Review

Be Not Afraid: Facing Fear with Faith

by Samuel Wells

Author Samuel Wells, dean of the chapel and research professor of Christian ethics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has written a thoughtfully developed resource that will engage both the heart and mind of his readers. In his newest work, BE NOT AFRAID: Facing Fear with Faith, he does a marvelous job addressing “fear” in its many and diverse forms. Both men and women alike (those of faith and those who are seekers) will value and appreciate Wells’s sensitive approach to that which frequently strikes genuine (and often debilitating) fear into individuals from all walks of life.

"Wells gives us a deep drink of biblical truth that will quench even the thirstiest fear-driven heart to find hope and renewed faith in what Christ can do in and through our fears."

Wells opens his six-part text with a description of how his book is intended to impact readers. In his words, “Each reflection is designed to speak to gut, head, heart, and hand --- often in that order. Fear is a sensation of the gut. When I seek to assist others in meeting God in Christ, I begin with the gut. The first questions I’m asking are: Where does this hurt? Why does it matter? What part of me can’t rest until this issue is faced? What am I running away from? What can’t be said?” Every single one of these questions Wells poses and then answers in each chapter.
 
Wells also immediately engages readers’ attention by describing how fear feels to us. He writes that fear is “That twisting screwdriver at the base of your stomach, that trembling shiver under your lower spine, that drying of the throat and tightening of the chest, the instinctive slow shaking of the head and the glazed staring of the eyes that says, “Oh…my…God.” Well said. Once Wells gets the rapt attention of his audience, he reminds us that even given that unsettling mental picture, fear in and of itself isn’t good or bad. Rather, it’s an emotion that identifies what we love. He further reminds us that fear is the fastest indicator of discovering what or whom someone loves because they will be afraid of losing it (or them).
 
Wells models his approach to dealing with fear in the same way that Jesus modeled. When the disciples were on the mountain and Jesus was transfigured alongside Moses and Elijah, they were terrified. What did Jesus do? Four steps. First, He got up close to the disciples. Second, He touched them. Third, He speaks to them saying, “Get up.” Finally, He tells them not to be afraid. Using this pattern, Wells addresses our private and general fears in the same way, and in each example, it is powerfully portrayed and delivered.
 
Readers will find a multitude of helps (practical and inspirational) under the following general headings. In six parts, Wells covers the gamut of life situations in Be Not Afraid of --- Death, Weakness, Power, Difference, Faith and Life. Written from a first-person perspective, Wells is absolutely transparent about his own struggles with fear and shares deeply from his own life and from those he’s ministered to in a pastoral capacity. Some texts offer a 1-2-3 step process to facing and overcoming fear. But Wells gives us a deep drink of biblical truth that will quench even the thirstiest fear-driven heart to find hope and renewed faith in what Christ can do in and through our fears.
 

Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 10, 2011

Be Not Afraid: Facing Fear with Faith
by Samuel Wells