Beloved, as we dive into the sensitive subject of fear, worry, and anxiety, hear the Father’s heart toward you—He understands why you are afraid, why you worry, and why anxiety grips you. He does not condemn you. He does not diminish what you experience. He sees. He knows. He cares. Keep these truths close as you read.
Each of us experiences fear on some level at various times in our lives. It is common to everyone. There is debate over rational versus irrational fears, realistic versus unrealistic, healthy, relative, and primal fears. Certainly a google search will send your head spinning. (I don’t recommend it.) While many fears are born out of negative experiences, others seem to “just come to us.”
Ranges & Examples of Fear:
- Fear of losing your job because you were late to work too many times, or due to cutbacks
- Fear of betrayal by family or friend
- Fear of burning your hand if you stick it in the fire
- Fear of a parent/child/spouse dying, or your own death (either randomly, or due to diagnosed illness)
- Fear of being alone
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of heights/spiders/snakes, etc.
- Fear of harm (to yourself or someone you care about)
- Fear of weather/natural disasters
- Fear of others’ thoughts toward you
Add to that our social news feeds serving daily dosages of the world’s suffering, along with the trauma of the pandemic at lightning speed. These are real happenings. But our minds and souls were not created to bear the weight of world, yet it is asking us to. We are also asking this of our souls the more we partake of the social deluge. It is no wonder we are prone to fear more than ever.
Underneath worry and anxiety is fear. They are connected. When a fear consumes us, it gives birth to worry and anxiety. From that point, it can control or paralyze us.
Ways the church has handled fear/worry/anxiety:
(Beloved, remember the Father’s heart toward us as we continue—He understands. He does not condemn you. He does not diminish what you experience. He sees. He knows. He cares.)
Whether knowingly or unknowingly, many have raised up what they believe is a proper image of a “true Christian”. For some, that definition means a person does not struggle. For others, they believe the person who grapples exhibits faith by not announcing it, quietly and hiddenly wrestling. When these false images are expressed, they tend to shut down the ones who do struggle.
The church seems to titillate on two ends of the spectrum here, with only a little in between.
Here is where the opposite end occurs: in their cry for their experiences to be validated and heard, many who grapple normalize the vice of worry and anxious thoughts. Therefore, adopting the worldview that anxiety is simply a part of life for most people, and there is little that can be done about it spiritually. Since God knew it would be easy for us to accept that view, in His mercy He told us not to conform to the ways of the world. (Romans 12:2) He has made a better way; keep reading for more on that below.
Fears often have roots.
A few years ago, a dear confidant expressed to me she had a family member she was concerned about; one she didn’t understand. As a grown, elder woman, this family member was so afraid she couldn’t sleep at night. My confidant questioned how she could truly be a Christian if she were that afraid, especially given her age. She judged, “if she were truly a Christian, wouldn’t she have faith enough to believe and be able to sleep at night, unafraid?”
Those words stuck.
Out of her well-intentioned concern, she simply didn’t know what it is like to experience things that shake you to your core and follow you right into the adulthood of your faith.
For the first 27 years of my life, I do not remember a time without fear. Irrational fears. Rational fears. Extreme fears. Utterly paralyzing, controlling fears. Some of them were born out of traumatic experiences, cruel words, or the mere idea of something bad happening. Goodness, I would wake early before school to check the weather for storms. If any were predicted, I’d be on guard, glued to the updates, constantly praying while imagining every possible route of protection I could take if a tornado were to hit (even though I’d never lived through one before).
My questioning friend knew I was sexually abused when very young. Additionally, during my early teen years, men broke into our house, twice. The second time, the robbers ransacked my bedroom. Every drawer was snatched opened, my clothes thrown into the floor. Guns stolen. Nightmares and fear became the norm, trauma’s cruel gift.
She did not know because of these and other traumatizing experiences, I was unable to walk into the house alone and be okay until I looked behind every closed door, under every bed, behind every shower curtain. And even though I found no one hiding to hurt me, I still couldn’t be at peace in the house. For what if someone broke into the door behind me?
Consider there is likely a story behind another’s fear.
I know it doesn’t make sense to someone who hasn’t experienced such fear. It may be easy for that person to say, “Just pray, have faith and it will all go away.” I did pray. I did have faith. Day and night for years. Decades even. It didn’t just go away that easily. Though well-intentioned, such placates caused me to feel like something must be wrong with me.
Thankfully, I don’t still look under or behind everything when I come into the house and haven’t for 20 years. But hearing my trusted confidant’s words brought condemnation to the places I have wrangled as an adult. It exposed an unconscious feeling: because of the depth of intimacy I have known with God, and knowing Him more still, shouldn’t I be “better” than I am?
The focus becomes “what must I be doing wrong,” rather than the awareness of “what has been done wrong to me” that causes the struggle in the first place. For the abused, it’s an automatic internal response—it triggers the lie that we are always the one at fault.
After two of our daughters were in a deeply traumatizing accident that led our family into nearly a decade of long-suffering, during which timeframe we also lost our home in the recession, our family’s view of safety was wrecked. Soberly aware that life can change instantly without warning, many fears grew out of that season.Struggle is not proof you lack faith. When you no longer struggle, you lose. But when you work out your faith with God through the struggle, you win. Click To Tweet
Our spirituality is key.
As spiritual beings, we cannot separate the spiritual from the natural/physical self or the natural/physical world.
“…it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.”
We may need to tend our body/brain at times with medication. Care for our heart and mind through counseling. And we must also involve our spirit. For as the Scripture explains, it is the way to understanding. We cannot accurately interpret our life without it.
God has provided us ways to overcome fears and anxiety through scripture. For the harder-to-overcome, it isn’t slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound, but rather a tender salve that needs reapplying.
“…the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, [tell] your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Moreover, the Bible urges us numerous times “do not be afraid” (in the most terrifying of circumstances!).
We question His Words when we cannot seem to silence the cacophony of worries that seize us. But our God is a good Father. He wouldn’t tell us not to be anxious if it weren’t possible, if He weren’t going to provide the way.
I think of my precious grandbabies being nursed by their mother. As their tummies growl, they cry for the milk that will nourish their bodies. For God to tell us not to be afraid or anxious, then refuse to make freedom available would be like a mother offering up her breast to her crying babe, then snatching it away just as they’re about to take hold of it. That would be cruel.
How does this work?
First, because “the Lord is near.” Did you catch that in the scripture above? He has not abandoned you to your fears. You are not helplessly and hopelessly prone to worry or bound to anxiety. He is close.
His perfect love for you drives out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. (1 John 4:18) Death taunts, you should be afraid. Trouble and hardship scream, God is far away! People try to condemn, you must’ve done something wrong, God doesn’t seem to be sticking up for you. But Truth says,
“Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worse sins in Scripture…None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Romans 8:34-35/37-39 MSG)
What can we do?
Begin with inviting God into our fears. Talk honestly to Him about it. Struggle is not proof you lack faith. Quite the opposite, it is evidence you believe to some extent He is there. When you no longer struggle, you lose. But when you work out your faith with God through the struggle, you win.
When you are ready to take the next step, ask what the root of your fears may be.
There is much to be pondered here. So, we will stay with that for now. Re-read the truths above. Ask Jesus to saturate you with fresh experiences of His love. Continue the conversation with Him. Next, we will explore more ways we can partner with God in the fight against fear.
How have past experiences contributed to your fears? I invite you to share in the comments below.
This is Part 1 of a series.
Read Part 2 HERE. (includes free printables)