Fear is not your friend. Well d'uh. Why would anyone think it was? I'm not sure, but for years I sure treated fear like a friend. It seemed like my constant companion, always happy to offer input and opinion, keeping me awake at night and lending "reason" at just the right time. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's back up.
When I was 21 years old, I had what for all intents and purposes we'll call a break down. I remember how it started very clearly. As I was celebrating my 21st birthday with my parents, my nose began to bleed. Nosebleeds weren't that uncommon for me, but what was strange about this one is that it continued for a very long time. Imagine the scene - we're in a very fancy restaurant, all dressed up and I have blood flowing unrestrained from my nose. Nice.
The following day my body began to shake uncontrollably much like an athlete who had pushed themselves too far and was having a sugar crash. The day after that I began to sweat profusely (and continually) for no apparent reason. This was the start of my body shutting down. After that, came emotional instability and lastly mental anguish. I've shared extensively about this in a number of talks I've given over the years. But what happened following my breakdown was just as horrible. I was left with a blanket of fear that covered me for several years.
During this season, my life was gripped by fear of all sorts. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of death, fear of marriage, fear of fear, fear of freedom. Fear, fear, fear. I used to have crippling panic attacks if social situations looked a certain way. For a number of years I couldn't be anywhere that required me to be seated in a row. I panicked in confined spaces. I couldn't sit on an airplane without feeling like I was going to vomit and pass out. All of this made life very difficult as you might imagine. I became very acquainted with fear during those years. It wasn't until years later when Jesus stepped in and removed fear from my life that I realized what it was like to live without fear. I didn't know such freedom was possible. I had a new normal.
What if your normal isn't normal?
In those days, my normal was to live life in fear. I didn't know I was living fearfully, I just assumed this was normal life - I didn't know any better. I thought most people lived with what I lived with. With that in mind, let me ask you again, what if what you call normal, isn't normal? If you are sure your normal is normal, permit me a follow-up question:
How would you know if you're wrong?
In my fear based days, I wouldn't have known I was wrong. I could've easily explained away my fear. I could justify the methods I'd developed for coping with fears. I was like the man who constantly snapped his fingers to keep tigers away. When people would point out that there were in fact no tigers, he'd reply, "Of course there's not! I've been snapping my fingers!"
One day I was speaking to the Lord and I heard him say, “Fear is not your friend.” Startled by this statement, I thought to myself, "That’s a strange thing to say! Why would fear be my friend?” I was shocked when the Lord told me the answer. Below are four things that fear will give you when you choose to let it into your life. It's a terrible deal, but because we often don't know any other way to live, we find comfort in the familiar.
The first thing fear offers you is answers. These answers are terrible and illusory of course, but they provide something tangible that you can begin to process and thus prepare for. In the absence of anything definite they are wonderful substitutes.
I saw my doctor last week for my yearly check up and he mentioned that he wanted to run some follow up tests because a certain level he was monitoring was a little higher than he liked. If I was partnering with fear, then what I would've heard the doctor say is, "Alyn, you're dying. Everything you have feared has come true. It's cancer, this is the end." That sounds ridiculous, but often that's how we think! When there’s a wealth of explanations for something that's happening, fear will present the worst and (often the most unlikely) scenario and we find ourselves compelled to partner with it. We end up borrowing trouble, paying interest on it and convince ourselves of its veracity.
Every day we are required to make decisions and most of those decisions - if we’re not careful - can be influenced by fear. Fear is the root cause of analysis paralysis. We shortcut the decision making process because we are scared to make a wrong decision.
In our brokenness and lack of trust, we'd rather find comfort in a bad answer than have to wait for a real answer. That's why fear's answers seem so bullet proof. If we’re not careful, we can build iron clad answers based on fear which can block God’s love and revelation from speaking clearly.
The second thing fear offers us is purpose. Fear will lend you an identity that you are all too aware of how to cooperate with because most of us have embraced this lifestyle at one time or another in life.
The identity I am talking about is victim. Embracing this victim mindset allows us to continue on in life blaming our situation on external factors. This affords us the luxury of never needing to take responsibility for our own lives and move on in fatalism. We can simply think, "Whatever will be will be, I am powerless."
However, we were never called to live in fear, nor are we called to live in denial. We’re called to live in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ! We're called to experience all that Jesus bought for us on the cross. We are continually being invited into perfect love which casts out all fear!
The third thing fear will give us is friends. Fear has many friends: panic, dread and anxiety for example, yet the one I want to focus on is self pity.
Self pity is marvelous - it permits justification of bad behavior and bad choices. What’s even better is it attracts people who are also suffering from self-pity. This way we now have safety and strength in numbers. When we are in community with other self-pitiers we can all reinforce each other's fear based beliefs and confirm how right we are to think about our current situations!
The major problem with fear is that it causes life to bend to its will. For example, if you begin to believe, "I’ll never get a breakthrough," you'll attract failure in the areas you need breakthrough. Thus, you'll reinforce that belief. "The evidence is there," you'll exclaim! The power of your belief will ensure you never get a breakthrough. It's a vicious cycle that is self fulfilling and tricky to identify.
The last thing that fear will offer you is distraction. Fear is wonderful at keeping us occupied in the midst of the unknown. Fear keeps us from stillness; it will always offer us something to think about and analyze. This can be a hindrance to our growth because God sometimes calls us into the unknown so that faith can arise. There is no need to have faith for something if you already have it.
Fear empowers our imagination for the demonic. Our friend Gary Morgan once said, "Worry is a great misuse of imagination." If we're not careful, over time it can becomes difficult to discern between being reasonable and being fearful. Fear often masquerades as prudence.
