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Regardless of who we are, fear, anxiety, and worry are felt by everyone in all walks of life. No one is immune. Learning to successfully navigate these emotions is an essential life skill.
Fear in and of itself is not bad. God created fear. Fear has a purpose. Fear alerts us of danger.
However, like all of creation, it can be used properly or improperly. Improper or unhealthy fear torments us with the futility of worry. It paralyzes us and takes a physical toll.
So how do we practically live without unhealthy fear? Proverbs 31:25 describes the ideal godly woman as one who is clothed in strength and dignity, laughing or smiling at the future (depending upon the translation). How can we become women who laugh without fear of the future too? Even when life doesn’t seem happy or funny?
In 2017 I faced fear when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was one of the most difficult years of my life. Yet through it all, God taught me six actionable steps to combat fear using the constant reminder of Proverbs 31:25 as a guide.
Let’s explore these six actionable steps we can implement together to become women who laugh and smile at the future:
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1. Worry is a choice.
When all is said and done, worry is a choice. It takes just as much effort, if not less, to pause and pray about something as it does to worry. To choose to trust God.
In 2011 I had a cancer scare. I would love to tell you I chose not to worry, but I didn’t. Instead, I chose to ruminate on my fears. All. Night. Long. I robbed myself of an entire night’s sleep. For nothing. In no way did my sleepless night have any effect on the outcome.
Worry is futile. We are not God. We cannot will an outcome through worry. Jesus warned, "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (Luke 12:25 ESV)
Fast forward six years. Faced with another cancer scare. Yet this time armed with lessons learned, I set out to tackle fear differently. I knew I had a choice. I chose faith over fear.
I prayed. Everyday. “Lord just give me an answer so I can stop worrying.” Assuming answers were the solution. Through this prayer, God showed me I needed peace, not answers.
Answers are not always synonymous with peace. Even with answers, peace can evade us. Especially if the answers are not what we hoped.
That cancer scare became a cancer diagnosis. Having an answer meant more unknowns. What were the next steps? What was the outlook?
Peace does not come from answers. Peace comes from trusting God. It is a result of surrendering our fear to God. Peace is not determined by our circumstances, but by our faith.
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2. Remember God’s faithfulness.
One of our greatest weapons to combat fear is to reflect upon God’s faithfulness in the past.
How has God answered prayers?
How has God provided in the past?
How has God healed us?
When have we felt God’s love the most?
When have we experienced God’s goodness?
Mentally answering these questions fills our faith bucket as we look ahead to the unknown.
When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, I was two years into a speaking and writing ministry to encourage survivors of sexual assault. Two years of speaking about God loving us more than we can imagine, answering prayers and doing miracles were my preparation for this season of breast cancer.
What I perceived as a season of encouraging others, was also a season of filling my faith bucket. Reminding me God is trustworthy. What concerns us concerns him. What grieves us grieves God.
3. Cultivate perspective.
Whatever we are currently facing, it is important to have perspective. Life is seasonal: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)
Every season has a beginning and an end. Even our hardest seasons will end eventually, whether in this lifetime or in heaven.
Jesus himself had perspective: "Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)
Jesus knew his time on earth was limited. He knew his ministry and suffering would have a beginning and an end. But most importantly, Jesus knew what lay ahead:
But, as it is written,
‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him’
(1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV)
Whatever we are currently facing, it will not last forever. This is just our current season of life. Good or bad. This perspective can be a source of gratitude during good seasons, encouragement during difficult seasons, and a reminder of our ultimate hope of heaven.
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4. Be prepared.
What can we do spiritually, mentally, or physically today to set us up for success tomorrow?
Spiritually, what are we doing today to grow our faith?
Are we reading God’s Word?
Are we spending time with God in prayer?
We can be assured; with God nothing is wasted when we invest in our spiritual growth. We may not see the fruition of the seeds of faith we sow today until the tough times hit. What God is teaching us today may be preparing us for the future, so we need to faithfully pursue God in prayer and study his Word.
Physically, what can we do today to set us up for greater success in the future?
Establishing an emergency fund to remove the stress of unexpected expenses. Estate Planning. Meeting with a financial advisor. Prioritizing our physical health. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Eating healthier. Exercising regularly. Drinking more water. These actions can be small and simple, but they set us up for future success.
Lastly, mentally are we setting ourselves up for success?
Life is hard. We need to be building ourselves up. Surrounding ourselves with friends, family, and maybe even a counselor at times who support and encourage us. Participating in activities that bring us joy and contribute to spiritual growth like finding a church home, Bible study, or a small group.
Mentally we also need to do a personal evaluation. How am I feeling and why? How would I like to feel? Do the two align? If not, what can we do to move toward how we would like to feel? Is there anything we have been avoiding? Ignoring? We need to deal with it before it deals with us.
We can’t tackle being prepared mentally either without acknowledging that many Christians struggle with mental health. That is ok. Struggling with mental health does not make us less than as Christians. We are so incredibly blessed to have modern medicine, therapy, and solutions to so many ailments.
When I had cancer, I went to doctors to get treatment and healing. God gave us modern medicine. If you are struggling with hopelessness or feel like you are stuck in the pits, get help. See a counselor. Talk to your doctor, maybe medication is what you need. Maybe it’s a change of diet or self-care. Whatever it is, don’t battle this alone without help.
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5. Claim God’s promises.
1 John 5:14 assures us that if we ask according to God’s will, he hears us. But how do we know if we are praying God’s will? Well, for starters, we can pray scripture back to God.
For instance, every believer has been promised the fruit of the spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a NIV)
The fruit of the spirit isn’t a list to make us feel less than or highlight our lacking. It is a list of fruits God has promised to us as believers. So, claim these promises in prayer. Are you struggling with being joyful or feeling peace? Pray this scripture back to God specifically claiming these promises.
Remember too, just like worry, being joyful is a choice. We might be facing very difficult circumstances. A loss. An unwanted diagnosis. Whatever we are facing, we don’t have to be joyful for our circumstances, but we can be joyful in our circumstances.
6. Serve others.
When we are struggling with worry and fear, we are completely self-focused. Serving others interrupts this pattern. It gets us out of our heads as we look to the needs of others above our own.
Anyone can serve. We simply begin by asking – how can I serve or encourage others? It may be as simple as a text, phone call or note.
Armed with these six tools let’s actively combat fear. Remember, worry is a choice. God has been faithful to us in the past. He is faithful still. He will be faithful in our future. Life is full of seasons. This too shall pass. Be prepared spiritually, physically, and mentally. Claim God’s promises in our life. Shift our thoughts from self-focused fear to others-minded service. When we do, we will live bold lives unhindered by unhealthy fear as we smile and laugh at the future.
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Originally published Thursday, 07 October 2021.