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How to Overcome Fear

How can I overcome fear in my life?  This is a common question.  The past few months, I’ve had opportunity to correspond on this topic.  Here are some thoughts on the subject which I believe will prove helpful to you if you are dealing with fear.


The dark.  Strangers.  Financial failure.  Disease.  Cancer.  Accidents.  Hunger.  Death.


These are all part of the many faces of the same enemy:  fear.


Fear is a powerful weapon which can be used to paralyze an enemy.  Snakes use it to seemingly charm their victims into a frozen state in which they cannot seem to flee the advance of certain death.  A lion’s roar is meant to do the same.


If you are struggling with fear, you don’t need a lot of explanation as to what it can do in your life or even how terrible it is to suffer.  What you need are some directions on how to overcome this enemy.  Let’s begin by looking a little bit at what fear is and how it operates.  Then, let’s look at specific ways you can overcome fear.



What Fear Is

One dictionary defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.”  In other words, you can be stressed out and experience the feeling of doom or danger even if there is nothing wrong or about to happen.  Or you can have those feelings while a snake is wrapping itself around your leg.

The key to understand here is that perception of fear is as important (and sometimes MORE important) than the fact of the danger.


Think of a child who has never seen or learned the danger of a poisonous spider.  They may approach it as if it’s just another bug and try to pick it up.  Although there may be a real danger, the child shows us that without the perception of danger, one need not FEEL the emotion of fear.


Likewise, the perception of fear may at times be clouded by other emotions which are stronger.  Most of us have heard stories of a mother who rescued her child from the path of a car or a parent who risked life or limb to save a loved one.  When asked later how they were able to overcome the fear of danger, their reaction is often, “I was only thinking of my child.  I didn’t really give thought to the danger I was in myself.”


Another fact we must consider is that fear is also a spiritual matter.  Scripture tells us that there is a “spirit of fear.”  This helps us to realize that sometimes in our lives, we are not simply dealing with our own weakness of heart or mind but an actual spiritual entity which is at work trying to make us afraid.



How Fear Operates

Whether an emotion or a demonic force, fear accomplishes it’s goal by causing us to focus on ONE piece of information about the situation we are facing.  Here’s an example:  suppose you are walking down a path in a zoo, see someone dressed in the uniform of a zookeeper, and this person tells you that a gorilla has escaped.  You walk away from them, and just seconds later hear a roar in the bushes and see a hairy arm begin to part the branches.  You immediately are conditioned to focus on the thought that THIS is the gorilla which escaped and that your life is possibly in danger.


What you do not see is that 50-100 feet away from you in three different locations are cameras set up to record your actions as you fall for a prank.  You don’t have the information that the “zookeeper” is an actor, the gorilla is a man in a monkey suit, and the people who are going to see you on film are going to have a good time laughing at you.


Now, not everything we face in life is a prank, but the principles are the same.  Where you focus determines what you perceive about reality.


The enemy of your soul wants you to perceive that his weapons are deadly and final.  He wants you to believe in your heart that you are doomed.  He wants you to become so focussed on the potential for bad happening to you that you forget that there is a God in heaven who wills good for you.



Ways to Overcome Fear

Understanding a little bit about our enemy and how it works enables us to find ways to counteract these attacks.  Three of these tools are remember, believe and act.


First, we must be willing to remember.  Remember that God is sovereign, that He still rules in the affairs of men, that He is a loving God who has good things in store for you and that He wants to reveal Himself to you as a loving Father.


Remember the ways in which God has proven Himself faithful to you in the past.  Remember the times you already thought you were going to be doomed in the past, but somehow, some way God came through.


Remember that Christ died for you, that the God who did not withhold your greatest need (a Savior) will not hold back any lesser need.


And remember, as a believer in Jesus, that He is your personal high priest before God who is praying for you in God’s presence.


All of this boils down to turning your focus away from the one fact or piece of information that you have about the danger facing you and putting your focus on the God who is over all of creation.  That makes sense doesn’t it?


Second, it is imperative to believe.  This is where you must make a conscious choice to esteem God as bigger than your problem.


There are some who try to turn faith into a practice of denial.  It isn’t.  Jesus Himself acknowledge that “Lazarus is dead.”  But He was also glad for His disciples’ sake that this occurred so they might have their faith increased and learn to believe that their Messiah could deliver from a four day death.  Believing does not require you to deny that you have a problem or a danger confronting you.  Instead, believing simply means that you look up to God and address Him as the One who is committed to saving you.


Think of the Psalms.  Over and over we read  of the psalmist’s complaint, we discover the danger, we listen to the fear in their words.  But they turn their focus up to God as if to say, “Well, here’s the big mess I’m in.  How are you going to fix it?”


God delights in that.  He looks throughout the earth to find people who will trust in Him so He can show Himself strong in their dangers and problems.  You must choose to believe.


It’s not a feeling.  Faith is not something you work up.  It’s the direction you point your face when troubles hit.  Down?  You’re focussed on things as they are.  Up?  You are expecting God to be your help, even though you don’t know how or when.


Finally, we must be willing to act.  The sparrow which remains motionless, the gazelle which refuses to run, and the person who hesitates to act are headed toward a common destiny:  becoming their enemy’s lunch.


At the very least, you can cry out to God.  When Peter was walking on the water (which required a lot of faith, by the way) and suddenly switched his focus from Jesus to the wind and the waves, he really didn’t have time for a seminar or a sermon.  But he was also not above admitting that he was about to drown.  In his time of fear, he did what he could:  he called out to Jesus.  “Help me!”  Jesus didn’t rebuke him first.  He saved him first.  Then he rebuked him for his lack of faith once he was safe again.  Remember, Peter walked back to the boat on the water with Jesus.  Jesus not only saved Peter, but He also helped him return to that level of victory which he had when he first got out of the boat.


We can also act by moving forward.  That sounds ridiculous sometimes, but it’s true.  The Old Testament is full of the stories of deliverance, stories of God’s people having insufficient numbers or resources and being told that they should advance against a larger, more powerful enemy.  Do you really think that every single soldier in the army ALWAYS felt safe when they were doing that?  No way.  I’m sure many of them felt fear.  But courage is not the absence of fear.  It is acting out what needs to be done even though you may be afraid.


One final way to act is to make a sacrifice, trusting God to take care of the rest.  There ultimately is a time to die for each of us.  The fact of death holds no fear for the person who is committed to the truth of Jesus Christ because we know that He holds the key to death and that He will receive our spirit.  So if it is your time to die, it may be that your life is to be offered in such a way that it will result in the salvation of those around you — even your enemies.  This is what happened in the life of Stephen, the first martyr of the church, and it has been echoed throughout history over and over.


Remember, believe and act.  Those are tools which the enemy cannot defeat.



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