“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Psalm 56:3
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38 – 39
This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching and I preached on love and fear. I feel that these topics are so important that I have decided to do a two-part blog post on love and fear as well. Today, as I am sure you have guessed, is about fear. I find it ironic that we typically believe hate is the opposite of love but in reality: Fear is the opposite of love. Fear steals our hopes, steals our dreams, and kills us slowly through anxiety and worry. It leads to panic disorders, social anxiety, phobias, and other debilitating mental health issues. Which is why it is so important to both understand and deal with our fears.
Did you know that the command: “Do not fear” is mentioned over 200 times in the Bible? Typically, when something is mentioned over and over it means that God wants us to pay attention to what God is saying to us about that topic. Furthermore, did you know that America is one of the most depressed nations in the world? And to be clear, by depressed I am talking about our overall mental well being and not our economic status. In fact, in a poll done in 2019, the United States ranked second in the world as a nation with over 55% of adults reporting they felt highly stressed, worried, and angry. These numbers do not include the high levels of stress our children are reporting in their own lives. We are definitely NOT listening to God nor are we following the command: “Do not be afraid.” The sad thing is we are living in the most privileged country in the world. We have access to more wealth…even the poorest among us, than do many people across the world. And yet…we are living in fear and our lives are filled with worry and anxiety. We are, in short, a stressed-out hot mess.
So, it makes sense that we have a saying in our world that states: “Stress kills.” Stress makes us sick. It makes us more susceptible to colds, and auto-immune diseases. Stress can give us hives. It can keep us from participating in much loved activities. Stress can lead to worry, anxiety, and fear. And fear can and does lead us into the hatred of the very things we fear. It is a vicious cycle. One we need to work at stopping in our lives.
But in order to put an end to our fears, we must face them. In order to face our fears, we need to have some self-awareness about who we are and why we are fearful. What is it about our lives up to this point that has made us afraid? Have we experienced a trauma of some kind? Have we allowed ourselves to twist our fears out of proportion into a phobia? Do we feel our lives are out of control? Do we feel everything we hold dear is changing around us? What ever the cause of your fear, there is help. But the first step is recognizing and accurately naming what lies underneath your fears.
The good news is there are a lot of resources out there that can help you overcome your fears and anxieties. A few of these coping mechanisms are:
Get social support. Don’t isolate yourself. I know that can be hard right now as we have been asked to social distance from one another. But you can still find ways to stay connected. Technology allows us to email or zoom one another. We can connect via phone calls and texting. We can even write letters to one another. If you are overwhelmed by your feelings, I highly recommend getting help from a professional counselor. Someone who is trained to help people work through their fears. Especially if those fears are deep seated and causing you to miss out on life. And you can do your counseling appointment via zoom too!
Other techniques you can use and develop in your life could be as simple as getting exercise each day, eating a healthy diet, taking vitamins, and making sure you get adequate sleep. It is amazing how taking care of our bodies can help to eliminate some of the physical and mental health issues we have in our lives.
It is also important to take some time each day to be with God. Find a devotional style that works for you and stick with it. We seem to think that our time with God needs to follow a set pattern in order for it to work. But here is the thing: the devotional style you need to do is the one you will actually do. So, find a time during the day to just be with God in a way that honors both God and who God created you to be. Finally, I recommend getting to know your emotions. Recognize them for exactly what they are. We tend to put way too much emphasis on our feelings when we should be asking: “why am I feeling this emotion in this situation?” Being mindful about our feelings can help us understand them and understand why we are having them in any given situation. Remember too, that negative thinking is toxic. When you catch yourself using negative words, consider why you have chosen those words over words of affirmation and positivity. Then begin to replace your negative thinking with positive thoughts.
Some fear in life is healthy. Fear is an emotion that warns us we may be in danger or something isn’t right in our surroundings. It is something we need to pay attention to, but we do not need to obsess over. Our fears need to be put into their proper perspective in order for us to deal with them effectively. If your fears are indicating you are in a situation that is dangerous, get out, call for help, run to the nearest safe place you can get to. But if your fears are in over-drive and keeping you from living your best life, please call a counselor who can help you navigate your fears and in time overcome them.