immersed in literature that inspired courage.

I read Understood Betsy about a cowardly girl who goes to live with a confident farm family, and it helped me overcome homeschool fears, and I read The Endurance, about a feat of survival in Antarctica, and I knew that I could survive and thrive in my own circumstances. I recaptured the magic of motherhood by fighting fear with literature and letting the truth of Scripture hammer it home. In Mothering by the Book, I share the lessons I learned from these books but one of the key steps that helped me overcome was knowing the Word of God, and this was highlighted for me in the book, The Hiding Place.

The Hiding Place is the story of the ten Boom family, who rescued Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland. They modeled faithfulness during a fearful time, and I took note of how they fought fear with Scripture as I read the story aloud to my children. Every morning and evening Father would read from the family Bible, while all who were in the home, whether believers or non-believers, would share in this life-giving routine. Habits die hard, and even when they lived in the concentration camp, they kept up this daily practice. When the guards stripped them and took away their clothes, Corrie bundled their Bible in a sweater and shoved it beneath a bench during a furtive bathroom break. They used these smuggled portions of Scripture to inspire hope in their hearts. They carefully pieced out the Scriptures, one page at a time, so that others could be encouraged as well, hiding the Word under their dresses and in their hearts so they could survive the unthinkable through the power of God. Corrie later said, “As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope… The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God.”[1]

They took comfort in the promise from Romans: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35 ESV). Even as they were suffering from tribulation and distress, from persecution and hunger and nakedness and danger, they recognized that nothing could separate them from the love of God. They had hidden his Word in their hearts, and no cruel Nazi could steal it from them.

As I faced my own fears for the future through global events such as the pandemic and the personal upheaval that occurred as my adult children started leaving home, Psalm 37 became a lifeline for me. As I weaned myself off of an overdose of news, the phrase “the meek shall inherit the earth, And … delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (KJV) was my comfort and strength. I memorized Psalm 23 as I faced my fears, and peace flooded my heart as I recited the truth that “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (KJV). The promises of God were a lifeline when the world looked dark and menacing.

Maybe you already faithfully read and memorize Scripture and can say a hearty amen to the power of the Word to strengthen us in hard times. For some of us, it can be a struggle to put down the addictive phone with all of the gripping headlines in order to read the quiet pages of the Word. It can be easy to overlook God’s Word when we are busy just trying homeschool with excellence, and as our children grow and we encounter failure as parents, it can be tempting to numb out instead of pressing into the merciful promises of God. But the promises are there for you. Jesus is calling us with words of hope that will be the strength we need when we are afraid. We need to hold tightly to his Word, but how do we when fear overwhelms us? I think these practices can help.

1. Read the Word Aloud. We start and end every day with Scripture reading. It might be just a verse as part of our morning time devotional, or it might be whole passages, but because we’ve made it a habit, a day now feels incomplete and broken if we don’t read Scripture aloud. We take Psalm 119 to heart, and make God’s Word a delight, a lamp, and our daily bread.

2. Memorize the Word. We highlight memory verses each week in our morning time, and we’ve also started using the abbreviation method to memorize longer passages. We simply write down only the first letter of each word of a passage we are trying to memorize, and in this way, we’ve got a handy prompt when we forget a word. The prompt for Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (KJV) becomes “TLIMS, ISNW.” In the past, when I would try to memorize Scripture, I would start to flip the order of words, but with the letter prompt I now gain fluency and can start adding longer passages to my store of verses. I have used it to memorize John 1, Psalm 23, and several other full chapters. As long as the letters are visible, my brain can recall what word they stand for, and as I gain fluency in this way, the verses can be recalled even when I can’t see the abbreviations.

