A little over a week ago, I did a short video on social media about fear. The responses I got made me think, huh, maybe I should expand on this. So here I am.
Here’s a little disclaimer first: this will probably be the first of many posts about fear because, well, it’s a huge topic. There are scads of resources on it – studies, journals, documentaries, books, articles, other blog posts, Sally Sue talking on her Insta Stories…
And why shouldn’t there be so many people talking about it? We’ve all experienced it. You might even be feeling it now. Whether it’s physical fear, emotional, rational or irrational, we’re all familiar with that sick feeling on the inside. It makes you worried, anxious or stressed out. It makes you pause and reconsider; or maybe choose a different path altogether.
In fact, probably the most powerful aspect of fear is the influence it has over our decisions.
Have you ever stopped to consider the nature of fear? Sure, by design some fear is actually okay. The kind that is part of our brains’ survival instinct. It tells us not to go cliff jumping or skydiving or travel to a third-world country without doing some research first. Fear — in part — is designed to keep us alive by avoiding dangerous things. But what about when it helps us avoid things that are good for us? Things that help us grow in our jobs or in our relationships or, quite frankly, as human beings.
Now, I hate admitting I’m afraid. And who doesn’t? I think our pride is hardwired to make us think we can be superhuman: solve all your problems, don’t get tired, don’t admit our bodies break down and especially don’t admit you’re afraid.
All that to say no one is impervious to fear. But we’re not made to be superman. We feel fear and we make decisions based on it. Sometimes we’re not even aware we’re doing it.
I believe there are two ways we act on our fears.
Yes, only two. Sometimes we’re aware of how we’re reacting, other times we subconsciously bury it. Either way, the first step to understanding the nature of fear is to call it out for what it is. And there are two ways to do that:
stop avoiding your fears,
and stop rationalizing them into smaller, insignificant issues.
For example, I used to hate crowds. I refused to be in them (avoidance). I chocked it up to a personality quirk; something unexplained that couldn’t be helped (rationalization). But once I was willing to dig deeper — i.e. let go of my pride — I realized I was afraid. Afraid of being seen by a lot of people, and afraid of being touched by strangers. I called it out for what it was.
That might seem like an innocent example. What about something more serious – like fearing vulnerability? And relationships? Maybe you’re afraid God really will say “no” to that dream you’ve been hiding in your heart. All of these things can make us avoid what is good for us, or believe the lie that we don’t need it, or worse.
What does living in fear do to us? We pretend important things don’t matter so it doesn’t hurt as much when we’re disappointed. We wait for someone else to make a move in a relationship. We’re always wearing a suit of armor instead of being vulnerable. No one really knowing you for who you are. And you’re hiding in the dark. Feeling alone. And trapped.
Do you know how wrong it is to live like that?
I read recently that fear is a thief; it steals our life. I couldn’t agree more.
You can’t choose to magically NOT feel fear, but you can choose how you react to it. And that’s where we have press through that gut-deep desire to hide or run away and to lean into truth and scripture. Now I’m not saying there’s a bible verse that says “thou shalt take a plane to San Diego” when you’re terrified of flying. But we do need to acknowledge what the Bible says about who we are and what kind of spirits’ we have.
2 Timothy 1:7 became a life verse for me a year and a half ago. It wasn’t new to me — I had read it a hundred times. But I had just started to actually believe scripture and the fact that it was talking about me. Here’s what it says:
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Whoa. Think of it this way: fear is not part of your God-given identity. So when you let it tell you where to go and how to get there, you’re acting against who you really are.
I get it, facing your fears is scary. Life is scary. But don’t you remember we serve a God bigger than this life? If He designed us to live in fear, why would he inspire 365 mentions of fear in the bible? That’s one for every day.
In other words: God didn’t create us to live in fear, so stop letting it drive your decisions.
Remember dear Christian, we’re not passing through this life with no opposition. If fear is keeping you from growing or moving forward, it is no accident. It is a deliberate attack. Yes you have an enemy, and don’t underestimate how much he wants you to be stagnant. Whether it’s a direct attack or the result of years of conditioning, the end result is the same: you’re trapped in your fear. And as long as you’re trapped, Satan wins.
Now, sometimes how we respond to fear can be a subconscious decision. We might not even be aware of it. It takes a humble heart to let go and ask the Holy Spirit to show us when we are acting out of fear. Then it takes courage to choose the right path instead of letting that fear dictate the direction we go. It takes practice and I won’t lie, it’ll probably be uncomfortable. And as long as we inhabit bodies of flesh and bone, we’ll have to contend with fear. But we have the power to choose our actions despite that fear. So don’t give it a role in your life.