We can’t escape fear. It’s hardwired into our brains as a self-preservation reflex. And it’s a double-edged sword—a gift to protect us and, along with its cohort worry, a potential killer. Experts tell us that fear and worry can trigger a host of health problems. So how can we fight fear and win?
Some fear is healthy—we’re to have a reverential fear of God. But some fear is harmful, can make us sick and steal our joy.
Throughout the Bible God tells His people not to be afraid, but to trust Him. If it were only that easy! Yet we read of men like King David, who faced countless life-threatening situations, boldly declaring his trust in God to take care of him. “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation—whom shall I fear or dread? The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1, NLT
Facing fear in my own life, I see it often lurks unnoticed almost below my conscious awareness. When I sense that uneasy feeling of fear, it’s helpful to find out where it’s coming from. Some fears are real, while others may be figments of my imagination. But knowing the source, I can more easily deal with it.
Five major sources of fear today:
- The news media attracts and keeps audience attention by highlighting the most shocking events as top stories, thus inciting fear. Positive, uplifting stories, though there are many, are seldom reported.
- Marketers also stir up fear. The average person is exposed to between three and five thousand advertising messages a day. These messages are carefully crafted to promote fear, making us feel unsafe, unlovable or unworthy unless we buy whatever they’re selling.
- Uncertainly about the future we can’t control often causes fear. We may imagine possible negative outcomes or events, projecting fear into the future by wondering, “What if.”
- Seeking security, perhaps becoming overly absorbed with self-protection, is a subtle source of fear that can sneak in unnoticed. In his book Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, author Scott Bader-Saye sums up this danger well as he writes, “Fear tempts us to make safety and self-preservation our highest goals. And when we do so our moral focus becomes the protection of our lives and health. Security becomes the new idol before whom all other gods must bow.”
- The devil knows our weaknesses and uses fear, along with lies—often subtle distortions of the truth—to control, torment or keep us stuck.
When we understand our fears and where they come from, we’re better equipped to overcome them. Three easy and effective strategies are:
Be selective about what you watch, read and listen to. For example, extensive research now shows that those who watch a lot of TV are more likely than others to feel unsafe and fearful.
Be alert to your self-talk. Stop and quickly re-direct any negative, untrue or fear-inducing thoughts.
Focus on what is true. “Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.” Philippians 4:8, The Voice
Fear is a strong emotion. To enjoy life and become fully the person God has destined you to be, you can conquer unhealthy fear.
What makes you feel fearful?
How do you keep your fears in check?