I’m a little girl on a hillside covered with waving green grass, bright flowers, yellow sunshine – the kind of picture a little kid would draw. I’m picking the flowers but on the periphery ‘something’ – big, black, and ugly- stalks me. Dread lingers on the chill air. I’m not sure what the ‘thing’ is, but I know it’s big. And waiting for me. A monster biding its time until it pounces and destroys.
It’s a dream I had many times as a child and one day it all came back – the black, nameless fear that I have lived with all my life. For days I relived the dream. The ‘thing’ loomed each morning and only praying made it go away.
Life has always been too big for me. A burden.
Fear has been my constant companion.
I have been afraid of people, of exams, of dentists, of dying, of suffering. Afraid of leaving home, afraid of giving birth, afraid of talking to strangers, afraid of answering the phone, afraid of daily living, afraid of losing my children, afraid that God won’t keep His promises.
Afraid. Always afraid.
Paralyzed by fear for most of my life, I learned to bury it deep. On the surface I was bright, cheery, and cheeky.
But, the fear was there.
It kept me from being happy.
It made daily life a burden.
It prevented me from reaching out to others.
It made me allow people to walk over me.
It kept me from trusting God.
How to stop it?!
Here are 6 ways to combat fear:
God needs your permission to come into your heart and change what’s going on in there. If you surrender your thoughts and feelings to Him, He will bring them into harmony with Himself. This is where true freedom is found.
Surrendering your thoughts and feelings to Him simply means saying, “Lord, I give you these fearful thoughts and feelings. Please take them from me and give me your thoughts and feelings.” Do this every time the fear comes back. This may mean you do it 20 times a minute. That’s ok. Just keep doing it.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 A fearful spirit is not from God. Stop believing that what fear tells you is truth. God’s word says He is with you, that He never leaves you, that He is kind and good. Choose to believe this.
“But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7 If God knows how many hairs are on your head He must really be interested in you! Believe it!
Start believing that Philippians 4:13 is true for you. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” So whether it’s answering the phone or writing an exam or suffering for Him – you can do it. In Christ’s strength. Take God at His word.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” John 4:18 The law of displacement states that no two things can fill the same space at the same time. This applies spiritually as well as physically. Invite Jesus to fill your heart with His love. Study it, meditate on it, dwell on it until it becomes real to you. Allow His love to fill your heart and mind so that there is no room for fear. It will banish the fear that torments you.
When you are tempted to succumb to fear, claim God’s power to free you and then stand in that freedom. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
You may be shaking as you enter that exam room, your palms may be sweating and stomach in a knot before that recital, you may be feeling sick to your stomach simply because you’re in an unfamiliar situation and don’t know what’s expected of you, but stand in the liberty that Christ died to give you.
It’s a choice.
“… for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13:5,6 Take Jesus with you to all those scary places. He’s promised that He will NEVER leave you. And God does not lie.
I have found these words to be true in my life:
“Only the sense of God’s presence can banish the fear that, for the timid child, would make life a burden.” [i]
I have been that timid child. My life has been a burden because of fear. Only taking Jesus with me everywhere has helped.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10 Go and do those scary things – one at a time. Start with small things and hang on to God’s “right hand of righteousness.” Make it as real as imagining yourself holding Jesus’ hand and walking with Him into the scary place.
Courage is not the absence of fear. It is doing brave things in spite of fear.
Here is how I used all of these “tools” to overcome fear. (I still use them when fear attacks.)
My husband used to be a cattle farmer. There were times when buyers were due to arrive to look at bulls and Richard had to finish up preparations at the shed.
“When ……… gets here just invite him in and tell him I’ll be home soon,” he’d call over his shoulder as he dashed off.
This was like a death sentence to me! You mean I have to entertain a total stranger for an indefinite amount of time?
I had no option but to face my “death sentence”! I prayed frantically that the buyer would be late – no luck. He arrived on time and Richard was still away. Now what to do?
I took a deep breath.
I walked outside praying. “Lord, Your word says I don’t need to be afraid. I surrender my fearful thoughts and feelings to you (point 1) Help me not to believe Satan’s lie that I have to be afraid of this. I believe your word that says I can do all things through Your strength! (point 2). Please come into my heart and banish the fear of talking to strangers. (3) I claim your freedom from this fear (4) and because I’m claiming freedom I know I have to do this scary thing (6). Please go with me (5) and give me words to say.”
That took much longer to write than it ever did to pray. But as I went outside to meet the stranger I found myself being friendly, welcoming him in, offering something to drink, making some small talk (not easy for me), and even having a good conversation. I actually enjoyed the interaction with a stranger and felt exhilarated by a new sense of freedom.
Little by little God set me free from the fear that has ruled me all my life. And it feels good.
“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Whatever your “them” is – God commands that you not be afraid of it anymore. For – the Lord your GOD goes with you and He will never fail you or forsake you.
[i] Education 258, Ellen G White