What you think about is more important you may realize.
On the surface, we all know this. But it’s what’s lurking below the surface that’s the most dangerous. It’s those thoughts we don’t even realize we’re thinking. The things we don’t know we’re telling ourselves. The initial fears and doubts that run through our minds so fast that we’ve emotionally and physically reacted before we even realized what was happening.
The more I consider the power of fear in my life and in the lives of those I’ve worked with over the years, the more convinced I am that fear is the single most underestimated tool in the Enemy’s arsenal. I believe that’s why, in Revelation 21:8, the first quality noted of those thrown into the Lake of Fire are the fearful (http://biblehub.com/greek/1169.htm).
Fear is behind every lie we believe. It just looks different in different situations, so we don’t always recognize the fear behind our sin and struggle. I think if we were to take an honest look at our lives, we could begin to identify that fear is what has caused the most damage and been at the root of every conflict we’ve gone through. Sometimes the fear is based on our past experiences. Sometimes it’s a fear of the future and the unknown. Sometimes it's the fear of being wrong and our pride being threatened.
Where do our addictions come from? Fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of rejection – and a fear of fear that causes us to try to find a way to numb the fear.
How do our relationships get off track? Fear of loss, of rejection, or of vulnerability – which causes us to cower, or to lash out at those around us for the sake of self-preservation.
Weight struggles, depression, anger – all of it can be traced back to some sort of fear. And ultimately, that fear can be traced back even further to our fear of God.
I believe the greatest struggle we all face is to really believe God is who He says He is and will do what He’s promised to do for us. We struggle in our belief of God’s goodness, His love, His power. The craziest part is that we’ve all experienced His extreme goodness, love, and power in our lives – many times! But we so quickly forget. We must choose to remember.
If God did it before, won’t He do it again?
God doesn’t change. The same love that He proved at the cross is the same love He’s pouring into your life at this very moment as He works all things for your good. The problem is that we excel at looking at our circumstances instead of God. And the moment we take our eyes off of Him, fear takes over.
Fear says horrible things.
Fear makes us become emotionally unstable.
Fear makes us irrational.
Listening to our fear can even cause us to act in such a way as to become a self-fulfilling prophecy – experiencing the very things we were terrified of experiencing.
And the more we listen to our fears, the easier it becomes to believe them. And the more we believe them, the quicker we believe them the next time. Before we know it, fear becomes our natural reaction. Before we even have time to think, we’ve felt. And then our feelings take over and we begin to act on our fear instead of our faith.
Faith in God leads to obedience.
Fear leads to disobedience.
Fear reveals that we’re walking by sight.
Fear reveals that we’re thinking about the wrong things.
Fear reveals that we’re paying more attention to our circumstances than God.
Fear reveals that we’re believing us more than God.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to live. And yet, I still struggle with fear. Constantly. For the last year, a deep fear of loss has seeped in. It happened so quietly that I didn’t realize it was even there for quite some time. Until it became crippling. Until it became physical. Until it reached the point that my fear was controlling me and I was no longer controlling my fear. And I hated it. But I felt powerless to stop it. Even if, in my mind, I knew I had no reason to be afraid, my body was telling me to be afraid; my chest would tighten, and I’d have trouble breathing. And then my mind would begin to race, trying to figure out what was going wrong and why I needed to be afraid. And because there wasn’t anything to be afraid of, I’d create something from nothing. I’d find what wasn’t there and begin to obsess over it. All of this would happen within the time span of just a few minutes.
And in those several minutes, I not once thought about God. At least, not God as He is; but rather, God as I feared He would be. Because my fear and desperation began to shape my view of God. Instead of believing that God is good, loves me, and is in control; instead of remember the good things He’s done for me, or the incredible promises He’s given me, I gave in to fear that God isn’t good, that He doesn’t really love me, that He’s just messing with my emotions, that He’s going to take away everything I love.
In my moments of clarity, I could see how wrong I was. And thankfully, I have had people around me to remind me of the truth in those moments. But what terrified me the most was how quickly I jumped to those wrong beliefs about God. It proved to me just how important it is to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The thing is, when I waited for the fears to hit to take my thoughts captive, it was too late. Because my fears were the result of wrong thinking. If I wanted to stop living in fear and start believing God and living in faith, I was going to have to take it one step further; I’d have to take my thoughts captive ahead of time. I had to be proactive. But how?
