A Guide to Living Scared

I finished filling out five visa applications online for our trip to Kenya this November and checked it off my list.  We don’t normally travel overseas during the school year with our kids, but we have our first graduation of two residents at Mercy House, an important board meeting, a certificate ceremony for these new entrepreneurs and a wedding we wouldn’t miss for anything–all in the same week.

The papers were on the kitchen counter, awaiting a money order and updated passport photos when I heard about the terror attack in Nairobi. I quickly emailed Maureen to check on her and her family. I knew the attack wasn’t too close to the organization’s residential home, but I had visited Nairobi’s best mall in April to troubleshoot the phone I’d brought for Maureen.

I watched the news on my phone, read tweets, followed the events very closely, those visa applications burning a hot hole in my heart as fear began to set in. I’m afraid of a lot of things. My husband, who knows me so well, told me to stop after I’d read what this could mean longterm for Kenya.

He said, “Have you ever wanted to go to NYC?” He knew my answer before he asked. It’s on my list.

“3000 people died in terrorist attacks, Kristen. Terror is everywhere. It’s here, too,” he said.

As the hostage situation worsened, we couldn’t keep the news from our kids any longer and they asked a lot of questions. It was one of those surreal conversations you don’t want to have as a parent. There are a lot of things that scare me: my teenager’s room, traveling overseas by myself and raising my kids in an age where terrorists target innocent people.

We live in a world filled with death, violence, disease and terror and it is steadily getting worse.

It scares me.

But I will not let fear dictate what I do and I will not raise my children to be afraid of evil.

“You might think we are being reckless. I think we are in far greater danger of being safe in our modern Christianity. We do not bow at the alter of safety. This is what it means to follow Jesus, to cling to Him in the face of danger,” David Platt.

Because I’m much more afraid of letting fear determine how I live.

We will continue to do what Deut. 13:4 tells us “Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.” 

While our world talks about war, our government plans to shut down and terrorists hijack shopping malls, we live scared.

We believe God is greater than the evil in this world.

We believe God orders our steps and has a plan.

We believe God had predetermined when we will live and die.

We believe Jesus is coming back.

The visa applications are still on my counter because the risk of our government shutdown threatens to put our passports in limbo. But we won’t let that stop us from our yes.  We are living scared and that’s better than living safe.


  1. 1


    “Serve only the Lord your God and fear him ALONE.” i have never focused in on the word alone in this verse. and i need it. because i feel like i fear EVERYTHING. this is a turn-around word for me today….

    • 1.1

      Kathleen says

      I have to agree completely! Just what I need today! As we raise our children in this world, we have nothing to fear. 1 John 4:18 Perfect love casts out all fear.

  2. 2


    I just forwarded this post to my husband. We sometimes feel like others around us think we’re reckless in how we handle things in our lives, or rather, let God handle. And I’ve never really known what to say or how to handle situations where people are shouting against what we know is truth. Thank you for these words that I will keep close to my heart as we navigate this crazy world!

  3. 5

    Christine says

    Totally agree! Thanks for your honesty with your fear. Being courageous does not mean we have no fear… it means that we go forward knowing that God is in control. Blessings to you and on your trip.

  4. 6


    Amen Kristen! I am living so far away from home and my heart was so broken by this. As the tragedy unfolded, God began to remind me that this world is not our home..so often we try to reason and understand life using earth-perspective but He wants us to see things as He does, wants us to use live out His revelation.

  5. 7

    Joanne says

    Just taught Ecclesiastes 12:1b3 to our junior church kids this week … “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” It is amazing all the other things we fill in that little nugget of wisdom when the truth is so simple … 1) fear God, 2) keep His commandments.

  6. 8

    Karen says

    Praying for your courage as you continue to say yes! Psalm 18:1 (nlt) is one of my favorites. It doesn’t ask for strength. It says HE is strength!

  7. 9

    valerie says

    Thank you so much for this post. It came at the perfect time for me. We, too, are planning a trip with our children – not to Kenya, but to Uganda – this December. With violence breaking out all over Africa, specifically in every country that borders Uganda, fear has been tightening its grip on me. I try to remind myself of exactly what your husband said – violence is everywhere. It’s here. But it just seems so much more scary being a half a world away, and in our case with no real contacts there other than the ministries we’ll be visiting. Anyway, thank you. I needed to hear these words from someone in a similar boat.

  8. 10

    Heather S. says

    You’re not living scared, Kristen. You are living courageous – that means you are moving forward in spite of fear. That’s the kind of living we are all to be doing. I’m living scared…paralyzed by fear to take on much of anything. Your faith will carry you through. My faith has much growing to do.

  9. 11

    Abbie says

    Thank you so much for the encouragement to persevere in a crazy, chaotic world and to remember that God, the Creator of the Universe, has promised He will never leave His children nor forsake them!! He is in control…always and in EVERY country!! The courage He has given you has convicted and challenged me in the past year as I’ve browsed your blog…Thank you!!

