As little children we are afraid of the dark and the boogeyman under our bed. Perhaps this is why a movie like “Monster’s Inc.” can be so successful. We all relate. As we get older, the fear forms around more specific events and people: the bully in the school yard, on the internet or at work. Past life experiences we interpreted as creating shame in us. Our thought life becomes more negative as we constantly replay mind tapes that confirm we are unlovable, inadequate and don’t belong.
Fast forward to our adult years where circumstances of life overwhelm us and fill our hearts with fear. There are fear conditions we have no control over such as our family of origin, genetics, personality type and traumatic events of the past. As adults it is no longer the boogeyman under the bed that terrorizes us. It is real people, places, events from our past and the unknowns of the future that do so. Eventually our fears must be faced and conquered, so they no longer exercise power over our life and relationships.
The real consequences
The scriptures tell us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4.18). Fear in all its forms is about something bad that may happen. So a fearful, anxious person begins to set up walls of protection. This results in isolation and avoidance of life itself. However, let’s look even deeper into the cause of humanity’s fears. We were not originally designed by God to be fearful. God told Adam how to maintain this fear free life: live by faith. Believe and obey God and he would live forever.
Enter Satan who attacked Adam and Eve’s faith. “Eat from the tree you won’t die.” The moment they did fear came into their lives because of the broken relationship with God (Genesis 3.811). Now they had plenty of potential bad things to worry about because of the curse on the creation. What we learn from this story is the real purpose of fear from Satan: to divide us from God. God doesn’t give us the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1.7). That is why He tells us so often to “fear not.” Fear results in an estranged relationship from God along with the inability to enjoy the life God has designed for us. We live in emotional torment worrying about all the “what ifs” of life. But most of all we are unable to live in a way that pleases God: faith (Hebrews 11.6). We will not grow spiritually or be able to carry out the full purpose and potential of our life. This is exactly Satan’s purpose for fear. It is a bigger spiritual issue than just our own misery.
How to attack and overcome it
There are psychological tools, techniques and medicines that can be helpful to people in dealing with their fear.
However, to defeat fear start at the root, my relationship with God. There may be many things I am afraid of but if I keep peeling back the onion the core of all fear has to do with the God relationship. You may say, “I don’t believe in God.” This is called denial, the rejection or dismissal of a life reality or truth. The God fears revolve around my life purpose, significance, death, eternity (if there is one), the existence of God, guilt and judgment. Some core questions in regard to this fear are: Am I good enough for God, will He accept me? What happens when I die? Why did God allow this to happen to me? Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to face your fears. In psychological terms this is called exposure therapy.
Identify your fear and who or what are you afraid of. Confront the fear voices in your head with rational thoughts.
Would most people be afraid of this? Is there any truth to my thoughts or evidence that they are true? Gradually expose yourself to your fear starting in your thoughts, then with a picture and finally in real life. However, remember the true opposite of fear is faith. Faith is how we establish a loving relationship with God (Ephesians 2.89). The source of faith is God’s scripture (Romans 10.17). Develop a regular habit of reading the Bible, memorizing verses that help overcome specific fears and then meditate on these verses.
The greatest remedy for fear is to know God and His love in a deep, intimate and real way. God wants to meet you each morning and remind you He will walk with you through the day and all it holds. “Do not be afraid for I am with you and will never leave you.” He whispers to your soul. The better you come to know God the less you will fear, for God is greater than any boogeyman.
Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach along with his son John Jr. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.