Fear is a tormenting emotion, and if you struggle in this area, you know what I’m talking about. It has the potential to cause us to walk away from engaging in life and keep us from being all we were created to be. If we allow it to rule over us, our world will become smaller and smaller until we have shut out much of what God wants to bless us with. The more control we hand over to fear, the more it will be empowered to steal from us. It consumes. It drives. It steals sleep and drives us down paths we never thought we’d go. Fear can cause us to hide from God, from others and even from our true selves.
The good news is that Jesus came to set the captives free. Half the battle is believing that God is for you, He is on your side, and He will see you through to freedom if you will just believe. I want to share with you some tools that the Lord has taught me on my journey toward freedom from fear and anxiety:
Tip # 1: Recognize that allowing fear to rule over me is a choice. I am not a victim of fear. Ok, are you open for some hard truth? If you’re not, you might want to stop right here, because what I’m going to share isn’t easy. It was, however, part of my motivation to pursue freedom diligently. Ready? Here we go. Scripture says in 21:8, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving… will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” Ah, what was that? The cowardly (fearful in the Greek) are listed among those, who unless they repent, will find themselves in the lake of fire? Please, don’t shoot the messenger! I didn’t write this verse, God did! The main idea I want to leave with you here is that God does have an expectation of us when it comes to fear; to pursue freedom…to obey Him when He says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) Notice that this is a command. Be comforted, beloved, because there is grace for the journey when our hearts are walking in repentance. Because of the blood of Jesus, we are already seen as “without blemish and free from accusation if we continue in the faith,” (Col. 1:22) so we need not fear God’s judgment when we are sincere and repentant. The journey toward consistently walking in freedom is instantaneous for some. If you’re more like me, it has been a process that has taken years, and the Lord is still setting me free from it. Thankfully, God is patient with us and promises to help us.
Tip #2: Ask God to reveal any areas where your trust of Him has taken a hit. It’s easy to miss trust issues with God because our theology doesn’t necessarily change. This has more to do with the perception we have of God in our hearts. If our heart tells us that God has not helped, not protected, not rescued us when we needed it, we can be left feeling like we’re left to face troubles on our own. This can generate fear in us, bigtime. For more on this topic, check out my blog post entitled, “Overcoming depression through restoring trust.”
Tip #3: Don’t tolerate fear-mongering in yourself or in others. It’s helpful to identify where the conversations are coming from that arouse fear. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy in this area. An example of this would be someone who has a fear of snakes animatedly talking about his/her fearful encounter with a snake. This has the potential to lead both the listener and the speaker into the sin of fear. A better approach would be for the speaker to press into God with the fear they experienced when encountering the snake. We either feed fear or we feed faith. It’s our choice. Fear-mongering could also look like thriller movies, the nightly news, certain songs, family conversations that prophecy financial collapse of the nation, an individual that has a pattern of stirring up fear. If we are to live free of fear, we need to be intentional about the type of atmosphere we cultivate in our homes and in our lives.
When you recognize that conversations are beginning to stir up fear, simply changing the subject is often all that is needed. If that doesn’t work, telling others what we need can be really helpful. There have been times when I’ve had to have the uncomfortable conversation that said, “I’ve recognized that fear is controlling my life and I want to change. I’m asking you to help me by not discussing ____________any longer. It may take a few reminders, because change can be a process, but be patient with yourself and others. It will be worth the wait.
Tip #4: Mind your mind. Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” There is a dangerous saying floating around that says, “Let your mind wander.” Hmmm…unless it’s referring to creative imagination that’s submitted to Christ, this has Satans’ fingerprints all over it. The Lord calls His people to have disciplined minds; it’s why self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. This is especially true when it comes to overcoming fear. Be aware of where you let your mind wander. Allowing our minds to drift into imaginations of violent or traumatic things happening falls into the category of self-induced fear-mongering. Philippians 4:8 says, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” As we exchange fear-inducing thoughts for true and excellent thoughts, we will see fear losing its grip on us.
Tip #5: Stop long enough to identify exactly what you are afraid of and pray about it. Often fear is sub-conscious and we don’t really take the time to consider what we fear. This accomplishes two things. First, it allows us to consider whether the fear is legitimate and ask ourselves how likely it is to come true. It allows us to recognize when the chances of it happening are unlikely. Secondly, it gives us the opportunity to take that fear to the Lord and cast the anxiety onto Him to carry. Praying about what we fear is a powerful tool that is easy to overlook.
