Every single person I have ever mentored, ministered to, counseled or cared for, has had to face enormous battles with fear.
Fear is a serious problem in our world.
Fear instigates violence and perpetuates suffering. It inspires envy and erodes friendships. Fear keeps us constantly distracted and perpetually searching, afraid that we are missing out on some elusive satisfaction. It casts long shadows of doubt on love and keeps us from ever letting ourselves be fully known. Fear kills fellowship by telling us to never risk rejection. It undermines churches when it leads to swaggering fronts and shallow smiles. Fear keeps us up at night. It keeps us wound up in an endless stream of reacting to one anxious tension after another. Fear robs us of our peace and threatens to destroy the abundant life that Jesus offers.
Everyone encounters fear. The media is inundated with it. Our world is flooded with it. Sadly, all too often, our souls become saturated with it.
The Bible tells us again and again to not give in to fear. God tells His children: “Do not fear, for I am with you. (Isaiah 43:5)”. Yet, often we still feel stuck, wondering how to live a life without fear. Then, perhaps, we forego the kind of life Christ calls us to, settling instead for something smaller, something that seems safer.
From the trenches of our fierce battles with this foe, I have discovered these five keys to overcoming fear. I offer them to you as way to win the battle with fear in your own life.
5 Keys to Overcoming Fear
Fear leads to a boost of adrenaline in your body which is a great thing if you are in a situation where you need that fight or flight response. But, for the more normal anxieties of daily life, that kind of adrenaline response can lead to some serious damage to your health and relationships.
It may sound simple, but it is true; when you are afraid, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. If you find yourself in a situation that is not physically threatening yet still stirs up anxiety or fear, take a moment to be still and get yourself grounded in the present.
Avoid getting caught on run-away train of worry about the future. Jesus tells us “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34)
2. Get Your Bearings
Before you can know how to respond appropriately to the situation, you must be able to accurately assess where you currently are. Just like looking on a map for that little red pointer that says, “You are here,” take a moment to look to God for an accurate appraisal of your situation.
The challenges and traumas of the past have the power to influence your experience of the present. Make sure it is the facts of the situation, not just the stories and emotions of your past that are influencing your current responses.
When you notice your anxiety level rising, get grounded in the present moment. Ask God for clarity about the situation in front of you. Ask Him to show you what is true. Stay in today and focus on what is actually happening right now. Do not give in to fretting about what may (or may not) happen in the future.
Remember, God’s revelation is a lamp for your feet to walk His path (Psalm 119:105). When He illuminates your feet, He seldom reveals the full road ahead. But He is faithful to illuminate the next step forward.
3. Clarify Your Role
Get clear on what part you play in the fear you are experiencing. Ask God to show you clearly what your role is in this situation.
Is this fear something that you have control over? Is it something that you can change? Does this experience touch on some area of wounding that you should seek healing for? Is this an invitation to act with courage and faith?
Life is full of instances where you are responsible act, but you have little to no control over the outcome. So, you must let go of the illusion that you are in control of everything that happens in your life and discover serenity in trusting God. Millions of people have found help with this through the simple and timeless words of the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things that I can
And, wisdom to know the difference.
Most things in life are out of your control. Yet, you still can choose how you are going to respond to them. Generally speaking, you are responsible to put forth the effort and it is God who is responsible for the outcome.
4. Help Someone Else
Be intentional about your mindset and take your thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Direct your thinking away from the mental strongholds that fuel fear.
It is much easier to avoid anxiety when your thoughts are focused on someone else. Fear narrows your mental focus and it can cause you to lose sight of the world around you. Then your attention will become overly focused on yourself. The best way to avoid tendency toward a fear-driven self-centeredness is to focus on what you can do to improve the lives of others.
Look for ways to make the world a little better. It does not have to be something big or grand. Even smiling at a stranger, helping someone at work or giving a hug to someone you love can do the trick.
Do these kinds of things—not out of an unhealthy escapism—but out of a very real need to spread God’s goodness and to avoid getting locked into a never-ending cycle of anxiety and fear.
Likewise, be sure to make right any mistakes you may have made by acting out of fear or attempting to control the situation. If you have hurt anyone, make it right. If you made an emotional mess somewhere, be quick to clean it up. By making amends and offering honest and heartfelt apologies, you erode the power of fear in your relationships.
5. Practice Gratitude
Fear is often faith that things will go poorly. Most of the time, fears come in one of two forms: being afraid of losing something you already have or being afraid of not getting something that you want.
To combat this, practice gratitude. Thank God for what you already have. There is always something to appreciate, always something to thank God for. It may take a little work, but no matter what your current circumstances, you can still bear witness to the many ways God has blessed the lives of His people. Even while waiting on your own deliverance, you can still praise Him for His goodness, faithfulness and presence in your life.
By cultivating an attitude of gratitude, we effectively turn our thoughts away from fear and onto a different track. Scripture tells us that we can experience the very peace of God if we will simply practice turning our thoughts away from our anxieties and towards things that are good in this world.
Brothers and sisters, 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… put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).
Fear is a major problem. It is an insidious and unreliable emotion that robs peace and threatens to destroy the abundant life that Jesus offers you.
If you are in Christ, you are not a slave to fear—you are a child of God! He is alone is your Master and you can overcome fear’s hold on you. Say no to fear and intentionally steer your attention toward these simple principles: Breathe, Get Your Bearings, Clarify Your Role, Help Someone Else and Practice Gratitude.
Put these keys into practice and you will not only overcome fear, you will encounter a new level of God’s presence and peace in your life!