I’m the last guy on the planet to give you a hard time about being afraid. I get it. If you struggle with fear, I’m your brother from another mother. You’ll get no finger-wagging or shaming looks from me.
But we don’t have to stay stuck in the grip of terror. We can live free. We can grow. But like most spiritual growth, it probably won’t come easy.
If you’ve ever tried to untangle a ball of Christmas tree lights, you know how frustrating it is to struggle with a mess of knots. I’ve come pretty close to losing my sanity right in front of the plastic baby Jesus sitting on my fireplace mantel. Without a doubt, the angel on top of my tree has snickered at me many times as I endeavored to unravel the not-so-holy lights of Christmas.
Fear in your soul is like that: a tangled, messy mass.
But here’s the thing: You can choose to “fear not” rather than live bound by “fear knots.”
But to live free, we need to consider a few things:
First, we need a change in our perspective.
This life is temporary. Our bodies are “but dust,” and we’re scheduled for an upgrade in eternity. When we remember that Jesus defeated death, it can change the way we view our fears.
Second, we need a change in our minds.
Fear is often the result of faulty thinking. We develop destructive mental habits that become emotional ruts. I heard someone once say, “You fight bad thoughts with good thoughts.” I couldn’t agree more. We must teach our minds to dwell on whatever is excellent and admirable and to focus our thoughts on all that is true, holy, just, pure, lovely, and worthy of praise.
The Bible also says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” In other words, a God-fixed mind is a peace-filled mind.
We also need to train ourselves to pray and seek God when terror strikes.
I love these words of David, found in the Psalms: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
When the unexpected happens (and it will), to whom do you turn first? Does your heart run toward God in prayer, or do you run to the medicine cabinet for a Valium?
Prayer is powerful. Prayer takes us to the One who is able to rescue us. Prayer shifts our focus from the earthly to the heavenly. The apostle Paul wrote this to the church: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Peter challenged us to cast all our anxiety on God because He cares for us.
Years ago, I had a little placard on my wall that read “Prayer Changes Things.” And it does, because prayer changes us.
Finally, we must learn to lose our fears in the sea of God’s love.
In many ways, the root of all fear is spiritual. We doubt the goodness of God. We question the love of Jesus. We wonder if God is indeed mindful of us and our situation. But “perfect love casts out fear.”
Knowing we are deeply loved by a Father who always has our best interest at heart is critical to living an epic life.
I imagine I will wrestle with some fears for the rest of my life, but I cannot afford to let them control me or my destiny in Christ. The key for you and me is to press beyond them and to walk through the fear threshold before us. Why? Because an epic life beyond our wildest imagination is waiting for us on the other side of the fear barrier.
The tunnel you’re in might be pitch-black, and you may believe you’re all alone. Terrifying circumstances in your life might make you feel as if a boa constrictor has wrapped its body around your chest and neck. I wish there was a magic wand you could wave to make all your fears disappear. I feel your pain. I truly do.
Nonetheless, here’s what I know: What and Whom we choose to focus on has everything to do with us overcoming fear, stepping out in faith, and experiencing the abundant, uncommon, hope-filled life God has planned for us.
Why would we settle for anything less?
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(The following passages were used or referenced above.)
1 Corinthians 15
Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)
1 Peter 5:7
1 John 4:18 (ESV)