Mind-crippling, spine-tingling, heart-stomping fear – we’ve all experienced it at one time or another. Fears of several varieties took hold of my heart early on as a young adult, but through the years God has brought amazing freedom.
We’re not talking about the good kind of fear that alerts your spirit to an approaching enemy, that moves you into action to protect the ones you love, or that promotes a healthy respect for God. Those fears are healthy. And not all fears are irrational. Some move in and out quickly without disrupting our lives.
But what about the other kind? Where does irrational fear originate? And how do you keep those fears from taking permanent residence in your life? Here are five ways to handle irrational fear:
1. Cry Out to Jesus
Years ago as a young minister’s wife, I remember fighting a phobia whenever my husband would leave town for a revival or other commitment. The irrational fear only lasted for a short season. But one night I awoke sweating, my heart racing with panic. In those fearful moments, I did the only thing I knew to do: I cried out to the Lord. “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”
I’m surprised I didn’t wake my young children with those loud cries of distress. But God heard them. While I would always miss my husband, I never entertained those irrational fears again. Jesus took them from me. That was my first experience of “crying out to God,” but I learned the freedom it brought.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10, NIV). The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry,” (Psalm 34:15, NIV). I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears(Psalm 34:4, NIV).
2. Cling to God’s Word
In those dark moments when fear stalks its victims and whispers irrational thoughts, God’s Word is a light, speaking peace and unfolding the truth.
The unfolding of your words gives light (Psalm 119:130, NIV). Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105, NIV).
In my blog I repeat the truth often, about the importance of God’s Word. But it’s never trite and has become a firm belief in my heart. The Bible is not a tool we use to bang on the heads of others to convince them of our beliefs. God’s Spirit is well able to impart life-changing truths through the pages of Scripture to the seeking heart. His Word holds the keys that will set us free from fear.
It would take too many posts to tell you the many ways God’s Word has been my light, my comfort, my guide, and my counselor – through dark times, through confusing times, through hurting times – at all times. I am constantly amazed at the questions people ask about problems they face and issues they fear. And yet when I quiz them if they have consulted His Word to find answers, they often respond no. I will be the first to admit that when I’ve failed to seek God in His Word first, and instead tried to figure things out my way, the results were always discouraging and often disastrous.
3. Cast Your Cares (and Fears) on Him
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you (Psalm 55:22, NIV).
Try writing out a list of things that make your knees shake and your heart rate increase unnecessarily. Then present them to God, one by one. Irrational fears about your children? Give them – and your children – into God’s care. He made them, and He loves them far more than you ever could.
Afraid of failing? What’s the worst thing that could happen? You might be forced to trust God completely. Fling that fear on God. Fear of being alone? Fear of being rejected? Fear of dying? Fear of divorce? Fear of debilitating illness? Fear of not being a good dad or mom? Fear of people? The list of phobias may grow as you begin to identify them. When your list is complete, give all those fears to God and then rip up your sheet.
Or, do some research on your own. Find a promise in God’s Word that deals with each fear. Place the Scripture beside it, and keep it handy near your desk or mirror to refresh your mind that God will take care of them – and you.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3, NIV). They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:7, NIV).
4. Confess Your Inability and God’s Ability to Remove Those Fears
Remember who God is, and who you are – His child. He is worthy to be trusted. No matter what you’ve experienced in your Christian life so far, or how little you know about God, one thing I will stake my life on: God is beyond faithful. He has never broken a promise. He never will. Can you say that about anyone else? Without God, we can do nothing. But with Him? I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13, NIV).
God’s presence is with us – and that makes all the difference in the world. He wants us to live in freedom, not in bondage to the tentacles of fear.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4, NIV). So do not fear, for I am with you’ do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10, NIV). Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9, NIV).
5. Call a trusted friend or Christian counselor to intercede for you
There are times when irrational fear attacks us suddenly, or roots itself too deep for us to handle at the moment. In the past, I enlisted about five or so women who agreed to be “prayer warriors” for me in my speaking and writing ministry, and even for my responsibilities as a minister’s wife.
I remember one morning particularly when it seemed that an ominous presence had settled in around me. Fear gripped my heart for no reason. I couldn’t even label the fear. But I knew it was more than I could handle at the moment. I began crying out to God, but this particular time, I also called one of those women to intercede for me. She did so. A short time later, the fear subsided and I could think rationally and soundly again.
Pray for one another that you may be healed. The prayer of a godly person is powerful. It makes things happen (James 5:16, NIRV). Be not afraid of sudden fear (Proverbs 3:25, KJV).
Recognize that irrational fear does not originate with God. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (1 Timothy 1:7, NKJ).
If you find that your phobias are ruling your life, it might be time to enlist the help of a Christian counselor. Some fears may be buried in the rubble of trauma, abuse, or other intense circumstances from your past. Find one that will use God’s word as a guide, coming alongside you to refill the holes created by fear with God’s grace and tender love.
Not an Exhaustive List
This is obviously not an exhaustive list of fears or how to deal with them. But it’s a start on how to handle the crippling kind – the irrational fears that push faith out and usher defeat in.
It’s Your Turn: How Do You Handle Fear?
Do you, or have you struggled with irrational fears? How do you deal with them? Please share in the comments below.
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Publication date: April 3, 2013