The “fear factor” plays a bigger role in our lives than most of us would care to admit.
Fear! As ugly as the word is, yet it is one of the great realities of life. It is often the driving force behind our choices and decisions. The adult, having left behind his childhood dreams of monsters, may still face those familiar fears in different dreams. But still the fears are the same- things that terrify us, things we cannot control.
We as Jesus-followers may still have some of those “monsters”. We wake up in a panic and wonder, “Where did that come from?” When we become aware that the panic is connected to our subconscious mind’s memories of fearful things, the terror dissipates.
With bad dreams, it’s not the dream itself that may mean something; rather the emotion- the fear- it represents or stirs up. Familiar fears are worse than sudden unknown fears- those things that drive us, push us, manipulate us, and at times paralyze us. These fears cause over-reactions to normal life circumstances, withdrawal from things that for others would mean nothing. It is those emotions than often consume great amounts of energy to suppress.
How can this be, that people who believe in Jesus can have fears? It’s a paradox. To know an all-powerful God and yet be personally afraid? Just the concept of an all-powerful God should be enough to still our fears, shouldn’t it? Realistically it does not always do so.
Most children fear the dark. As years pass, that fear goes away for most people. However life brings others. We learn new ones or connect new forms of old fears. It may be the fear of We may have fears of many different things. Here are some examples:
- fear of a committed relationship
- fear of not being accepted
- fear of sickness
- fear of failure in our career
- fear of losing control
As we age, the fears change. No longer are there monsters in our dreams; we begin now to fear being alone, to fear being poor, to fear retiring and not being valued. The final great fear of life is, ironically, the fear of death. The process of dying is not for the faint of heart- it takes great courage to observe your own body and mind becoming decrepit and old and unable to do what they used to do.
My point is that fears drive much of life for most people. Fearlessness is much less common than you think. Often, the ones who appear to be fearless are not really so brave. Their behavior only disguises the fears behind the defiant faces.
The question for us today is this:
How much of my life is controlled or driven by fear? That is the telling word- “driven”. For a driven mind is not a mind at rest.
Those underlying fears create anxiety. Then anxiety can easily begin to dominate our emotions. Soon our life has lost all peace.
To this problem there is no easy solution. But there are some indicators to deal with the issue of fear. Realistically, we as sentient human beings are not machines that can always be fixed by a repair such as medicine or prayer. “If I heard God speak, it would all be over.” Maybe it would, and maybe it wouldn’t. Things are not always that simple.
Let’s first of all say, fear is actually our friend. If we were fearless, we would do dangerous things. Fear, like pain, is a warning system designed to protect us.
Fear is a normal reaction to a learned fact. Being frightened by a dog as a child may cause a fear of dogs your whole life, even though most dogs are friendly. Some fears are good. Seeing a bus coming at you as you cross the road may create a panic, but good fear would cause you to jump out of the way. Excellent response!!
Fears only become a problem when they begin influence our decisions or shape our behavior in irrational ways. Here are some simple steps for dealing with fear:
- Feel it- that fear. It is real. Admit it and define it. “I am afraid of dogs…” “I am afraid of relationships…” “I am afraid of being hurt…” “I am afraid of heights…”
- Find its source – Gently allow your mind to trace the emotion and go back. When did it start and why? Ask God to show you the source. Think about it, pray about it and search for it.
- Face the past. Analyze that fear and how you learned it. Ask God to heal you right there where it began. Ask Him to speak to you about that situation from long ago. He will bring truth into that fearful moment when you learned to believe something that is not true.
- Faith it – Always do the right thing no matter what you fear. That is courage. Some of the greatest people in the world are very ordinary folks who struggle fears, but in faith they move forward doing what is right. That is great courage.
I am aware that emotions cannot be forgotten nor can memories. But God can heal our minds, and bring those memories to peace. Going forward from that healing, we can choose what we think. In that way we can affect our emotions.
Don’t settle for a life controlled by fear.
Feel your fear.
Find your fear.
Face your fear.
Faith your fear.
Then begin to live in courage and victory!