Never underestimate the power of God’s Word in your daily life. Spending time reading (or listening) to Scripture causes us to have a Kingdom perspective throughout the day. It sharpens our minds and it keeps us rooted and grounded in Truth, which we desperately need if we’re going to overcome the lies thrown at us throughout the day. The more we immerse ourselves in Scripture, the more prepared we’ll be as we encounter the Enemy; but how can we believe what we don’t know? We can’t live in ignorance. We must listen to the Truth, dwell on it, and live it out so that there’s no room for the lies to enter in. Dig in to Scripture and discover the character of God and the incredible promises He has made for you – let them seep into your mind – and let those Truths affect the way you live.
We can’t just study the Scriptures and leave it there, though – if we’re really going to let the Truth in, we have to dwell on it; and I believe the best way to do that is through Scripture memory. I believe this is the most fundamentally important part of overcoming fear. Depending on the fear, on the circumstances, and your ability, you can memorize a passage a week or even a passage a day (Proverbs are good for that!). Dwelling on Scripture throughout the day is a way of actively engaging your mind in the right direction which leaves little room for lies to distract or destroy. I’ve noticed, though, that while we value Scripture memory for children, we adults tend to not make it nearly as much of a priority as we ought; and we’re suffering for it. Sure, it’s hard. Sure, it’s time consuming. But it’s also so, so, so worth it. Protect your mind with the Truth. You will never regret being consumed with the Word of God.
The gratitude notebook that I wrote about previously is another tool that I now use to take my thoughts captive throughout the day. It not only causes me to focus on what God is doing in my life and notice the little blessings throughout the day, but it keeps me thinking about those things long after I write them down. I believe this tool is crucial in overcome fear for the very simple fact that it forces us to see God’s love and goodness in our lives, which is at the root of all our fears.
Being honest with God about our fears is very important. But it can also be very difficult – especially when the fears are specifically about God. But if we really believe that God is our “very present help in trouble,” we must not isolate ourselves from Him. He wants to help us through our fear. He wants to assure us of His love and goodness. He wants to prove Himself to us. We must let Him. So be honest about where you are, and where you want to be. Ask Him for help. And choose to believe that He will do exactly what He promised in Psalm 91 –
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
The greatest breakthrough any of us will experience in our lives will be when we finally, truly, fully believe God loves us.
It causes us to have the freedom to be honest with God in whatever struggle we face.
It gives us confidence to live our lives without fear and guilt.
It enables us to love others just as He has loved us.
If I’m completely honest, I’m still learning God’s love for me. But I am blessed beyond measure because He has continued to prove His love for me, even when I struggle to accept it. He continues to give me good gifts, even when I don’t deserve them. He has answered prayers that I barely had the faith the pray. And when I stop to consider the work of God in my life, I have no doubt that God is good, that He loves me, and He is working all things for my good.
One of the most wonderful things God has done for me has been bringing Cameron into my life. The same fears I have struggled with in regard to my relationship with God, I struggled with in my relationship with Cameron. But as I confessed my fears, Cameron proved his love to me. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t run. He just held me. He let me cry. He wiped my tears away. And he reminded me of the truth. I love you. It’s going to be okay. We’re going to work through this. I’m going to help you. God loves you. I love you. It’s going to be okay. Never have I felt the love of God more than I did in those moments when Cameron loved me through my fears. He gave me perspective. He gave me hope. And he helped me to understand God’s love for me more than I ever have. And that experience gave me the courage to be honest with God about my fears and stop believing that God would be disappointed in me if I am honest about my struggles.
The truth is, God wants to hold me, let me cry, and weep with me. He wants to wipe my tears away. He wants to tell me it’s okay. He loves me. He’s going to help me through it.
And you know what else? He wants to do the same for you.
So pour out your heart to Him.
Dwell on His truth.
Let Him comfort you, and let Him deliver you from the fear that’s crippled, controlled, and contaminated your life.
He loves you. He’s with you.
It’s going to be okay.
In a word: passionate.