3. Encourage with the Word. As you begin to build a storehouse of Scripture in your own mind, you can begin to speak it out loud to conquer fear. When fear starts to speak to you, you can respond with, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” from 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV). When you are tempted with the lie that you are alone and in danger, you can recall Isaiah 41:10, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (ESV). When your children are struggling with their own fears of the future, you can reassure them that God promises to always be with them: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

4. Meditate on the Word. I’ve often felt unsure of what it means to “meditate on the Word,” but in her book Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton describes a simple and time-tested method of Scripture meditation called Lectio Divina. She says, “Lectio divina (translated ‘divine [or sacred] reading’) is an approach to the Scriptures that sets us up to listen for the word of God spoken to us in the present moment.”[2]

This method helps us slow down in our reading by giving us steps for contemplation and connection to the Word of God. You start this practice by choosing a short passage of Scripture, no more than six to eight verses. After you take a moment to quiet your heart with God, you read the passage once or twice during lectio, or “to read,” looking for a word or sentence that God wants you to focus on. The second part, meditatio, or “to reflect,” is an opportunity to reflect on the word that was highlighted. You can ask yourself how it impacts your life, or how you can adapt your life to the Word of God. The third move, oratio, or “to respond,” is an invitation to move towards God in light of Scripture. Maybe that means that you confess that fear has been coming against you and ask God to take it away, or maybe you take a moment to forgive yourself for the ways that fear has caused you to be impatient with those you love. The last part of Lectio Divina is contemplatio, an invitation to rest in God. We read the passage one last time, enjoying the presence of God as we draw closer to him through his Word. I created a cheat sheet of these steps and tucked it in my Bible so that instead of rushing through my personal morning Bible times, I could actually move closer to God and farther from fear as I meditated on his Word.

5. Sing the Word. Singing Scripture through hymns, silly songs, and choruses has been an important part of remembering Scripture and fighting fear. When we created The Good Gospel, a Charlotte Mason inspired Sunday School resource from The Peaceful Press, we included 26 Scripture songs because we know that singing is a simple way to hide Scripture in our heart, and songs can sometimes be recalled from memory easier in a crisis than memorized Scripture. I started singing Scripture with my children early on, and the music of The Donut Man, Steve Green, and Judy Rogers still plays in my head, helping me to quickly recall meaningful verses.

6. Live by the Word. Overcoming fear takes action, and it takes putting the truth we have learned into practice. It’s not enough to acknowledge that you are afraid; it takes pushing into understanding why you are afraid or just pushing into life and doing something you are afraid of. One of the most compelling parts of The Hiding Place was when Corrie tried to place a Jewish baby in a safe home. The city house they lived in was a risky place to keep a baby with its close proximity to neighbors, and so they contacted a pastor who lived in a rural area, asking if he would take the baby. He allowed fear to paralyze him, refusing to house the infant and mother out of fear that he would lose his life. If he had recalled the Scriptures, he would have remembered that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves and that we are to defend the orphan and the widow. Instead, he refused to help, receiving a stern rebuke from Corrie’s father: “You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.”[3]

Her father considered loving a neighbor—even a helpless, tiny Jewish neighbor—a higher calling than saving his own life. He didn’t just know the Word of God in his head; he lived by it too. Most of us aren’t being called on to face death as we overcome fear, but I want to have that same spirit that strengthened the ten Boom family. In our family we face our fear, and in the process build faith and endurance through small challenges. I face my fear of children getting injured by being willing to go on adventures with them, whether it’s crossing rushing creeks on late spring hikes or careening down a river in a rubber raft that my daughter is guiding. I face my fear of sickness by being willing to visit orphans and the lonely. I face the fears I have for my children’s futures by imagining the best outcomes instead of the worst. When we are on a hike and I start fearing them getting hurt, I take those thoughts captives and call them what they are. I remind myself that God is good, I call out the lies that are trying to speak to me, replace those lies with Scripture, and imagine a good outcome instead of a morbid one. We keep doing the things that scare us, and we get braver in the process. We do it scared.

7. Sit with the Word. We spent the last school year memorizing John 1 in both English and Latin, repeating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, ESV). Each week, our awareness grew that the Word of God isn’t just a book of lessons and guidelines for living. It’s alive. It’s a mystery how the word and the Word can be the same, but it’s true; Jesus is the living Word, and he is here to give us the power to believe that we aren’t alone. We don’t have to be afraid any longer. When he says he is with you always, he means it. It isn’t just empty words; he is right beside us all the time, and he wants to reveal himself to you. He wants to help you feel safe. He wants to sit with you and comfort you where fear has taken hold. Fear is the opposite of faith, and perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (ESV).

