For as long as I can remember, I've battled fear - and not just those random, passing fears you get when you’re walking in a dark room alone but those worst-case-scenario fears that grip your spirit.
As a young child, I was afraid of what would happen if I were kidnapped or became separated from my parents. A few years beyond that, I was frightened by thoughts that my parents would get in a fatal car accident on their way home from date nights or various outings.
As a teenager, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be cool enough for everyone else, so I oftentimes let it dictate my choices - leading me to belittle others behind their backs, date a couple of boys that didn’t know the Lord, and do whatever I could (within the confines of the other fears that gripped me) to get myself ahead in the eyes of others. And as an adult, I've continued to battle fears - some founded and some just leaps off of the staircase of logic.
I want to share with you a few things that I’ve learned about fear throughout my years and hopefully provide some encouragement that will cause you and me to continue to be transformed in this area.
I know this: fear cripples us. It leads us to see images and ideas that aren’t there and focus on those things so holistically that we neglect to see the other, more beautiful images and ideas around us. At its best, it helps us to be cautious of situations and people; at its worst, it causes us to view the world through a marred, negative lens that takes others down with us - causing us to lose sight of the beauty in this life where the hand of God is still very much present.
Over the recent years in particular, I’ve oftentimes and occasionally unhealthily meditated on what it is that causes me to focus on these potential hazards around me.
And now, I know this: intense, driving fear is oftentimes a defense mechanism. For example, if I’m already prepared that something terrible could happen, I’m not as shocked when it does happen. We all know what is truly at the root of that as well - our joy-murdering friend, pride. Here is the core of my issues with fear and unfortunately what I believe is really going on inside me: I don’t want to surrender my unknown future to my Creator and trust him that nearly all moments of life will not end in the worst-case-scenario.
Even beyond that, I know this: when I live like a cautious cat, conditioned to jump at every “creak in the floor” and thought that buzzes through my head, that thing that I’m dreading will occur most usually doesn’t. But what does happen is this: I lose precious moments of my life surrendered to negativity and fear of the unknown or whatever horrible thing could be, and I miss out on the fun and enjoyment of life that others experience around me.
This prior list of ideas that I now know leads me to this current point in my life: I’m not quite sure how exactly the Lord will continue to lead this story of mine as I fight to overcome fear, but I AM CHOOSING TO BELIEVE THAT HE WILL. I’m growing increasingly tired of always seeing the worst-case-scenario around me - and I believe that end of the line, fed-up exhaustion is where the Lord causes us to truly transform IF we surrender to Him and His Word. And so all of us at this place have a choice - we can plow forward in fear, give up the fight and become apathetic towards all things, or we can dig in, surrender to the Lord, and continue to fight for the abundant life that God has promised us in John 10:10.
Overcoming fear is not a passive venture. So we must renounce our pride and arrogance and cling to the one thing that Scripture teaches will set us free - the TRUTH (John 8:32). It’s a replacement principal. We pay attention to the lies that we hear. As fear plows through the front door of our mind, we must identify the lie hiding behind the fear. For example, if I become overwhelmingly afraid that I’m not ever going to make it beyond my fears (yes - that happens), what I’m really struggling with underneath is the need to be perfect. And then I can search the Scripture for a reference that applies, just as the truth of Psalm 18:32, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” If I continue to look within for perfection, I’ll be disappointed and frustrated. So I must stop looking inside and look to Christ.
"We must renounce our pride and arrogance and cling to the one thing that Scripture teaches will set us free - the TRUTH"
Sometimes it’s helpful for me to make that particular verse the one on which I meditate day and night so that as that fear continues to pop into my head, I can recite that I’m not the one who has to be perfect - hallelujah! Can you feel the freedom? God does not expect perfection of us; but He can make our way perfect! Praise the Lord.
You see, God is not disappointed that we haven’t been able to get over our problems in one day. Remember that the root of fear is oftentimes pride. Therefore, we can also trust that He is probably trying to grow our shaky trust in HIM - which takes TIME. And we can choose to believe His promise that He has come to give us the abundant life, and therefore, we can trust that He will deliver us. We will rise!
My dear friends, you are not alone if this is your struggle. And if it’s not your struggle, may this post give you insights into the battles of another. But to stop here is to stop too short. The precious Word of God has much to say about fear: "be strong and courageous; do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9), "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?" (Psalm 27:1), “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10). These are only a brief few references that I’ve repeated to myself through the recent years that I’ve dealt with fear. The Word is full of TRUTH to counteract those lies you and me find ourselves stuck in.
But I must leave you with one more thing that I’ve learned - fear is NOT bad. As often as we’re commanded NOT to fear in Scripture, we are also told TO fear - the “what” that we fear makes all the difference! I love the way that John Piper qualifies the fear of the Lord when he said, “Jesus died for us to provide a place for us where we could enjoy the majesty of God with a kind of fear and trembling and reverence and awe but not a cowering fear” (“What Does it Mean for the Christian to Fear God”, desiringgod.org).
Many of us heavily focus on those verses that tell us not to fear. And we try and we try and we try NOT to fear. But to sweep away old fear without replacing it with the healthy version - the fear of the Lord - is to leave ourselves open to attacks of fear one right after the next. Think on these truths from throughout God’s Word:
“Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” Exodus 20:20 NLT
Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. Deuteronomy 13:4 NLT
You must always act in the fear of the Lord, with faithfulness and an undivided heart. 2 Chronicles 19:9 NLT
Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Psalm 34:9 NLT
The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. Psalm 103:13 NLT
Fear of the Lord leads to life, bringing security and protection from harm. Proverbs 19:23 NLT
True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life. Proverbs 22:4 NLT
Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. Hebrews 12:28 NLT
“Fear God,” he shouted. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.” Revelation 14:7 NLT
Listen, dear friend - there is always hope in the battle against fear. Let’s take it one day at a time, taking the next step the Lord has given us for that day and trusting Him for the rest! Let’s fear God, and allow this holy fear to transform our hearts and minds!