“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
Fear, worry, and anxiety…these three seem to be our constant companions in the world we live in today. Our worldly holy trinity or rather our un-holy trinity. Poor substitutes for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For me personally, I think fear is the worst as it seems to drive our worry and anxiety. We fear and become immobilized, unable to make healthy choices or even a choice. Fear gives life to our what-ifs. The question to ask ourselves is what would happen if our what ifs came true? For the most part, I believe we would handle it. Just as we have handled all the changes these past twelve months have brought as we live with a pandemic.
The thing is: What ifs are those imaginary scenarios we create when we let our minds think up all the terrible things that could happen or could be happening when we can’t get a hold of our children, our aging parents, a friend, whoever. We imagine all manner of events…when reality is, they are late getting to our house, their phone has died…or any one of a hundred mundane reasons that explain why we are unable to get in touch with them. The worst thing about fear is that it keeps us from enjoying the life God has given us. It paralyzes us into not doing all the fun things because we are too worried about the “what ifs.” And that is just one type of fear.
Now, to be sure, freak accidents happen. Even run of the mill accidents happen. They are all a part of life. But worrying about them is not helpful. Planning, being prepared, making sure everything is in tip top shape and then recognizing that an accident can still happen…that is helpful. It gives you the courage to continue doing what you had planned because you are prepared.
But even more, it is important to know what scripture says about our fears…and remember that the command: “Do not fear,” is in scripture more than any other command. The command occurs 103 times. I have been taught, and I have found it to be true, that when something is repeated often within scripture, it is something we need to pay attention to…103 times being commanded to not fear is one of those we should pay attention. But begin told to not fear and putting it into practice are two different things entirely. Learning how to turn off the negative narratives we like to play out in our minds can be difficult. I mean, those negative narratives have worn ruts in our brains, and they have become our default messages. Of course, they are also lies we are telling ourselves. Which makes them exceedingly unhelpful.
For me, as evidenced above, I find the Psalms helpful in calming my mind. I also count my blessings, take a walk, get busy doing something for someone else…as that is also a problem with fear, worry, and anxiety…they get us to focus on ourselves and that tends to make our fears, worries, and anxieties worse. And I read books that give me additional tools. One I recently read and highly recommend is the book by Allie Worthington entitled: “Fierce Faith.” Not only does she work through this un-holy trinity of our modern world, but she also gives you as she calls it, a “battle plan” filled with helpful advice on how to conquer fear, worry, and anxiety. The first step to take, is to recognize it for what it is, and name it. Because once we can name something accurately, we can overcome it.