Thankfully the Bible has a lot to say about fear. Before we look at some passages related to fear, let us first remind ourselves that fear - like all things - is subject to the law of sowing and reaping. Paul wrote, "Do not be deceived... a man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6.7). Paul knew that this universal law would be ignored by many, hence his warning to not be deceived. Paul is saying if we sow fear, we will reap fear. If we give into fear, we are literally investing in it and it will produce a dividend of greater fear later in life. But if we sow boldness, we will reap boldness.
There's a very powerful (and often ignored) verse found in Proverbs 18.21. The New Living Translation puts it this way: "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." What you say will either reap death or life; bad or good. We get to choose, so let's choose life!
Have you noticed that the people who say, “Oh I’m so tired,” most of the time, are the ones that are always tired. "Well of course Alyn, that’s because they are always tired. They are merely commenting on what they are feeling." That may be true, but consider this, are they not also sowing into their future by the words of their mouth?
In a similar vein, have you noticed that the people who regularly say, “I’m sick and tired of….[insert complaint]” are also regularly sick and tired? This cause and effect principle is one reason why it’s so important that we deal with fear properly - and by properly I mean we uproot it from our lives, not just try and ignore it.
Elsewhere in Proverbs, it's written "The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled; the hopes of the godly will be granted." (Proverbs 10.24) I love the end of this verse "The hopes of the godly will be granted." Scripture says, if you cultivate hope, if you grow hope, if you speak out hope, then that hope will be granted to you. The key to seeing the opposite of what you fear is cultivating hope. But if we're not careful, through our words and belief system, we can partner with fear and in some cases see our fears come to pass. Job claimed this is what happened to him. "What I feared has come upon me; what I dreamed has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil." Job 3.25-26.
Patricia King visited our church earlier this year and she gave our church four amazing prophetic words. A.J. and I immediately went home and wrote those words on our bathroom mirror. We did this so we could have a new belief system. We liked what the word of God promised us, more than what we had been believing up to that point. The first word that she gave us was, "You can smile at your future." She took this from Proverbs 31.25. This passage is describing the "wife of noble character" and it says, "She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."
In order to have no fear of the future, we need to become deeply acquainted with the love of God so that we are full of strength and dignity. Otherwise when disappointment comes, we begin to evaluate God according to our circumstance, not His word.
Our friends Christa and Lucas, were happily expecting their second child Goldie. When she was born, Goldie lived for 40 minutes and then died in their arms. In the midst of heartbreaking pain, Christa blogged through the whole process of continuing life without their daughter. A few months later, Christa was speaking at Bethel's Worship U on the topic "Worshipping Through The Hurricane". In the midst of her sharing, she said this:
Christa would tell you that the only way she’s getting through this tragedy is because of the revelation of the goodness of God. The goodness and kindness of God and all of his promises and provision will trump every fear out there.
The truth is, fear is not part of our make up in Christ. On the contrary we have power, love and self-discipline! Perfect love casts out all fear. We have power to resist the devil and we have self-discipline because we get to manage our minds and decide whether we want to embrace fear or freedom.
The Bible's solution to fear is very simple:
- Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked. Proverbs 3:25
- ...Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Isaiah 35:4
- ...Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
- For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13
It's so simple right? Just don't fear! And yet that seems so difficult to do. Allow me to suggest three ways I've found that helped me stop fearing.
1. Come out of agreement with fear
Part of the problem with fear is that we've spent so long empowering it. To get rid of it we simply need to stop partnering with it. It's a good idea to repent for partnering with fear, decide that we are not going to agree with fearful thoughts and then declare war on fear in our life. If you'd like help doing that, use the following as a prayer. I'd suggest reading it out loud.
"Lord Jesus, I repent for agreeing with fear in my life. I ask your forgiveness for embracing fear instead of trusting you. As I receive your forgiveness I choose to forgive myself for this sin. I break agreement with fear and I renounce it and all its friends: panic, dread, anxiety and self pity. I no longer want your help and I command you to leave me now in the name of Jesus."
2. Stop feeding fear
Pornography is to sex as horror movies are to fear. If you are addicted to scaring yourself it tells me you are feeding a spirit of fear (which is ironic right?). Make a judgment call to not entertain fear and then give it no access to you through your thoughts, your imagination, your books, your TV and movie choices or your browsing history. 2 Corinthians 10.5 says that we are to capture every thought. Ask Holy Spirit to help you catch negative thoughts and when you find them, don't entertain them.
If you'd allow me to meddle further, be careful about who you surround yourself with. In Isaiah 8, the prophet warns, "Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” - Isaiah 8.12.
If you find yourself surrounded by negative people who traffic in fear, pay attention to what happens to your fear level when you are around them. I'm fortunate to be around some of the most positive people I've ever met. It's wonderful to be in a culture where we truly believe that we can smile at our future because of the goodness of God.
3. Move in the opposite spirit
Now use wisdom here, but if fear is intimidating you in an area, ask yourself why. What is it that God would love for you to overcome? What is it that you are destined to become, save for this fear? If you think you can’t do something, ask God if you can and then believe him for resources. For example, if you are scared to give financially because you are frightened of lack then I would give just to demonstrate that you will not be intimidated. If you are frightened you will be rejected, take a deep breath and move forward into acceptance. Your destiny is too awesome to not be reached. The world is looking for you in fullness. Say no to fear, yes to God and go for it. Fear is not your future, the glorious goodness of God is.
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