  10. 12

    Amanda says

    Thanks for writing Kristen! Fear overtook me during that mall attack (and the church bomb in Pakistan that happened at the same time) and I am just starting to claw my way out of that pit. It is such a struggle for me to trust the Lord with my children and their future in this fallen world. One thing my pastor reminds me of..I am no less safe than I was before this happened. And that must be true if God is in control, He is my strong might fortress, not living in a safe and peaceful world. Oh the struggle to let my trust in God be stronger than my fear…may it be Lord! Thanks for sharing…I feel a bit less alone on the journey!

  11. 13


    Thanks so much for this post! The world gets more terrifying every time I wake up but I know this isn’t home and with every news story I read I am reminded to re-orient my life around God’s kingdom and His purpose. Nothing else really matters.

  12. 14


    AMEN and we are with you 100%! Our family is preparing to move to Kenya in obedience to the call of God on our lives. We will not be afraid, we will trust in HIM alone! God bless you as you continue to trust and obey!

  13. 15

    Birdie says

    thank you so much for this post! I have a friend who is leaving for Jerusalem Oct. 12. She is facing a similar situation and she, too, is going ahead because she in God’s hands.
    I agree with David Platt, we cling to Jesus as our safety, not to the altar of “safe.”

  14. 16


    Chilling reminders of why not to be afraid. Thank you for sharing – I know Kenya is so close to your heart…I cannot imagine the fear that raced through you as you heard about the horrors of the shooting there. (((hugs))) Praying this shutdown is resolved soon so you can send your visa applications in!

  15. 17

    Dirk says

    I don’t want to be scared or safe. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

    In many ways it is like whitewater kayaking that I love. So much of paddling successfully is knowing how to move with the power of the water and let it carry you to safety. It also helps to have a good helmet to protect your head when you flip and bonk the rocks. And a good paddle to reach out and grab hold of the water. And generally good gear to help you survive in an adverse environment.

    My wife has seen stuff that I’ve paddled (mostly before we met) and thinks anyone would be crazy to do that, and yes that would be a suicidal place to start. The key is to not start there, but start where your abilities and guidance can take you safely. And practice, and learn, and challenge yourself with a little bit more, and find friends to work together with, and encourage, and celebrate, and protect each others back, and try a little more.

    And we know that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. I am God’s only limit. No Fear!

  16. 18

    Cheryl says

    Kristen: I am not typically a fearful person, it just not my personality. That is until God begins shaking everything – my job, my husband’s job, my husband’s health, just to name a few. And I haven’t just been fearful this week, I’ve been panicked.
    This is just what I need this day – the reminder to obey HIS commands ( like don’t be anxious for anything,but in all things, with prayer and supplication, make my requests known to God); listen to HIS voice ( and not the lies of the enemy) and cling to HIM (not my job, not my husband, but HIM.
    Thank you for a Word directly from God.

    Blessings friend.

  17. 19


    I so appreciate this, Kristen. I want you to know that your kids will benefit from your courageousness because they will see God work in ways that they never would have if you hadn’t been courageous. I think you must already know this because you stepped out and founded Mercy House. But I’m talking, when it’s dangerous & scary, even then (especially then?) it’s powerful for the kids to see parents obey “no matter what” understanding that God is in control. Sometimes the call to obey God takes us some dangerous places. And sometimes others might question our decisions. But in the end, it’s God we answer to. I feel strongly about this because my parents took us kids on bible smuggling trips into countries that were restricted (in the 1980s) and although there was the possibility of us getting caught, of them getting interrogated, they obeyed what they felt God was asking them to do. And I am so glad they did. I came away with something far more valuable, the people I met; the things I saw; the faith instilled in me. The courageousness it instilled in me. In your courageous obedience, in the face of scary things, you are instilling valuable valuable lessons to your kids – not to mention your very large community you have built here. I just wanted to let you know that, yes! living scared is much better than living safe. It isn’t always easy, but it’s better. Eternally speaking, for sure. xo

  18. 20


    Do it scared! I heard Jill Briscoe preach on this topic, and it is totally sustaining me. We’re getting ready for a trip to India, where there has been lots of tourist/hotel terrorism, which is frightening. And we are adopting a dear little girl whose medical conditions will be a bit of a mystery until we meet her . . . so, yes — I am petrified, and still moving forward, trusting that He knows what He is doing. Thank you so much for this timely post.

  19. 21


    G’day Mate;

    Hey mate,

    If you die…you die…Jesus is waiting….stop worrying. You will save souls for Him

    Get into it…take the family……go for it…yeeehah!!!!

    Save souls for Jesus………..if you die…count it glory to Him…you gotta die sometime girl…..this is awesome.


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