Glancing through magazines at the doctor’s office, I spied an article about a woman “facing her biggest fear.” That article started me thinking about fears, little ones, big ones, fears that make no sense at all and fears that keep me up into the night. As I made that mental list, it occurred to me that much of what I do and think throughout the day is affected not just by the fears that I recognize, but also by the ones I don’t want to see.
What Am I Afraid of?
Fears are a normal part of life. They keep us safe and well. Another term for this fear would be “healthy respect,” for example, not wanting to be burned by a hot stove or fall off of a high cliff. A healthy fear or respect provides extra attention to unsafe situations, etc., and therefore keep us and our families safe, as well.
There is another type of fear that isn’t so direct, the fears that sit in the background, often causing failed relationships, bad decisions, etc.; the fears that, remaining unrecognized, affect our lives in ways that hurt us. These are the fears we do not face, which is what allows them to control us.
The great philosopher Socrates once stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” When we examine our thoughts, our motivations, our fears, our lives, we take control of our own actions, our own motivations, and put our thoughts in subjection to faith.
A few of the fears that control our lives might include a fear of being alone, of losing everything, of being rejected, of not having enough. In fact, any fear, no matter how small, can become a controlling fear in your life when you allow it unexamined access.
How Fears Control Our Lives—A Life Example
Bella was friendly and pretty. She had friends, but somehow felt left out and forgotten. She never felt pretty enough. She had a good family, but dad worked a lot and was too tired to give her much time at night. Bella came to believe that to get Dad’s attention she needed to excel. She worked hard, excelling at everything. She competed constantly, to impress dad, but unfortunately, that little part of her heart calling out for Daddy’s approval still sat empty.
As she got older she found herself bouncing through relationships, trying to find the male approval she so longed for, but each failed relationship made the emptiness deeper and the pain harder to bear. Some relationships failed because she picked men who, like Dad, who were good providers, but then had nothing left for her. Others relationships failed because she just couldn’t express what she needed emotionally, and therefore, her partner didn’t know how to meet her deepest need.
Bella needed to know she was loved. While her parents, and especially her father, loved her deeply, her immature mind misinterpreted his exhaustion and inattention as rejection and disapproval. As she grew, the need for approval began to take over her life and motivations.
Bella didn’t know why she acted as she did until, she finally sat down and examined her life with a trusted counselor. She recognized that her Dad wasn’t rejecting her, and that even if he had been, God had been there to receive her all the time. One of her favorite life verses became,
“Can a mother [father] forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15).
Although written to Israel thousands of years ago, this verse still promises to all who call on Christ an unfettered, unlimited concern and affection, a love that will not let us go. The apostle Paul stated, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,29).
Jackson, Bella’s dad, grew up in the Great Depression. His family never went hungry, but often dinner was a small amount of rice or potatoes or something Mom scrounged up. He hated being poor and remembered watching his mom and dad fret over how they would care for the kids. Once again, his immature thinking only picked up on their concern, but not their faith in God who always came through with just enough.
Jackson started working as soon as he was able. When older, he was a dedicated worker. His employers came to depend on him, so much so that he became overworked. His personal boundaries were basically non-existent, and his boss constantly assigned him tasks that took him away from his relationship with his wife and children. He found satisfaction in being able to provide, but in so doing, he took away from them something he had, his parents’ time and attention.
Many years later, when Jackson was retired, he realized something was missing. If he wasn’t working and achieving, impressing his employer, he wasn’t happy. He became so depressed that he even considered ending his own life, until he saw the change in Bella. She apologized for not appreciating how hard he worked and told him about her fears of being rejected and how she found healing and strength in her relationship with Christ. She shared with her Dad Jesus’ words:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 26:25-27).
How Do I Take Control Away from Fear?
What about you? Is there a fear deep inside, behind your consciousness, that controls your thoughts and sabotages your faith? “How can I recognize my fears and take back control?”
1. Examine your own life and take note of situations that seem to repeat. Maybe in a need to be recognized or prove you are powerful, you find yourself repeatedly saying things that you regret. Perhaps a past rejection causes you to fear developing close relationships. Whatever the issue and no matter how big or how small, look for the fear that is controlling your life and keeping you from finding the abundant life that comes from living for God.
2. Talk to a trusted friend, counselor, or pastor, and most importantly, talk to God. Many people find keeping a journal a great way to identify these controlling issues in their lives. As you take time to meditate, both on your own life and God’s Word, record your thoughts and memories. As you continue to write you may notice a pattern of thought or behavior.
3. Memorize God’s Word, especially as it applies to your situation. First of all, if you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, please take a moment to let Him know that you need forgiveness and healing. God will not reject anyone who comes to Him in faith.
Learn God’s Word and meditate on it. I did a quick online search, finding at least 77 occurrences of God specificially speaking to various individuals “Do not be afraid.”
In addition to the verses mentioned above, you might consider these.
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15).
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5,6).
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32,34).
There is a place for healthy fear, or respect of things, but not for fears to control our lives. Consider your own life and your fears, then consider God’s Word and promises. Find someone with whom you can examine these fears and take charge over them. Pray and ask God for insight, wisdom, and deliverance from the fears that control you. Then take positive steps to find freedom from fear as you grow up into faith, knowing that God is with you in every way.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
PS: Not sure who to talk to? Drop me an e-mail or a note at the church and maybe we can get the conversation started!
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
220 Garrett Street
Greenfield, Missouri 65661