4.1.2020 Dealing with Fear
Nearly everyone has memories of childhood fears. Perhaps you needed a night light to keep the bogeymen at bay. Maybe there was a house in your community where you were sure a witch kept children locked in her basement. Fears that spring from an active imagination are a common part of growing up.
As we mature, we develop a better understanding of the world and its dangers. We learn to discern real threats from imagined ones. When fear comes, we do our best to think rationally and manage our emotions until the menacing situation passes.
Worry, which is a type of fear, could be our daily companion if we let it. Family problems, job stress, economic uncertainty, crime, global conflict, corona virus - there is no shortage of things to fret about. Normally, we manage to keep all of these things in perspective and don't allow them to dominate our lives.
However, sometimes a personal crisis can make the normal concerns of life seem more burdensome, even overwhelming. Struggling with a family conflict, or some other dilemma, can weaken our normal defenses against fear to the point that rational thinking goes out the window. Then fear takes control.
Fear can suddenly overwhelm or gradually paralyze. It can make just leaving the house seem unbearable. People who live with uncontrolled fear are susceptible to broken relationships, missed opportunities, illness, guilt, depression and loneliness. For them, fear is a prison as impregnable as any made of stone and steel. If you are struggling with fear, you know how it can control you and turn you into someone you don't want to be.
The dictionary defines fear as "a distressing emotion aroused by an impending pain, danger, evil, etc. or by the illusion of such." There's and important distinction here. Fear may be brought on by either a real or an imagined threat. One kind of fear is a normal response to real danger. The other kind can be an abnormal, destructive emotion when the threat of pain, danger or evil is only imaginary. God has designed human beings with an internal mechanism for coping with danger. The threat of physical or emotional discomfort motivates us to avoid, change or prepare to face a threatening situation.
The fear that compels you to avoid a growling dog is a normal reaction to a potential danger. Your body prepares you to handle stress by exhibiting what is called the "fight or flight response." Fear is the trigger for this sudden physical readiness.
Anxiety is another word for fear. It incorporates a wide range of emotions. Worry, apprehension and uneasiness are mild forms of anxiety; dread, distress and panic are more intense manifestations. Anxiety may result from either real or imaginary threats.
When you are faced with a stressful situation, a moderate amount of anxiety is normal. This is "healthy" anxiety that can be managed and reduced as circumstances change. Normal anxiety can energize you to meet new challenges and do your best when it counts the most.
God's Word on Fear: Scripture tells us to fear God. Rather than fright, this sort of fear is better understood as an attitude of reverence and awe toward God. The Bible also addresses another kind of fear - the destructive kind. As our creator, He knows better than anyone how worry can stifle our faith and damage our relationship with Him. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the message is the same: do not fear; be anxious for nothing.
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
"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" (Jeremiah 29:11).
The first step to conquering fear is to call on God for strength and confront it. Confronting a fear means exposing yourself to the thing, person or situation that is causing the fear. The key is experiencing the object of your fear until you no longer fear it. Another important step to overcoming fear is adjusting the way you think. What are you telling yourself when you feel anxious? Are you telling yourself the truth? Do your thoughts line up with Scripture? Challenge irrational thoughts and reformulate them to reflect the way things really are.
The RX to fear, worry or anxiety: Meditate on God's Word daily. Receive the promises of the Bible as God's personal pledges to you. Pray about your fears. Prayer is the pathway to the peace of God which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6,7). Ask God to help you overcome fear. He wants you to be free from its shackles so that you can enjoy the abundant life He has for you.