Tip #6: Learn to be an expert swordsman. The word of God refers to itself as a sword…the sword of the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17) Scripture is a mighty weapon against whatever keeps us in bondage, and this is also true when it comes to overcoming fear. In practical terms, this means using scripture to defeat fear. Jesus shows us how to wield the sword, or the word, in the account of His encounter with Satan in the desert. When Satan tempted Jesus, He didn’t use positive thinking to defeat Satan. He didn’t use logic. He quoted scripture. Out loud. He used His sword; and not just any sword. He used the sword (scripture) that was fitting for the temptation. We have a whole armory full of swords for different situations that we will encounter in life. Memorizing specific scriptures is a powerful tool for overcoming fear. Some things to consider when deciding which sword you want to carry with you would be: “What exactly am I afraid of? Which scripture addresses this fear? Are you afraid of death? Revelation 1:17-18 would be a good sword to carry. Are you afraid of being abandoned? Grab the Deuteronomy 31:8 sword. Is it failure you fear? Try on the 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 sword and see how it fits. When fear rears its ugly head, pull it out and use that sword…out loud. I excuse myself from the presence of others on a regular basis to yield my sword in public restrooms. Not sure where to find the specific scripture you need? Try googling “Fear of ________scriptures”. Or check out my blog post entitled, “Bible Verses For Times When you need peace.”
There’s only one way to become an expert swordsman, and that’s to use that sword often! Even if it takes you 6 months to memorize one scripture, you are still renewing your mind in the process, so no excuses, people! Let’s do this!
Another thing to consider when deciding which sword you should wield against fear is, “What attribute of God do I need in this situation?” Is it the Protector attribute of God? Grab the Psalm 91:14-15 sword where he promises to protect us. Do you need the Provider attribute of God? Grab your Philippians 4:19 sword.
Tip #7: Submit to God’s sovereign plan for your life and the lives of those you love. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God has a story for your life. Your story establishes the platform from which your influence in this world goes forth. I don’t know about you, but the places that I am most equipped to minister to hurting people are the same places where you would find the most pain. It isn’t usually the sunny, pain-free days that equip us to go forth and change the world. The question is, are we willing to surrender our desire for a pain-free life to God? Can we hear God’s heart for us in Jeremiah 29:11? His desire to give us hope and a future? Here’s the deal. God doesn’t allow just any pain to come into our lives. He allows only that pain that has purpose, that He will turn around and use. Fear loses its’ power over us when we stop fearing painful possibilities and submit to what God has for us. He is Sovereign…and He is good. Whatever you are afraid of, lay it down. Choose to trust that if God allows _______to happen, He will use it for good. This concept also applies to those fears that we pick up on behalf of others. Can we choose to trust God with the pain in our loved ones’ lives? It is a choice.
Tip #8: Change the channel. Sometimes our thoughts get centered around that which we’re afraid of, and we need to simply fill our thoughts with something else; much like changing the channel on the TV. Stop trying to overcome fear by focusing on overcoming fear, and fill your mind with something good; even if it’s with something as simple as planning your menu for supper. Plan that upcoming birthday party. Be intentional about redirecting your thoughts. Think of it this way: picture yourself in the middle of a lake with a big mallet. You’re trying to submerge a multitude of bobbers (fearful thoughts) with that mallet, but every time you push one under the water, another one pops back up. It’s time to stop trying to submerge all those fearful, worrisome thoughts and swim for shore. Turn your back on fear and look at something else.
Tip #9: Create a song playlist on your phone for those times when fear is tempting you. Some that I have found helpful include:
- Prince of Peace – Hillsong United
- Constant – Canvas Church
- No longer slaves – Bethel Music
- Psalm 23 – Klaus
- Psalm 91 – Mark Swayze
- Psalm 62 – Aaron Keyes
- In your presence – Jason Upton
- Whom shall I fear – Lincoln Brewster
Tip #10: Command fear to leave you. There is such a thing as a spirit of fear. (2 Timothy 1:7) It is an evil spirit sent to torment anyone who will tolerate it. As a believer you have been given authority over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). If you have yielded to this spirit for even one second, repent. Don’t get hung up on this point. The blood of Jesus is always available for His people. The next step is to simply bind it and command it to leave you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God has given us everything we need to walk free from bondage to fear. The key is to persevere and trust. God will see us through if we do not give up.
Peace to you,
“Now may the Lord of peace give you peace at all times and in every way…(2 Thessalonians 3:16)