Reading through the Bible, there appears to be a lot of paradoxes–things like:
- To win, you must surrender.
- To be strong, you must be weak.
- To be first, you must be last.
Doesn’t it seem backwards?
Tell a weightlifter, “Now to be strong, you must be weak.” Or tell a soldier in the military, “If we you want to win this battle, you first have to surrender.” It just doesn’t make sense.
In fact, we are taught from childhood to “be strong”. After all, only the strongest will survive in this world. Weak people will not make it. I remember people telling me, “Russell, you are just stressed. Get over it. Just fight it!”
What are your thoughts regarding this battle against fear? “The only way I can beat this thing is to fight as hard as I can. I can’t give in. I can’t let my guard down. I must fight. No one must know what I am going through. If my mind was just strong enough, I could beat this thing.”
From what I have learned, fighting fear is like blowing on the fire. Naturally, you would think that the fire would go out. But it doesn’t. In fact, by blowing on it, you feed it more oxygen and it burns hotter. It has the opposite effect. The same is true when fighting anxiety and fear. When you resist it and fight it, your body releases more adrenaline causing more fear and more panic. It’s a terrible cycle that usually ends with frayed nerves and trip to the ER.
Let me give you an example: for the next few seconds, as you read this paragraph, I want you to clear your mind. Whatever you do, don’t think about a yellow toothbrush. Think about anything except a yellow toothbrush. No yellow toothbrushes in your mind. Block out those yellow toothbrushes. Don’t think about the shape and length of that toothbrush. Or those white bristles, the curved handle. Don’t think about it. Resist those toothbrush thoughts. Fight them.
Okay, how’d it go? Nothing but yellow toothbrushes, right? Why? Because what I fight and resist becomes the object of my focus. The same is true with panic and fear.
So, how do you break that cycle? I believe the key is relinquishment, learning to give up and surrender–not to the fear, but to God. Remember those words: “to win, you must surrender; to be strong, you must be weak.” It’s true! Not only is it Biblical, it’s what counselors and doctors are now teaching about how to break this panic cycle. Don’t fight it.
I close with this scripture from Matthew 16. This is a verse that I have held onto with dear life when the fear rears its ugly head. Listen carefully to these words of Jesus: “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matthew 16:25).
Prayer: Father, I’m tired of fighting this fear. My mind and my soul are weary and exhausted. Lord, I choose today to rest in you. I choose not to put any more energy into fighting the fear. I will put my energy into seeking you, knowing you, loving you.