A Better Work

So much of our journey as women involves striving. It involves trying to do the right things so we can overcome our bad habits and become more—something different and better. We try to put something on to make ourselves loveable. But I think Jesus wants to do something even better for us. He wants to peel off the layers that have hidden who we really are and reveal our true selves. He wants to bring us back to who we were before we were afraid. He wants to set us free to be the happy and creative little girl, the one who felt like a princess, who twirled in the sun, who gave hugs freely, who felt she could conquer the world. And when we are free from fear and fully ourselves, we can lead our children into freedom as well.

I’ve taken up new hobbies, and splashed in countless creeks with my children, and jumped on fast moving subways in Italy, and walked through the streets of Tanzania, Africa at dusk, camped and hiked, and white water rafted with my daughter as the guide, started a business, and spoken on huge stages, all because I’ve used these tools to overcome fear and walk into freedom. My children have traveled to far away countries, earned degrees, and sung on stages, all because we have used these tools to walk into freedom. We’ve let our literary heroes pave the way, and stepped into our role as pioneers with them, paving a way through the wilderness of fear. We’ve redeemed the years that fear had stolen, and we are now living a wild and beautiful life together.

As Corrie ten Boom overcame her own fear and learned to forgive her enemies, she was able to lead others to overcome as well. When they were still suffering the cruel reality of the concentration camp, her sister Betsie dreamed of creating a place where survivors of these horrors could begin to heal. She recounts in The Hiding Place, “as we prayed, God spoke to us about the world after the war. It was extraordinary; in this place where whistles and loudspeakers took the place of decisions, God asked us what we were going to do in the years ahead. Betsie was always very clear about the answer for her and me. We were to have a house, a large one … to which people who had been damaged by concentration-camp life would come until they felt ready to live again in the normal world.”[4]

When the war was over, this is what they did. They planted gardens with people, and helped bring about reconciliation, forgiveness being the natural harvest of their love. “As flowers bloomed or vegetables ripened, talk was less of the bitter past, more of tomorrow’s weather.”[5]

Corrie didn’t just overcome fear for her own sake. Her freedom helped lead multitudes out of bitterness and fear and into joy. As we break free from fear and start listening and abiding in the living Word, our freedom will be a standard. We will be people who empower our children to break free. We will mother with confidence because we know our Daddy in heaven has our back. We will step into the wild and beautiful life of faith.


[1]  ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. Bantam Books, New York City, 1984, p.194.

[2]  Barton, Ruth Haley. Sacred Rhythms, IVP Books. Downers Grove, Illinois, 2006, p.54.

[3]  ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. Bantam Books, New York City, 1984, p.99.

[4]  Ibid., p.212.

[5] Ibid., p. 237.

Jennifer Pepito is a homeschool mom of 25 years and the founder of The Peaceful Press, a company committed to providing families with curriculum that promotes connection between parents and children. Her efforts to give her own seven children a Charlotte Mason inspired education led her to create affordable and life-giving curriculum for others. Her resources have been used by thousands of families and earned rave reviews. Jennifer’s writing has been featured in several online and print journals, including Wild + Free, Commonplace Quarterly, and Home Educating Family. She has also written Mothering by the Book, an exciting new book that is available today!

©2022 Jennifer Pepito

2 Replies to “To Overcome Fear”

  1. Thank you! I really loved this: “ So much of our journey as women involves striving. It involves trying to do the right things so we can overcome our bad habits and become more—something different and better. We try to put something on to make ourselves loveable. But I think Jesus wants to do something even better for us. He wants to peel off the layers that have hidden who we really are and reveal our true selves. He wants to bring us back to who we were before we were afraid. He wants to set us free to be the happy and creative little girl, the one who felt like a princess, who twirled in the sun, who gave hugs freely, who felt she could conquer the world. And when we are free from fear and fully ourselves, we can lead our children into freedom as well.”

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