My earliest memories of fear are primarily what I would consider the smaller, innocent side of fear. Fears along the lines of not liking rats or being afraid of the dark. Thinking that there is a boogyman in the closet or under my bed. In the darkness of my bedroom, I would see an eerie shadow and think it was a bad guy in my room. If I dared, I would turn on the lights only to find out it was my hooded jacket hanging behind my bedroom door. Growing up, I was blessed to live in a home where my fears were limited to these type of things. For the longest time, this was the extent of my fear, but it wouldn’t always be this way.
Acknowledging My Blessings
I must stop here for a moment to acknowledge and thank God that I have been blessed to grow up not knowing the vast range of fears many children deal with everyday. I was privileged to have two wonderful parents and to live in the comforts of a middle-class home in the United States. I have parents who love me dearly, always looking out for my best interest from birth. I always had food, clothing, shelter and never knew what it was to go without any of these basic necessities. I grew up attending church and came to know God at a very young age. I thank God for all of these blessings growing up. I realize now just how privileged I was and how fortunate I am today.
Regardless of where your personal experience with fear began, at some point you might find yourself fed up with fear. For one person, it might be that you are tired of fear holding you back from reaching your full potential. For another this might mean crawling out from the weight of a clinical diagnosis of fear and anxiety. Whatever this looks like for you, know that there is hope and victory ahead of you. In my personal path, one of the most beneficial things I have found is a proper understanding of fear itself.
It's Not All Bad
For every person this journey will look somewhat different, but there are some commonalities we can explore together. First off, we need to realize that fear is NOT all bad. Looking at fear, there is what I will refer to as healthy fear, which helps humans respond appropriately to real danger. Our brain is constantly monitoring our environment, which allows us to respond accordingly when something poses harm to us or those around us.
The human brain is a magnificent creation, one which we should thank God for blessing us with. Our bodies send signals to the brain and alerts the brain to enable us to respond to our body's needs. Our bodies tell our brain when they do not have enough food to eat or water to drink. The brain archives a vast amount of information including personal memories, facts, how to complete simple or complex tasks, and much more. The brain has a built-in, fight or flight response, allowing humans to properly respond to danger. Fear is one of the body's God-given responses to danger. What we should realize is that all fear is NOT bad.
The fears I discussed in the opening paragraph are what are commonly referred to as phobias. Fears which are very real and can lead to people being utterly paralyzed by their feelings, but in most cases do not drastically hinder the lives of their beholders. For instance, someone who is afraid of heights might shy away from ledges, ladders or leaping from tall buildings, but most likely their fear of heights would not keep them from holding down a job. Someone who is afraid of spiders or bugs might need help relocating the occasional bug in their home, but their phobia won't prevent them from living their life.
In no way do I want to diminish phobias, the challenges they present or the way they can inhibit their beholders. They are very real and can be debilitating for many. For some individuals, phobias can really impede life. For others, phobias are simply annoying, but that is the extent of it. Admittedly, phobias are not something I have a great amount of in-depth experience with. For this reason and because I feel that I do not have a lot to add to the conversation, I will choose to focus on other areas of fear.
Our fears come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, but they come nonetheless. Fear, phobias, and fearfulness all deal along similar lines, but have drastically different outcomes attached to them. While healthy fear is a blessing and our phobias might frustrate us or get in our way, ongoing, persistent fearfulness IS quite dangerous. Rest assured, if fear is given free-reign, a spirit of fear will come and settle in, crowding out every other biological guard God has given the brain to help us make good decisions.
A Spirit of Fear
Let's dig in to a spirit of fear. This spirit of fear is a persistent sense of fearfulness. It is often the result of consistent, unchecked lies and fear over a period of time. Fearfulness is often reinforced by traumatic events. It is infectious, overwhelming, jealous, and does not play well with others. This is what we as human beings MUST protect ourselves from.
Where Does It Come From?
For many, a persistent sense of fearfulness doesn't simply show up on our doorsteps. So how does it come about? For some, a single, catastrophic event occurs which changes their lives forever. A few examples of this might be the Oklahoma City bombing or 911. These are major, traumatic events which impact those involved forever.
In other cases, a spirit of fear comes about from a combination of lies, events and circumstances over a period of time. The latter option has been what I experienced personally. Looking back, I can see some of the factors which greatly contributed to me developing a spirit of fear. In no way does this cover all of the possible scenarios, but I believe these two categories go a long way in explaining where a spirit of fear comes from.
What Can We Do About It?
Depending on your view of the world, the answer to this question is going to look drastically different. And even though I am a follower of Jesus Christ, I spent a long time trying to combat my fearfulness without God's help. I tested many of modern medicine’s solutions and I did a lot of dabbling in modern psychology. I do not pretend to have exhausted every worldly option in treating fear. What I did find was that fighting fear without God's help left me feeling depressed, exhausted, and hopeless. It was a very dark place and I never want to go back there.
A Modern Misunderstanding
Please do not misunderstand my comments in the preceding paragraphs above. I firmly believe in both modern medicine and psychology. I just believe they are only part of the picture. After many unsuccessful attempts to handle fear in my own strength, I reluctantly turned to God. What I found was no magic pill, no smoking bullet, but the truth. In future posts, I will dive deeper into the truth that I found, but now let us move on to what the Bible says about battling fear.
“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
A Biblical Approach To Fighting Fearfulness
So what exactly does the Bible say about fighting fear? In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT, Paul provides great insight on how believers fight. And while some might argue that the passage does not specifically cite fear plainly, it does speak directly to strongholds, arguments and "... every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God..." Take a look...
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. "
While the passage in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT does not speak to fear, it does speak directly to strongholds. The definition of a stronghold according to Merriam-Webster is, "a fortified place, a place of security or survival, a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic." Let us be clear, Paul is not talking about a building here. Instead he is referring to a spiritual stronghold in our mind.
