Fear. This is an emotion of which I am all too well acquainted. Now look, I am not talking about awe and reverence of God in this post, which is the way “fear” is sometimes used in Scripture. I am talking about a kind of emotion that is intense, sometimes paralyzing. I am talking about the heart-racing, sweating, shaking-in-your-boots kind of fear. Merriam-Webster defines it this way: “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”
The common denominator in all our fear moments is our thoughts. Our thoughts are sitting in the control center of our bodies—the brain. When we experience a situation that could trigger fear, our bodies go into a Fight, Flight, or Freeze mode. Our brains tell our bodies to tackle the source of the fear, run from it, or stay paralyzed by it.
An Example of Fear
To help you see this in real life, let me tell you a story. The other night I was going to a friend’s house in Lakeview. It was getting dark outside, and I had just gotten out of my car. A guy and his pitbull were coming toward me, and the pitbull was not on a leash. Now normally I am not afraid of dogs, but this one was running toward me with a muscular man behind him. Not a soul was outside, so I felt my heart start to race. I knew I could not outrun either man or dog (I am pregnant and hate running, so I knew that was not going to fly). I knew I could not fight them off if they attacked me (as I tell my husband all the time, I am a fragile flower—in other words, small and weak). So I froze. I stood there for what felt like forever, paralyzed in fear. My mind was going to all kinds of irrational places, but my body could not move.
What if this dog jumps on my stomach and hurts my baby? What if he attacks me? Will I have to be taken to the ER? Great, I hate the ER. What if this man grabs me, drags me off, does something awful to me, and no one ever can find me? What will my family do? Yep. This is where my mind went. What’s even worse is that I saw all that play in fast forward like a movie in my head.
The man must have seen my fear because he got his dog under control, smiled, and reassured me that “he really was a sweet dog.” They walked away, this mama unscathed. Phew. Bullet dodged. I hurried into the house nervously, not looking back to entertain any more of my fears.
What happened here? My mind took over and told my body I was unsafe, even though I never really was. I anticipated danger, and my thoughts snowballed out of control. This, in turn, made me more anxious and afraid, which then made me freeze.
Managing Our Fear
Fear is a tough emotion to deal with because sometimes fear is there because we have already gone through something difficult, and we come to expect it again. A childhood abuse victim is going to be more afraid of others hurting him or her. Someone who has had a car wreck may be instantly afraid when someone cuts them off. A person who has been betrayed is afraid of getting into another relationship. A granddaughter whose grandmother died of an autoimmune disease is constantly hyper-aware of her body symptoms.
Fighting it is still the same though. We go back to our control center and try to make sense of what is happening in there. The thoughts are usually so similar. What if this? What if that? We can get so focused on the “What-ifs” that we often lose sight of the “What is!” I tell my clients this in counseling all the time, but I must preach it to myself too. You can hear these “what ifs” in that pitbull scenario. When all we can see is the not-happened-yet, may-never-happen types of things, then we will spiral down with our fear and stop really living our lives.
My husband is not answering the phone. What if he got into a wreck and is hurt? My boss is acting strange toward me. What if he is about to fire me? What if that noise I heard is a burglar? What if I hear silence in this ultrasound? What if I let this person down? And on and on and on.
But if we choose to stop, quiet the noise in our heads, and focus on truth, we can defeat fear. God does not want us to live frozen by our fear like this because he knows that it keeps us isolated, stagnant, and unfruitful. How many times in Scripture does he call us to not be afraid, but to trust Him?! That is our “What is!”
- What if my husband is hurt? Well, I know that my God will never leave me mor forsake me, no matter what.
- What if I get fired? I know that God is Jehovah Jireh, My provider. He will provide for our family and will help me find another job.
- What if I do hear silence in this ultrasound? God has carried me through loss; He will do it again.
Like me, you may struggle with these thoughts and may feel powerless to do anything about them. But if you are a Christian, in YOU lives the same power that conquered the grave. That Jesus, that power, can defeat the thoughts that feed your fear. Write those “what ifs” down, and then speak truth to each one! This is a powerful defense against fear, and you will see how free you are to finally live, free to do what you are called to do, free to be in thriving relationships, and free to enjoy life.
Spend some time this week meditating on these verses if you are battling fear:
Psalm 27:1, Exodus 14:13-14, Deuteronomy 3:22, Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 23:4, Ps. 27:1, Ps. 34:4-7, Ps. 46, Ps. 91, Ps. 118:6, Isaiah 41:10-14, Matthew 10:31, Mark 5:36, Luke 12:32, 2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 13:6, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5