I was thinking today about fear. It’s one of those ubiquitous things about being human. We all experience it at one time or another. Different people, different fears. Fear of heights, fear of flying, claustrophobia, the fear of public speaking is even listed as the number one fear for more people than any other, even more than the fear of dying. So what is fear and why is it so pervasive?
If you trace it back to it’s very root, here come the flames, it’s a sin. Gasp! Ok, give me a minute to explain. The bible says over and over, do not be afraid, do not fear. What’s wrong with fear? It’s a “normal” human emotion right? Fear is a lack of faith in the goodness of God…and without faith, it is impossible to please him. I’m not talking about that momentary fearful thought when someone sticks a gun in your face, or the doctor says “it’s cancer.” I’m talking about the kind that sets in, takes root, and runs your life. If fear stops you from doing something that you know you should do, that is a sin. If fear makes you do something that you know you should not, that is a sin.
Fear and pride are the 2 little roots behind almost every sin. We fear what someone will think of us if we tell the truth, so we lie. We think we deserve a better grade, spouse, raise etc. (pride) so we cheat. We fear that God will not provide for us so we steal. The teenager thinks he knows better than his parents what is good for himself, so he doesn’t follow their rules (pride). The murderer believes his own desires are more important than the other person’s very life. etc. etc. etc.
Then there is fear’s twin sister, worry, anxiety. We worry by letting fear take root. One fearful thought leads to another and before we know it we are mired in depression, panic attacks etc. I’ve known people afraid to step outside their own front doors, or those who so fear that their spouse will not be faithful, that they choke the life out of their relationship by their constant grasping and manipulation. That kind of fear is a spiritual battle. Thankfully God has given us weapons to fight with and protective gear to guard ourselves with, if we will use them.
First, we have to recognize that we have an enemy. I Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Do not disbelieve it for a minute. Many people would like to tell you the devil doesn’t exist. If he can get you to believe that, his work is half done, because you don’t fight enemies you don’t believe in. We don’t need to fall into the ditch on the other side of the road and look for demons behind every bush. Not every bad thing that happens is because Satan came against you. James 1:14-15 says “14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. ” Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
Second, we have to have Jesus as our Lord and savior. He’s our helmet of salvation. Without it we are sunk. We can fight all we want, but it’s a losing battle without the Lord on our side. Maybe I should have reversed these 2, but I think recognizing that we need Jesus comes before reaching out to him.
Third, we have to recognize our negative thoughts and stop them, then replace them with positive ones. Philipians 4 is probably the biggest help here. 4:6-8 “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b says “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I once heard a teacher speak on this. He said if you want to beat a lie detector test you have to concentrate on something besides that thing you want hidden. Repeat over and over “pink elephants” or something like that. It is nearly impossible to think of 2 different things at once. So you can’t just empty your mind of negative thoughts, don’t even get me started on that whole contemplative prayer thing, you have to replace them with positive ones. Now some people would tell you any old positive thought will do. Not so. The word of God is our only offensive weapon, we have to learn to use it.
Here is something I did when I was struggling with continual fear. I got a set of spiral bound 3×5 cards and called it my “Truth Journal” I found scriptures that corresponded to the lies I was believing that led me to fearful thoughts. You know lies like, you’re not good enough, God doesn’t care about you, He’s not watching you etc. Then I wrote the truth about God from His word on those cards. Things like Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Psalm 139, the whole thing, I am fearfully and wonderfully made etc. Matthew 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” When you start to have a fearful thought say something like “I take this thought captive in the name of Jesus” then replace it with one of your truth verses. Say it out loud, the spoken word of God is powerful. Think it over and over in your mind.
At first this will be difficult. Remember this is a battle! Satan is out there swinging his sword, swing yours back with all you’ve got. Pull up your shield of Faith, which… hmmm… comes by hearing the Word. Put on your belt of truth (which you learn by reading the Word). Hmmm (I’m seeing a pattern here.) And on your feet the Gospel of Peace. Peace you have when you take your anxious thoughts to God, and with thanksgiving for His mercy and provision, give them to Him. It will get easier with time. Just like a soldier trains for battle by taking up his gear and going on long hikes, spending hours practicing with his weapon etc. You must train. This Christian walk ain’t no skipping through the park on rose petals. It’s a battle from beginning to end. But the rewards are worth it.
Update: By the way. I’m casting no stones here, or claiming to be perfect. I still struggle, just not as often as I used to with this particular thing. My battles are mostly…I say mostly, elsewhere these days. I also understand that there is a physical component to “panic attacks” that sometimes has a root in chemical imbalances etc. Sometimes you need professional physician help. Sometimes a good Christian counselor can help you cooperate with God to bring peace in your life. I’ve gone to ministers in the church for counseling. It’s very helpful. Just beware the current “pop psychology gurus” and go to “the Great Physician” primarily. He made you. He understands you. And only He knows every little thought in your mind, every secret thing you have done or was done to you. God bless you all.