Fear is a liar—but why doesn’t that seem true when we are feeling scared? We know in our heads that we should not be afraid because we have been taught all the scriptures. We try to do a Taylor Swift and “shake it off,” but it doesn’t always work. I have been known to march up and down at my home saying scriptures like this one repeatedly in an attempt to combat fear. Maybe if we just read our Bibles more, or sin less, be a better Christian then we won’t feel afraid any longer. The problem with these things (which are good things!) is that they are based on a self striving, rather than leaning into His strength.
There are ways to unlearn the habits that come with fear. More often it’s what we do when we feel afraid that compounds our pain. Fear can actually be a gift in that it helps us not do stupid things like drive too fast with no seat belt, or allow our children to jump off the roof of the house! However, the truth is that God never designed human beings to live in a pervasive state of fear. We are hard-wired for love. How can we be honest about feeling scared and simultaneously decide and act based on faith and love?
These are the steps that He has taught me over the last 22 years:
1. Own it
Be real—with yourself and with Jesus. He already knows every one of our fears—we need to trust Him enough to speak to Him openly about them instead of pretending not to feel afraid. He is gentle, patient and kind. He will never force us to look the fear straight in the face. He will wait until we are ready. When we do open up and be vulnerable before Him, it is an act of faith. We are expressing our trust in Him when we do that—which is the opposite of what fear wants you to do.
2. Take a time out
Take some time for yourself and Jesus alone to process. Invite the Holy Spirit to show you what is underneath the fear. You see, fear is actually a cover-all emotion, similar to anger. It is hardly ever the root feeling. Usually, there will be any one of a number of emotions sitting under the fear. Possible emotions under the fear: sadness, despair, loneliness, rejection, trauma, vulnerability.
3. Ask questions and wait
Where does this underlying feeling come from? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you on this. Sit quietly in His presence and wait on Him. He knows, and He will show you. It could be anything from failing an exam, to a strained relationship, to childhood wounds. You don’t have to go digging—remember it’s His work to reveal truth to you in His great kindness.
Once you have received insight from Him, ask Him for wisdom around how to deal with it. He may lead you to forgive someone, or yourself, or do something you have been putting off.
4. Go deeper
Ask Jesus: “What am I believing in this thing that is causing me to feel so afraid/lonely/rejected?” Usually, there is an untruth sitting underneath those feelings—and that is the root issue. It could be something like, “The world is not safe, I am not safe,” or “I am unlovable,” or “Everything I touch turns to dust.” These untruths hurt, and they feel really true. False beliefs are most often about ourselves, God and/or the world. Once you have a sense of what these untruths might be, you can take the plunge and break your agreement with them. A simple prayer declaration like this: “Father, thank you for showing me that I have been believing that you are not a good Father and that I am alone in the world. I break my agreement with that untruth and I ask your forgiveness for believing that. I choose in faith not to believe that any longer.”
5. Seal the truth
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you, to give you something to fill the space where that previous lie was. Sometimes He will express that new truth as a feeling, a thought, a scripture, a deep peace or a vision—usually, He will communicate it in a way that you best receive His truth. Once you have received His truth right into the heart of what was causing you pain, you will experience His love on a whole new level. His presence in the root of your hurt will unpick those fear stitches sewn into your life story and help you unlearn fear responses one day at a time. I tend to finish by soaking in His presence with a time of worship to allow those new truths to sink deep into my soul.