During the past several months, I’ve been learning more about how to deal with fear. I’ve always been the fearful type – fear of failure, spiders, flying, change, not measuring up, water, thunderstorms…well, you get the picture. As I continue on this journey of overcoming my fears, I’m so thankful for the individuals God brings into my path to give support, counsel, and inspiration. Each one is a true blessing from Him.
I recently read a quote, “Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop.”[i] Since photography is a favourite hobby of mine, I find this statement insightful. Negative thought patterns pervade the mind that is enslaved by fear. I’m gradually learning how to stop the negative thinking and adopt positive attitudes that are empowering and freeing. It’s hard work and requires effort and discipline, but the rewards are worth every moment it takes.
You know when you get those “a-haaa…” moments? Not long ago, I experienced one when I realized I needed to change a particularphrase I’d been using, “I just want to be free of this lifestyle of fear and anxiety.” Through reading a recommended book[ii], I am gaining a fresh perspective on this issue. Fear and anxiety are always going to be there unless I allow myself to remain in my nice cozy shell that I’ve built around myself. When I begin to step out and face my fears head on the anxiety may build and the fear may rear its ugly head, but I’m moving forward. I’m taking necessary strides to stripping that fear of its hold on me. I begin to control the fear instead of it strangling me. For those who live this struggle daily, you understand how fear can paralyze and keep me from doing what I desire or need to do. As long as I keep waiting for the fear to go away before I take up a challenge, the longer it will take for me to overcome the fear. When I understand that fear is not something I have to get rid of, I feel more freedom.
One fear that grips me is going into situations where there are crowds of people I don’t know. When I’m with my husband, a friend, or someone else familiar to me, I’m able to cope better. What I now recognize is how much I rely on others to enable me to handle an uncomfortable circumstance when I really am able to do it on my own. I shudder as I write this because it’s really hard to push myself like this!
I also like this quote, “To use fear as the friend that it is, we must retrain and reprogram ourselves. We must persistently and convincingly tell ourselves that the fear is here – with its gift of energy and heightened awareness – so we can do our best and learn the most in the new situation.”[iii]
Fear is learned so early in life that we tend to think it is instinctive. Watch a very young child exploring his world and it doesn’t take long to see where his fear comes from – a negative experience, a reprimand, the frightened cry of an older sibling – his natural curiosity turns to hesitancy or withdrawal.
I recently took a couple steps toward facing this fear. First, I attended an event (albeit accompanied by my hubby and another couple)at which I expected to know very few people. Surprisingly, several acquaintances were there whom I had not seen in a while. It was nice to reconnect and know that I had initiated the conversations! Second, I attended a meeting which was long overdue and while I was initially frustrated and disappointed with not finding the building until the meeting was over, I determined to attend the next meeting. I knew no one, but I did it and I’ll be going back!
Fears are my enemies. The more I learn about them, the more I discover how they keep me from achieving what God has designed for my life. The Psalmist said, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.’” (Psalm 35:4)
As David said in Psalm 34:4, “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” I praise God that this is becoming a reality for me!
Until next Sunday,
[ii] Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers, 1987, 2007, Ballantine Books, New York