Authored by Mara Hodler
I recently read an acronym for fear that I thought was well expressed and could be applied to the kind of fears we all face at times about things that we worry about, that haven’t actually happened:
Now, there are some fears, like the fear of jumping off a bridge, which are valid. In those cases, fear is the voice of wisdom preventing you from doing something dangerous.
What I’m talking about are the fears that stop you from doing something that is going to make your life better by making you think that you are incapable or inadequate.
I can think back to so many times in my life when my fears convinced me that I could not do something … and believe me, it happened more times than I can count. When I was learning to drive (and I’m not even going to tell you how old I was at the time), I was absolutely paralyzed with fear. I imagined horrible scenarios like me losing control of the car and crashing into another car, killing or maiming someone. I thought about how dumb I can be, and how I would probably just forget to stop at a red light. I imagined banging into other cars as I attempted to park.
If I knew I was going to be driving the next day, I literally could not sleep that night. I would lie in my bed playing through every terrible thing I might end up doing behind the wheel. By morning, I was not in any state to drive. It was pretty ridiculous, but at the time, it was very real.
Sadly, for a long time my fears won out on me. I failed two driving tests just because I was so convinced I was the one person in the world who could simply NOT get the hang of driving. Eventually, it came to a point where I had no choice but to face my fears.
And, in the process of “facing my fears,” I had an accident. I hit another car while changing lanes. I felt like never ever trying to drive again. I felt I now had good reason to give up driving for the rest of my life. I had somewhat validated my fears. But I soon realized that my not being able to drive was just as crippling to my life as my fear of driving was. There were so many things I could not participate in because I could not drive. I was also an inconvenience to others, because I could not drive from one place to another. In short, I had to overcome this fear.
So, I did. I picked a Wal-Mart that I felt was easy enough to drive to, and practiced driving from the house to the Wal-Mart and back again. I would park in the farthest and most isolated area of the parking lot (much to the frustration of any passengers in the car). After a few weeks of Wal-Mart trips, I realized that other places I needed to go were just one turn away, one more stop light, a left turn instead of a right. Soon I had conquered the town where I lived.
Then came a winter of ice and snow, and I drove through that. We moved to a larger city, and I learned to maneuver through traffic. I moved to the countryside, and I learned to drive long distances. I learned how to drive on busy highways and how to park in crowded parking lots (though I still think valet parking is the most stressful job imaginable).
I can now with great joy tell you that my fear of not being able to drive was False Evidence Appearing Real. But that fear could have easily kept me homebound for most of my life had I not defeated it little by little. Especially after my accident, I could have easily convinced myself that I was definitely not a driver! I am so grateful that I pushed past the fear, because doing so changed an important detail in my life. Being able to drive has allowed me to help support my family, help others who needed me, and has eliminated a huge sense of limitation, frustration, and—you guessed it—fear.
The Bible is chock-full of verses about fear. One of my favorites is Isaiah 26:3: You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts You.1
As I worked to conquer my fear of driving, I did my best to follow the instructions of this verse. I tried to focus on God and His power and ability to overcome my inabilities. This verse is kind of an “action” verse. It has an if/then clause in it. God will give you perfect peace if you choose to keep your trust in Him. That can be easier said than done when you are in a situation that is causing you to fear.
It comes more naturally to me to play those freaky “movies” in my head about how awful something is going to be rather than focusing on God’s power and receiving His peace. But it’s important to remember that fear is NOT of God.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.2
Fear can make you feel weak and helpless, but God doesn’t want you to feel that way. He wants you to feel empowered, loved, and “clear in your head,” as I put it—not tormented, disturbed, and incapable.
And, finally, my favorite verse for days when I just can’t even begin to figure out how to make top and bottom of my fears:
I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.3
I love that verse! It’s a grateful proclamation of what God has done for someone who was troubled and bound by fear.
Facing your fears is an ongoing part of life. Some fears are reasonable and others are obviously irrational, but any kind of fear can hold you hostage.
The good news is, each and every fear has an antidote, and in every case it’s going to begin with focusing on God’s love and care for you.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.4
If you are dealing with some form of fear in your life, realize that you do not need to be bound by that fear. Remember that God loves you, that He wants you to be happy, to thrive and to prosper. And then, face your fears.
If fear is holding you back, remember that the only power fear has is the power that you allow it to have. You will probably not overcome all your fears in one day, or perhaps even in your lifetime, but each time you confront a fear and take a small step to overcome it, you are one step closer to that fear having absolutely no power over you.
1 New King James Version
2 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
3 Psalm 34:4 KJV
4 1 John 4:18 NKJV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International