Everyone experiences fear. For many, it’s a subtle, gnawing feeling that something is not quite right. For others, however, it’s crippling and debilitating. Fear can affect every area of our lives–our business, our dreams, our faith and our family. Finding freedom from fear is essential to live the abundant life.
My battle with fear started as a child and continued into my adult life. Panic attacks were sometimes a daily occurrence. Agoraphobia set in and my world grew smaller every time I surrendered to the fear. If I didn’t find freedom, it would surely destroy me.
Through wise counsel, great resources and a growing faith, I started experiencing seasons of peace. These five steps have been foundational in my journey to freedom:
It’s essential that we recognize fearful thoughts when they hit. Most people don’t take time to really analyze those uninvited, mental intrusions. We simply react and respond. The Bible encourages us to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). To help you sort through your thoughts, start a “thought log” and document what comes into your mind.
Fear can be rational or irrational. God created us with an ability to instinctively respond in dangerous situations, and this is good. We need that innate, rational fear to protect us from sudden danger. Too often, though, fears can become irrational, and we start making decisions based on emotion, not reason. In your “thought log”, write down what is fearful to you, and then classify each fear as rational or irrational. Ask a spouse or friend to help you discern.
We are born with only two fears — a fear of loud noises and a fear of falling. All other fears are learned, typically at a young age. As children, we accept most things at face value, trusting those in authority over us. But, wounded people wound people. When we believe a lie, there’s a disconnect between what is real and what we believe. Fear settles in. To effectively uproot fear, we must understand what lies we believe and replace them with truth.
As I began to recognize the lies at work in my life, I was soon faced with a test. How would I respond the next time a fearful thought hit me? Would I give in or would I confront the lie? At first, it was difficult, but soon I was able to respond by facing my fears. The more I stood against them, the stronger I grew. If fear said, Don’t get on the airplane, I would get on. If fear said, You shouldn’t go into the store, I would force myself to go into the store. I responded to each irrational fear by doing what it told me not to do. For me, this was a major step towards freedom.
We live in a very busy world. We rarely take time to slow down, rest and recuperate. I have discovered that stress is a primary trigger for panic attacks. When I don’t rest properly or deal with stress effectively, the adrenaline levels in my body continue to rise until the only outlet is panic and exhaustion. Today, I rest regularly by shutting down in the evenings, napping when I can, taking family vacations, and enjoying one day off a week.
Fear does not need to control your life. If you can recognize and rationalize incoming fearful thoughts, then you can then find the roots and respond accordingly. With fear out of the way, you will be able to write your book, compose a song, start that new job and chase your dream!
Question: Have you experienced an irrational fear that has hindered your life in some way? What have you done to overcome that fear?