How to Overcome Fear and Know True Flourishing
How to Overcome Fear and Know True Flourishing
Have you ever gone to bed with the light on?
It's what happens when you're a 21-year-old me, having stayed up till 2 a.m. to finish a suspense novel. And when it so happens that the main character (a single young woman) wakes up to find some psychopath leering over her bed even though the deadbolt was fastened and the windows were locked. Shiver.
Fear can drive us to the brink of the ridiculous. (As above.)
But sometimes, fear isn't silly in the light of day. It's toxic. And it's a toxin we don't even know we're ingesting.
Fear can keep us from sending an important letter, having a vital conversation, making a new friend, letting go of the familiar. It's scary to leave the “kiddie end” of certainty and head for “deep water” of uncertainty. You know, the 9-foot end where the diving board is. That end. Oh, yes, we're going there. To the not safe, the less-than-sure bet, the downright scary.
Fear is a thief. It steals peace of mind, wholeness in relationships, and breaches (or exposes a breach in) your connection with God.
- If fear of losing someone keeps you from fully engaging emotionally...you are making them lose you.
- If fear of failing keeps you from living out your full potential...you are living self-handicapped. The world is not as bright, not as beautiful as it could be, because it is missing what you could bring to the table.
- If fear of the unknown keeps you from daring to be you...your personality is shrinking and withering as we speak.
- If fear of ridicule is keeping you inside your shell, unable to connect authentically...you are missing out on community and all the benefits of being fully known, and fully accepted as you are. There really ARE those kind of people in the world...you know, the kind that will genuinely and truly like you.
Is there a way to flip fear on its ugly head? If we pick up our towels and head for the deep end, will we thrash and drown?
Sometimes, it takes just one person being brave even when they're scared.
Could we do that? Who knows what kind of chain reaction we might trigger?
I bet you've thought it through a thousand times, what it would feel like to fail, to fall powerless into the arms of the scary, to have the oxygen squeezed out slowly and mercilessly. Did it ever cross your mind that you might not fail? You might get the job, or you might find the love of your life, or that the kids might make it home safely from school, or that really, he's not cheating on you. And those people who might laugh? They might. Or, they might not. Maybe they are as paralyzed by fear of failure as you are. Maybe even if they laughed, they would secretly wish they had the guts to put themselves out there.
Haven't you gotten sick and tired of living leashed to what if? I am so done with it. Maybe we could start to ask, what if not? What if I don't step out? What will I be giving up by staying paralyzed by fear? What will I squeeze to death by gripping it so tightly? Maybe, if we were honest, we'd realize that we're already living half-dead and gasping because of the death-grip fear's got on us.
And even if...will it kill you? So it is the worst. It happened. What now? Are you abandoned and alone? Never. Hebrews 13:5-8 reminds us that God is not one to walk out on His promises. And He promises never to leave you, never to forsake you. As bad as this life is, for the Christ-follower, that's the worst it will ever be. To those who are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, THIS is as bad as it gets. As my Dad always said, "This is the only hell I will ever know."
Surely, there is an antidote to this poison. A life preserver for the scary end.
Turns out, there is. When I read that "perfect love casts out fear," I feel rejected and riddled with the imperfections of my loving. Because, surely, if only I loved better, I would not live so fearful. But that, it turns out, is not the case. It's not our imperfect loving, but our imperfect comprehension of God's love for us that lets fear get a stranglehold.
Perfect love - His, not ours - casts out fear.When we know we are perfectly loved, the fear has no answer. Love is your life preserver. It keeps your soul afloat when there is nothing left to hold on to.
Stepping off the diving board is still scary. We might fail. We might flail. Or maybe... we will find a buoyancy we never knew was possible. Because perfect love cuts the dead weight of fear that pulls our head under water, and there is nothing, nothing that can mess with His perfect love for us. When we understand that, we can stop the frantic thrashing and float.
Flipping fear on its head is not just for us. Others are watching. Maybe, when our fears start falling like dominoes, someone else could find their way out of prison.
There's a lot at stake. What if not, remember? Love is contagious, and perfect love is downright irresistible. It is only the unfailing love of Jesus that can lift the crushing weight of fear off of anyone's chest. We can point them there. We can lead the way from the kiddie end to the diving board, and all the gradations in between. But we have to be willing to jump in ourselves, to accept His perfect love that covers over all our deficiencies, and do the hard work of trusting instead of fearing.
We can do this.
How do I know? Well, I've grown a little since my leave-the-light-on days. When I'm tempted to fear, I try to catch myself and buckle on the life preserver of His love right away. (Because, for me, when fear gains any kind of momentum, it takes exponentially longer to stop it.) Some practical ways I "buckle up":
· Say the name of Jesus. It really does help!
· Repeat Scriptures that have to do with fear and God's perfect love. A few favorites are 2 Timothy 1:7, John 14:27, Joshua 1:9, Matthew 6:34, and Isaiah 43:1. You can find more here.
· Pray for God to fill me with peace. Affirm my trust for Him, and ask Him for freedom from fear.
Flipping fear is the best thing we can do for ourselves, for our families and loved ones.
We were never meant to live helpless and scared, cowering under the covers waiting for the worst to happen.
The worst already happened on a hill just outside Jerusalem, and all the powers of darkness partied for three long days. But then...
Love struck a mortal blow to evil, and we don't ever have to go back.
Jesus is the difference. He always is. You can turn the light off and go to sleep, because this Jesus light lives in you, and the real darkness runs whimpering and defeated from Him.
Don't let anything, not even fear, tell you different.
Saved by grace alone, Kelly Canfield is a stay at home wife, homeschooling mom, and recovering perfectionist. She is a passionate Jesus-lover, married to her best friend and hero, Joe. Together they are raising 3 lively children (ages 5, 2, and almost 1). She enjoys strong coffee, great books, and quiet time (a rare commodity.) At nap time you can find her over at www.searchingformyeden.com, where she blogs about the trials and triumphs of marriage, motherhood, and following Jesus. Her first eBook,Tired: Living Fully Engaged Through The Weary Season is coming out soon.