We all experience fear.
Sometimes, a dose of fear can be beneficial, keeping us away from a dangerous situation such as a hot stove or walking on busy railroad tracks. That is likely fear’s intended design – self-preservation.
But for many, fear can take over our lives like weeds in an overgrown garden. It becomes self-destructive and controlling, preventing us from enjoying the day ahead of us or experiencing any peace or joy. Fear can lead to serious and crippling emotional and mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, and can also be the hidden root cause of a short temper, simmering anger or a boiling rage.
God knows all about fear, and its harmful effects. He wants to remove it from our lives, leaving only the kinds that will help protect us or guide our decisions towards the good. He wants to be the only true “fear” in our lives – not a trembling terror, but a healthy reverence, healing our troubled or hurting spirit with the balm of faith and love.
God spoke this gentle message to His people through the prophet Isaiah, and is still calling out for us to seek His comfort today:
1 But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; Isaiah 43:1-3a NKJV
Difficult times will come to all of us – no one is exempt. But we do have a loving God to reach out to when we feel threatened by the rising waters of difficult circumstances, or about to be consumed by the fire of a trial. He is our caring Savior and promises to carry us through all of our troubles.
Once we have presented our stresses, anxieties, and concerns to the Lord, seeking His help, what do we do next? We are likely still stirred up within as we wait for Him to deliver us through our crisis.
If there are still things within our control that we are able to do, we do them, but often we have done all we can by this point. And what about all those things that we cannot change or control? What can we do to keep them from playing and replaying within our heads?
One helpful tool is the concept of a God bag or a God box. After praying, we write down on a piece of paper all the worries or troubles we face and place them in a bag or box, then put it out of our sight. By doing this, we reinforce to ourselves that we have handed them over into the care of a loving God, and our causes for anxiety are all in His hands now. This tool is a small, but tangible aid to help us relax a bit and remember that our struggles have indeed been given to God. We can rest while we let Him fight our battles.
If we again become consumed with fret and worry about the situation, we have in essence taken back our worry out of the God box to carry it ourselves again. If we find ourselves doing this, and we all do it, we put our worries back in the box, trusting God to help us through our trial. It is such a simple tool to use, but it really does work.
In my life, I have had my own battles with fear. In my younger days, I often used alcohol as a crutch to smooth over fear, never actually dealing with or processing the problems, but letting them fester for another day. It worked for a while, but eventually stopped helping, leading to more and more unresolved problems and tensions.
God let me know that there was a better way to live and helped me to give up the alcohol for good, which was His will for me. But this left me with a bundle of unresolved issues in my being from years of neglect, and no knowledge of how to process or handle them. One day, all of these fears began to pour out of my core in a crippling wave. Things that had never bothered me before were starting to bring overwhelming stress, such as driving over a narrow bridge or speaking with people in a social or business setting. My confidence suddenly waned and a feeling of personal inferiority and insecurity rose. The waters of fear were threatening to overflow me, and the fires of distress were getting closer to burning and scorching. None of these were logical or beneficial fears, but were all quite real to me and emotionally very painful.
Then, like the alcohol, God made a way for me to escape my cloud of fear and to move beyond it to experience a joyful and satisfying life. This did not all happen overnight, but it got better a little at a time. He gave me several spiritual tools to use – prayer, journaling, support groups, the God box, and the support of loving friends. Finally, one day I realized that all my irrational fears were gone, and only a few reasonable and helpful fears were left. From time to time, the old terrors do threaten to return, but for the most part, they have never owned or controlled me again. I am free.
If you find yourself today going through an episode of painful fear, anxiety, or depression, let us take this to the Lord together. He will make a way of escape for you, too.
Father, thank You for promising to carry us through any overwhelming floods or the burning fires of fear. Make a way for us to escape the curse of its cloud, instead blessing us to see Your glorious light, and leading us to freedom, security and peace. Grant us Your joy and serenity as we seek to follow and walk with You in love. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.