Engaging In Battle
I believe that we all bring our own vision of what it means to engage in battle. I want to be intentional here and slow down. As you will see in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT, we all must lay aside our preconceived notions about war and battle. It is time to look at fear and fearfulness with fresh eyes. Even though God can and sometimes does perform a miraculous healing, we need to acknowledge that this is tough work. Healing will take time. I promise to be transparent and acknowledge that I do not have all the answers. Last, I believe it is important to know that often fearfulness reveals to us a deeper problem. So with that understanding, let us dive into what it means to engage in battle.
This Is Tough Work
First, I want to acknowledge that battling fear and anxiety is not easy, it is tough work. These ideas are helpful, but they aren’t a magic pill. To finding healing, you must do the hard work. I don’t want to diminish that fact. If you do not have a counselor or pastor to talk to, I strongly believe having someone to speak to is invaluable here. To really break free and find the healing you desire, you will need to really dig in. Are you ready to do the work?
A Moment Of Transparency
The ideas that I mention here are things I continue to learn. I do not have everything figured out. ;) These are things which no one would tell me, but seem to be at the center of finding victory over anxiety and fear. Because these ideas involve faith, they quickly draw criticism from believers and nonbelievers alike. I am all about practical tools and modern medicine, but I have yet to find someone who teaches the spiritual component of battling anxiety and what I call a spirit of fear.
The Problem Beneath The Problem
At the center of fear and anxiety is our relationship with God. It is not just about trusting in God. Fear, anxiety, and persistent fearfulness involve trauma and events in our daily lives. It is not as easy as saying, “You just need to trust God more and you will be fine.” Traumatic events reinforce our greatest fears. They also create the perfect scenario for lies to creep into our internal dialogue. Discovering and addressing this takes time, but is worthy of our attention.
Now that we have that out of the way, let us dive in.
How To Engage In Battle
We Fight Differently
Before we dive in to battle there is something we need to understand as believers. First of all, we need to understand what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT. As believers we fight differently. "We do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world..." So throw out everything you know about battle. We approach the fight, in this case fearfulness, different than the world does. Next, we should note that Paul says we use different weapons. So two important things to note from this passage in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT, our approach and our weapons for war are different.
Note: If you would like a different perspective, I would encourage you to look at 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT in several different Bible translations. A few translations reference the fight as spiritual warfare.
Acknowledge the Battle
As we begin our march into battle with the knowledge that we do things differently, our first step is to acknowledge the battle we are in as followers of Jesus Christ. I must warn you, if you choose to ignore or somehow belittle the battle that you are facing, you will fail to give it the attention it deserves. The reality of following Jesus is that all followers of Jesus Christ are engaged in a battle against our enemy, the devil. See Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT and 1 Peter 5:8 and Ephesians 6:13 NLT, just to name a few.
“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NLT
“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”
Ephesians 6:13 NLT
It’s Time To Get Real
We must acknowledge or confront the battle we face. If you are plagued by fear and anxiety, you need to acknowledge the battle. It is time to get alone with God, ask him to help you see the battle you are facing. If you truly seek victory over your fear, you must start here. You are in a battle.
“You cannot correct what you are unwilling to confront.” -Craig Groeschel
Live With An Awareness Of Our Enemy
I understand that there are a lot of skeptics who might be snickering at the title of this section. Please understand, I try to be cautious when attributing anything to our enemy, the Devil a.k.a. Satan. You see, growing up as a Christian, it seemed like a lot of things got blindly blamed on the Devil. Often this blaming would get out of hand.
It is easy for this blame game to become a cliché of sorts if we are not careful. Don’t get me wrong, I fully acknowledge and encourage others to live with an awareness that the devil is at work in our world. I just take caution not to blame everything on the devil. All of this to say that when I make a point to acknowledge our enemy, I do not say this lightly.
I believe that if Jesus took time to acknowledge and be aware of the work of our enemy, we should also live with this awareness. For examples you can look at Luke 22:31-32, John 17:15, and the Lord’s Prayer in Mathew 6:13.
In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT, Paul begins by talking about how we wage war as believers. He then leads us to the weapons of war. In life and in your battle against fearfulness, we use different weapons as believers. This does not mean that we cannot use practical tools to help in our battle against fear. I fully believe there are many practical tools to help us deal with our fear. What I am saying is that we should not limit our arsenal to only these tools. These tools are often part of the solution, but are not the only solution.
“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10 NLT
The devil’s method of achieving his mission is getting God’s children to accept lies as truth. At the center of fear is often lies and deception. One way we fight differently is to use God’s truth to tear down the lies which we are believing as truth. When Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4, Luke 4:1, Mark 1:12), his weapon of choice was God’s Word. The more time you spend with God studying the Bible, the better prepared you will be to fight off the lies of the enemy.
While lies are definitely at the center, another component to fear might involve trauma. I cannot speak for everyone, but a big part of my healing has involved addressing trauma. Remember, this is tough work. I highly encourage finding a pastor or counselor who is equipped to help you process any unresolved trauma. I cannot adequately address trauma in one paragraph or even one article. Trauma is unique to the individual and is essential to our healing. Do not overlook this one.
The Holy Spirit
I would be doing my readers a significant disservice if I do not at least mention the Holy Spirit here. The Holy Spirit is a HUGE component to combating fearfulness. In later posts, I will take a deep dive into this topic. For now, know that one of the major “different weapons” involves the Holy Spirit.
I understand that fear, phobias, and fearfulness are complex. It took me over 3k words to get to this point. So if you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me. Know that while what I addressed here is a big deal, it is only part of the larger story on a Spirit of Fear.
*Photo by Ryan Miguel Capili from Pexels