As an anxiety-prone worrywart, I have done my share of battles with fear. I have wrestled with worry, been paralyzed by anxiety, haunted by what-ifs, drowned in a suffocating ocean of fears. and then gotten back up only to have my legs swept out from under me again.
Whether you battle anxiety or not, you have to fight a battle with fear from time to time. Especially now in this crazy world of 24/7 non-stop media frenzy that feeds on sensationalism and controversy for its very existence.
We call it “news”, but let’s be honest. Most of it is gossip and entertainment. Some of it is just flat out lies or downright hurtful communication. If you aren’t anxious before reading the news, you probably will be after consuming its steady diet of toxic thoughts and hyper-emotionalism designed to keep us all tuned in.
Why are we afraid? How should we handle it? (First of all, turn off the news and read the Bible and this post instead!)
Our full range of human emotion, including fear, has been gifted to us by God for our enjoyment, expression, and survival. No emotion, in and of itself, is evil. Now, how we behave in response to those emotions certainly can be problematic and even cross over into sin, but the feeling itself is not wrong. In any given moment, it’s perfectly okay to feel whatever you’re feeling.
Not all fears are created equal. A basic sense of dread is quite helpful and useful to either prevent us from doing something dangerous or helping us escape a harmful situation. But, when fear gets out of control, it stops being a useful indicator of danger and becomes a cruel slave master instead. Fortunately, there’s a third kind of fear that can rescue us from worry gone rogue. That’s the one kind we need right now.
The first type of fear is simply a natural human emotion that serves the purpose for which God created it. Consider it a warning system designed to help you avoid real danger and actual threats. This type of healthy fear is a natural blessing given to us by God for our own protection from real threats (like a bear or a burglar) and even from our own stupidity (like this guy, see video below).
Wow. Yeah. A healthy fear of things like fire and gasoline (and especially mixing them!) is a gift from God to keep us safe. Please never suppress the fear that whispers to you, “This is a really dumb thing to do.” It’s probably right.
This is a human representation of what God’s face might look like if you don’t listen to the healthy fear he gave you and you do that stupid thing you are contemplating (like pour gasoline on a fire in your backyard).
The second type of fear is a sinful state of unbelief and distrust of God’s care, promises, and love. It goes against God’s repeated commands throughout Scripture to trust him instead of fearing lesser things.
There are many species of destructive fear: worry, anxiety, terror, horror, fright, dread, panic, angst, concern, uneasiness, and suspicion.
Here are a few ways you can identify destructive fear in your own thinking:
How many of these are you guilty of?
Me? I’m guilty of them all and more. That’s how I made the list!
I have all kinds of
totally rational reasons why it’s my job to worry well.
Someone, please tell me I am not the only one who catches herself crying about an imaginary trauma that hasn’t even happened. Anyone? So far in this past month or so of COVID quarantine, I have thought up and visualized at least 5 different ways to heart-wrenchingly say goodbye if one of us was to die of COVID-19.
Truthfully, the worst things that have happened in my life I never saw coming. I was totally blindsided and caught off guard, completely unprepared to handle the horror that faced me. “How did this happen? Where did this come from?”
Never once have I thought, “This awful thing happened exactly as I imagined it might. I’m so glad I was prepared because I rehearsed it in my mind every night for 12 weeks.” Nope. Not how it works.Never once have I thought, "This awful thing happened exactly as I imagined it might. I'm so glad I was prepared because I rehearsed it in my mind every night for 12 weeks." #anxiety Click To Tweet
This type of unholy fear triggers a constant stress response, which is terribly damaging to every part of our physical body. It manifests itself in all kinds of physical symptoms that may seem totally unrelated.
Destructive fear denies the power and promises of God. Fear tempts us to doubt his love and compassion toward us. We find ourselves standing graveside with our sisters of suffering, Mary and Martha, who can’t help but wonder, “Why didn’t you stop this evil from happening?” (John 11:21) Or, perhaps we are in a storm-tossed boat with our buddies thinking we’re going to die and wondering of Jesus, “Don’t you even care?” (Mark 4:38)
Fear, not the Holy Spirit, fills you, consumes you, and controls you, tempting you to choose self-comfort over God’s will. (Acts 4:31, 13:52) This is not how we are meant to live, folks. We’ve got to find a better way.
Okay, a quick review. We talked about natural, don’t-be-an-idiot fear and destructive anxiety and worry. Now we get to the one kind of fear we really need right now – a godly fear that raises us to victory rather than crushing under defeat.
Godly fear defeats worldly fear. Properly fear and respect God and nothing else will scare you. When you acknowledge God as the rightful Sovereign in your life, you accept his invitation to come under his umbrella of mercy. There, you find shelter under the shadow of his tender love (Psalm 91:1-2).
When God is our king, we have confidence in his protection. We can boldly proclaim, “The Lord is my Helper. What can humans do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6) “I don’t fear those who can only kill my body and after that do nothing. I fear the one who has power over both my body and my spirit.” (Lk 12:4-5)
Now, of course, that does not mean that we have a holy “get out of jail free” card to play when trials come knocking on our door. Jesus told us we’d have problems and pain, struggles and sacrifice. No one ever obeyed God more perfectly than Jesus, and yet no one has ever suffered so horrifically. We can’t use our obedience to buy our way out of difficulty.
Trusting God means we are more focused on Eternity than the here and now. My peace is not that I have confidence my family will never get sick, we will always be employed, and everyone will like us. My hope and joy are that even if we lose everything in this world – health, riches, reputation, possessions, loved one, even life – that our Eternity is secure because of Jesus. That’s where we find peace!My hope and joy are that even if we lose everything in this world – health, riches, reputation, possessions, loved one, even life – that our Eternity is secure because of Jesus. That's where we find peace! #anxiety Click To Tweet
It’s easier to fear God instead of the thoughts that nag us when we remember and reflect on what he told us. He left us the Bible for a reason. (I’m serious. Turn off the news and go get your Bible.) We can’t own his great promises if we don’t even know what he said. Here are a few good ones to whet your appetite!
And this is just scratching the surface! There are so many more treasures to be found in God’s rich Word. Need a reminder about what God has promised you? Download these 10 promises you don’t want to forget.
Whatever is causing you to stress is a red flag that you’ve put more trust in that person, situation or desired outcome than in God who is always faithful to do what is best at just the right time. Trust God and pursue the peace only he can provide.
Need a boost to get started? Download my free cheat sheet with 5 simple steps to finding peace in the midst of trial.
What has helped you overcome destructive fears?
Share your ideas in the comments below.