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Overcoming Fear in Unexpected Seasons

Are you in an unexpected season? Nicole Unice offers navigating wisdom.


Overcoming Fear in Unexpected Seasons

By Nicole Unice

In the summer of 2019, I started my “things I don’t know” list. The list was long, painful, and extensive. It covered my vocation, my relationships, my marriage, my inner world. The entries blossomed as we entered the pandemic in March 2020. Here are a few selections, straight from my tear-stained journal:

  • September 20, 2019: I don’t know who’s for me, who’s against me, or who’s indifferent to me.

  • April 5, 2020: I don’t know if my faith is growing.

  • April 15, 2020: I don’t know if anyone I love will get sick or die from Coronavirus.

  • May 2020: I don’t know if I’ll ever preach again.

  • November 2020: I don’t know who my friends are.

  • January 2021: I don’t know where God’s sending me.

But I kept a “what I do know” list as well. One entry was short, a prayer to the God I knew even when I couldn’t feel or see or perceive Him near me:

  • I know You are intentional.

  • I know You are purposeful.

  • I know You are kind.

Writing out my prayers and lists—and many times, simply finding a Bible verse to copy into my journal—was a coping mechanism, a survival tactic to acknowledge God and His goodness. These brief reflections were often the only thing my heart could grab on to when it felt as if the world had fallen out from under me.

Fear does a number on us. It causes us to shrink in and step back. Fear turns us inward—focusing our energy on protecting ourselves. Fear builds walls, pacifying us with self-created protection that is neither real nor helpful. The problem with walls is that, though they might keep bad things out, they also keep the good things from coming in. Those walls are like a house of cards printed with a stone facade, a mirage of protection that can topple with the slightest breeze. Fear will keep us paralyzed, neither able to move forward nor grow through our pain. That’s why acknowledging our fear is one of the most important steps we can take in our uncertainty.

Fear can be overcome in one of three ways: We connect with someone who helps us move through a fear, we gain strength by surviving the fear that comes to us, or we find the courage to face the fear with a new frame of mind. And God provides all three within Himself.

The first thing God provides is His indwelt presence. Fear triumphs when it gets us to feel alone. We can be surrounded by people yet still believe no one quite gets it; no one is present enough, caring enough, or wise enough to actually face the fear with us. And part of that is absolutely true. No one can experience your exact feelings, understand your thoughts, and hold your story—past and present—together in a way that brings full understanding. This is why it’s such a great compliment when someone tells you they feel seen by you. But “feeling seen” usually lasts for a moment. Only a spiritual presence can fully understand another’s whole self—body, mind, and soul. This is why Jesus told His disciples that it would be better for them when He left and they received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Jesus told them, is the One who “dwells with you” (John 14:17, ESV; see also 2 Timothy 1:14). The power and presence of the Spirit gives us both the comfort and courage to move through fear.

The second thing God gives is the ability to persevere by changing our perspective on life-and-death circumstances. Although we still may feel the crushing weight of loss and grief, although we may feel we can hardly bear to continue forward, God calls this—yes, the very season you are in—“light and momentary troubles” (2 Corinthians 4:17) compared to the eternal glory reserved for his children. We must understand that God is not calling our troubles “light,” as if we are supposed to just pull ourselves up and get on with it. But in comparison to what’s to come, the troubles become light.

We’ve had the opportunity to take our kids on several family trips. Our daughter used to dread flights of any length—until we flew to South Africa and spent twenty hours flying. Short flights used to be unbearable, but in comparison to spending a day and a night in one airplane seat, the shorter flights became “light and momentary troubles.” Yes, it takes great faith to shift our mindset—but every single hardship in your darkest hour, compared to the glorious reality of what’s to come, will seem light. Can we believe this on our own strength? Absolutely not. But is it true? Absolutely.

The third thing that God supplies is a frame of mind that allows us to face the fear directly. Sometimes we gain a new frame of mind because it’s the only option. We are so helpless, so uncertain that we really have no other choice. Why do people always pray in hospital waiting rooms? Because that is the only option when the fate of their loved one is out of their hands and they have to wait and trust. What do we do when we face a season of life that feels like it’s pulling us so hard it will tear us apart? At some point, the only place we can ground ourselves is on our knees, seeking the mercy of God who can give us just enough courage to face one more day.

Here’s the truth about unexpected seasons: They are always an invitation to build a deeper and more resilient faith. And that faith is based on one certainty: Our circumstances aren’t predictable, but God’s character always is.

Adapted from Not What I Signed Up For: Finding the Strength, Purpose, and Faith to Get through a Season You Didn’t Expect by Nicole Unice. Copyright © 2024. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.  All rights reserved.

Nicole Unice is a pastor and leadership coach who facilitates environments of safety and vulnerability so that leaders and teams can courageously identify obstacles keeping them from their maximum potential. As a sought-after speaker, Nicole has a down-to-earth style that allows even the largest gathering to feel conversational. Her most recent book is Not What I Signed up For. Nicole is the author of several other books focused on spiritual transformation and is a featured speaker through RightNow Media and Punchline. She holds degrees from the College of William and Mary and from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Nicole and her husband, Dave, live in Richmond, Virginia, with their three children and two pups. Visit her online at


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