Faith Over FearNov 08, 2021
Faith Over Fear
by Guest Blogger Lori Prather
I am afraid of the dark. I admit it. When I was a kid, my mom said she always knew where I was in the house by the trail of lights. As a kid, dark represented the unknown, an opportunity for something bad to happen, even though it never did. As I grew up, I just couldn’t shake it. If you put me in a completely darkened room, with zero light, that type of light deprivation instantly triggers anxiety. I finally realized that while I know there are no creatures hiding in the dark, darkness makes me feel out of control-completely out of control. And that is a feeling I do not enjoy. As soon as I feel out of control, I feel afraid. And fear is a powerful emotion.
Fear certainly has its moments in our lives; it’s part of our natural, built-in, fight or flight response. When in control, fear guides us to make decisions to keep us safe. But I find most of my fears aren’t controlled at all, nor are they necessary for my safety. Fear shows up in the darkness, in all my “what if” questions, in my doubt, in my pride, and in my sin. For me, fear most often creeps up when I am out of step in my relationship with Jesus.
Many years ago, I battled intense panic attacks. If you’ve had them, you know how awful and paralyzing they can be. I was ashamed of these attacks, so I hid them. I know, I know. Hiding any struggle and trying to battle it all alone rarely results in a win, but that took we a while to understand. So, I hid them. And they got worse. I hated traveling. If my husband were even 15 minutes late getting home, I could feel the anxiety begin to rise. Looking back, I can say I was on the edge most of the time. It was exhausting. And then I began to see tiny hints of anxiety in our daughter, and I couldn’t ignore that some of what I was seeing in her was learned behaviors from me. And that the first step in knowing things had to change.
The second step came with a sermon not long after on Matthew 6: 25-34. This passage talks about how unnecessary worry is because God will provide; God’s got it. I had read and heard this verse many times, but this time it smacked me right upside the head and straight through my heart. When I worried, I wasn’t trusting God. Bottom line. Ouch. I had known Jesus my whole life, but I clearly wasn’t fully surrendered, or fully trusting.
For me fear and anxiety went hand in hand. Fear fed my anxiety and anxiety fed my fear; it was a toxic cycle I couldn’t break. Until I decided I had to…for my family, for my health and for my relationship with Jesus. It took a lot of prayer. I prayed my way through every panic attack. First, two hours of praying. Then, an hour and a half. Then an hour, and so on until I could anticipate the attack and stop it in its tracks. I had to learn to recognize and acknowledge the fear that was coming first; at the foundation of my panic attacks was fear. I had to create a new foundation.
I once heard a powerful statement that said, “you can’t worship and worry at the same time.” They fundamentally can’t exist together because they are fundamentally opposite emotions, focuses, and actions. This same theory can apply to fear as well. You can’t give into fear and ______________ at the same time. I encourage you to find your word that fills in that blank. But for now, I will propose a word: Faith. You can’t give into fear and faith at the same time.
I’m not saying that if you are ever afraid then you are lacking in faith. Again, fear does have its rightful place in our protection and safety. But when we are facing an uncertain future or overwhelmed by how unsafe the world feels as of late or find ourselves dwelling on all the “what if’s,” we can choose fear or faith. We can choose to spiral out of control about things we have no control over, or we can choose to trust God.
God is aware of the fear factor in your life. He created you and this world and knows the brokenness of both. I believe it’s why the Bible address fear many times. Today, let’s look at two verses. First, let’s read Romans 8:38,
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” (NLT)
If you are still trying to replace your fear with faith, God has not given up on you. Moreover, He is still present in your fear because nothing can separate you from Him. The key is to lean into Him when the fear tries to take over. Remind yourself, say it out loud if you need to, “This fear cannot separate me from God’s love.” “This fear isn’t bigger than God’s love for me.” “This fear will fade as I trust Him.” Fear and faith don’t co-exist. One pushes out the other. Let faith in so it can push out fear.
If I have made any of this sound easy, I apologize. It wasn’t easy at all. It took lots of prayer. It took lots of scripture. It took over a year. And it took the encouragement of others. Yep. I eventually had to be honest and admit what I was dealing with. Thankfully, I wasn’t met with judgement, but love and understanding.
Both verses today that I was led to address fear and love at the same time. Perhaps there’s another word for our blank. “You can’t give into fear and be surrounded by love at the same time. Let’s look at 1 John 4 16b-19,
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So, we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other[b] because he loved us first.
The love of friends and family will go a long way in helping you put fear in its place, but there is only on perfect love…the love of Jesus. “Perfect love expels all fear.” What a powerful statement. When you allow God’s perfect love to envelop you, fear takes a backseat. God’s perfect love helps you trust Him in the most uncertain situations. Reminding yourself that God loves you despite, and through, the fear, provides a comfort that can makes scary things not so scary.
My whole life I have hated being scared. It’s not just the dark I try to avoid. There are also haunted houses, horror movies and everything else in that genre! I’ve always been so easily scared so I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that in being intentional to avoid ways others can scare me, that left only me. I learned I can scare myself better than anyone. I was a pro at it for a long time. To this day there are still triggers for me. My children not answering their phones in a timely manner instantly causes my breathing to increase. The threat of intense financial challenges in the way of a job loss causes my mind to race. It can be something small or something huge, but the key, for me, is to recognize the physiological signs that fear is trying to take over. When I can do that, I feel I can get ahead of the fear. And how do I replace fear with faith?
At times, by naming the fears to God. Sometimes just hearing them out loud can give me perspective that God is bigger. Those are my out loud prayers but sometimes a quiet conversation with God reminds me of all of God’s promises and my faith gets stronger. And, at times, I need to enlist faithful friends who are stronger than me in that moment. Their reciting of scripture and encouraging words can breathe life back into my own faith.
Please note that at the time of my greatest anxiety, we were unable to afford professional therapy. I have since been able to have someone to talk to and I loved it. This amazing professional helped me understand some core issues and I was able to speak honestly about where and when my faith is susceptible to fear. Sometimes the first step in faith winning out over fear is getting someone else on your team to assist you with the win. It takes courage to know when you need some a helping hand and that doesn’t lessen your faith in any way.
If we are looking to the world to become less scary so that are fears can be alleviated, we are going to be looking forever. In fact, the world seems to get scarier each day, each month, and each year. Thankfully, our answer is not in the world. Our answer lies in one much greater who promises to never leave us no matter what we have allowed to creep in and take over our thoughts. I have fought this battle, and continue to fight it at times, but I am living proof that faith can triumph over fear. Where there is faith, fear will flee.
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