Many who know me wouldn’t realize it, but I have had fearful tendencies in my personality since childhood. Even as an adult I have dealt with a variety of fears and even panic attacks on several occasions. For example, when I was young I remember developing a strong fear of losing my parents for a time. Later in life, I’ve had fears about my own health. On one occasion, I was having discomfort in my right hand and became very afraid that it might be a serious heart problem, leading to a panic attack. As it turned out, the problem was actually a muscle in my shoulder affecting a nerve.
Through these and multiple other experiences, I have learned a few things about fear. This article discusses tools for facing life’s more commonly experienced fears. For a variety of reasons, some struggle with deeper fears. I will cover additional tools (like anointing and professional help) to address more difficult forms of fear in an upcoming article.
Similar to other emotions we were created with, there is a proper place for fear. Specifically, a balanced sense of fear in response to danger helps keep us safe. It also helps us make right choices that avoid the negative consequences of sin.
However, an unbalanced sense of fear has its own dangers and reduces our ability to choose rightly. There are many potential reasons that fear may become out of balance. Regardless of the cause, there are four positive steps that we can all take when we need to face our fears.
Fear is a normal, natural emotion—it’s not wrong to feel it. Even fears that become unbalanced often begin as a natural response to something that the person feels or experiences. What’s important, as with other emotions, is to correctly respond to the natural emotion that you feel.
Our first response to fear is often to hide it; many are reluctant to be honest about feeling it. Ironically, fear typically grows when we pretend that it’s not there. It’s easy to think that we shouldn’t feel fear, or to be embarrassed that we do. However acknowledging what we feel is one of the simplest and most effective ways to process the emotion in a healthy way.
God loves to hear about our thoughts and feelings directly from us! It’s no different with fear. We can openly share what we feel with God in prayer, just as King David did in his life. In Psalms 31:2 Psalms 31:2Bow down your ear to me; deliver me speedily: be you my strong rock, for an house of defense to save me.
American King James Version×, he wrote: “Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe” (New Living Translation). David had clearly been talking to God about his fears, as the same Psalm later confirms.
In addition to prayer, it’s often very helpful to share your feelings with your parents, a trusted mentor or a close friend. If you’d rather not talk to someone, try writing it down, saying it out loud or concentrating to say the words mentally. Whether it’s shared with someone or alone, the process of putting our feelings into words helps us work through them. It also leads directly to the next positive step.
Focus on reality
A common challenge with fearful emotions is that they can quickly become a bigger problem than what is causing them. It is very easy to focus on a perception of reality that is made unbalanced by fear, or to become overly focused on the fear itself. The fear is then more difficult to deal with than the actual problem! A balanced mindset is key to avoiding this.
In a true emergency, we usually follow our instincts to react immediately and take necessary action in response to the danger. However, in less severe situations where you experience fear, it’s important to “step back” and assess what you’re feeling. Often, the reality of what’s occurring isn’t as threatening as the initial reaction of fear indicates.
Try to identify both what is and isn’t really happening. Our fears often center on things that could happen, but haven’t! Try to avoid this by focusing on the reality of what’s occurring in your life. Don’t needlessly consume energy worrying about things that might happen. Most importantly, focus on who God is and how He’s working with you. That reality is more important and has greater impact than whatever else may or may not be happening!
Acknowledging your fears with a realistic assessment may resolve them. For the fears that remain, identify a proper action to address them. Thinking about our fears without taking action increases the intensity of our worry. In contrast, taking steps to address a fear usually decreases the severity of what we feel.
Don’t stress out about finding the “perfect” action that will immediately end your fear. Taking any positive action, however small, will move you closer to resolution. It will also begin to change the way you feel. The full answer usually isn’t obvious at first. Regardless, taking small positive steps generally makes the next helpful action much more clear.
Remember that reading the Bible is an action! It’s always a positive step and lets God share His thoughts with you. The stories and situations in God’s Word may not exactly match your situation, but they have wisdom and instruction that apply to how you are feeling. After seeking out and taking in God’s point of view, try to identify the next logical step and act on it as soon as possible.
Refuse to give up
The Bible says that Jesus Christ experienced all human struggles, which would certainly include fear! During His life, He talked about and demonstrated three behaviors that can help us refuse to give in to fear.
First, Jesus reminded those who followed Him to “look up” (Luke 21:28 Luke 21:28And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near.
American King James Version×). Fear makes it easy to live life with your head down, both physically and mentally. However, looking down makes it hard to see beyond the present. Remember that a solution might well be in sight—if you’re able to see it!
Second, Jesus approached difficulties with a determined mindset (Luke 9:51 Luke 9:51And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
American King James Version×). As the One who created us, He understood the most important part of overcoming a challenge is making the mental commitment to face it head on.
Third, and most importantly, Jesus kept moving forward (John 18:4 John 18:4Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come on him, went forth, and said to them, Whom seek you?
American King James Version×). Even as God’s Son, He faced powerful fears. But with His Father’s help, He was able to navigate through the fear to overcome and succeed.
With the same help from God, we too can overcome fear and succeed! We can be like King David, who faced many fears in his life but still wrote, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalms 34:4 Psalms 34:4I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
American King James Version×).