Part 2 of a 2-Part Series on Fear
What are you afraid of? Illness, rejection, suffering, financial loss, death, loneliness, natural disaster? Fear is a basic human emotion that we have all felt in varying degrees. However, left unbridled fear can develop into a chronically destructive mindset. A person who suffers from chronic fear filters their life through the belief that “something bad is always going to happen to me.” In my previous article, I discussed four ways in which fear steals from our quality of life. 1) Fear steals our hope for the future. It deceives us into thinking that the worst case scenario is inevitable and therefore reduces us to living in despair, hardship, and failure. 2) Fear attacks our identity, reducing us down to our feelings of weakness and powerlessness. 3) Fear robs our peace by tormenting our mind with harassing thoughts. 4) Fear steals our destiny and convinces us to back down and hide. In this second article in my two-part series on fear, I discuss three domains that fear seeks to injure.
Fear Steals a Sound Mind
Fear chains your mind to worry. Worrying is form of mental torture that is driven by fear. If you observe your anxious thoughts, you will notice that every worry is attached to a fear. For example, John constantly worries about what people think of him because he is afraid of rejection. Fear says, “You must worry. You need to be scared of this.” When we agree with fear, we become entrenched in a battle of chronic worry. The mind of a worrier is one that is overwhelmed with insecurity, confusion, and unrelenting doubt. Worriers are preoccupied with “what might occur.” What if I am involved in a car accident? What if I get cancer? What if my spouse has an affair? Worriers are excessively concerned with problems. They ruminate on negative thoughts that often keep them awake at night. Worriers are highly sensitive to their environment, frequently scanning it for possible threats and are prone to anxiety and panic attacks. And when stressful events occur, worriers react quickly and intensely. Just thinking about their fears causes them great emotional, mental, and physiological distress.
Instead of telling fear and worry what to do, many people allow it to control them. Ironically, people worry in order to control their fears because they believe the lie that worrying can prevent bad things from happening, bring solutions, or help to prepare them. Worriers are intolerant of uncertainty and need things to be clear and definite. In the midst of their worrying, fear tempts people with “answers” to their questions. For example, Sally has experienced increased joint pain in the last month. Her doctors are unable to give her an explanation and the ambiguity of her condition is tormenting her. Fear suggests to Sally, “You have bone cancer.” Sally desperately grabs hold of this terrifying thought and starts to fixate and prepare for the worst. Unable to wait for the truth, she settles for the lie.
Fear Creates a Distorted Picture of God
Fear paints dark pictures. When you operate under the influence of fear, you come to view your circumstances as powerful and God as ineffective. I don’t know about you, but when I’m afraid God appears to be distant, cold, powerless, and uncaring – as if God somehow has His hands tied behind His back and says, “Yep you are on your own on this one.” Let’s expose the deception of fear. At the core of fear are the lies that “God doesn’t love me. He can’t be trusted. He will not take care of me. He is unable to help me.” Chronic fear shows us that someone does not truly know God’s nature. David was able to face Goliath because he knew that God was for him. But when we partner with fear, we doubt the goodness and love of a perfect Heavenly Father. Fear wants you to agree with its counsel over God’s word. James 1:8 says that a double-minded man is unstable and restless, like a wave in the sea that is tossed by the wind. Isn’t this an accurate picture of what it is like to be afraid? Double-minded comes from the Greek word dipsuchos, which means “a person with two minds or souls.” Fear always brings doubt and questioning. In Mark 4 Jesus was asleep in the boat during a storm and the disciples questioned him for sleeping because they were afraid, saying “Do you not care that we are about to die?” Fear caused the disciples to forget the character of Jesus, the one whom the wind and waves obey.
Fear Compromises Your Health
Fear activates the fight or flight response, a survival mechanism that prepares your body to react to a perceived threat. In the face of danger, your body releases stress hormones in order to mobilize your body for action. These increase your heart rate, accelerate breathing, energize muscles, slow digestion, intensify awareness, quicken impulses, and sharpen eye sight. In fear mode, the brain short-circuits your rational processing and is on high alert and ready to react. Your brain interprets your environment as negative and perceives almost everything as a threat.
The problem is that our bodies were never meant to experience this heightened level of stress on a regular basis. Chronic stress creates a build-up of cortisol levels in the blood that wreaks havoc on your body, mind, and emotions. Do you experience headaches, an upset stomach, low energy, teeth grinding, insomnia, tense muscles, and poor concentration? How about depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or irritability? Are you living from crisis to crisis? If so, your body might be telling you that you are in fight or flight mode and need to address your stress overload. The long-term effects of excessive stress can create chronic health problems such as ulcers, acid reflux, heart burn, suppressed immune function, irritable bowel, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular damage, fatigue, and decreased fertility. Because of the need to escape from their fear, chronic fear also puts people at risk of developing addictions.
Christian Counseling to Overcome Fear
Do you feel burdened by fear? Are you tired of worrying? Do you feel distant from God? Is your health declining? As a Christian counselor, I have learned that the first step to resisting fear is to listen to your internal warning light and to seek help. Please contact me to find out more about how Christian counseling can help you to work on an exit strategy out fear.
“Hiding Lady,” courtesy of milo51, pixabay.com,CC0 Public Domain License; “Chain-Chained by Fear,” courtesy of Tante Tati, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “I see the light,” courtesy of Dee Ashley, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)