By Christina Li
Sickness, financial troubles, various trials, personal attacks, all these things can cause fear in our lives. What can we do about it? How do we pray?
First of all, we simply must put things into perspective. Jesus was never afraid to talk about Satan or even to speak directly to him. This was because He knew Satan could never defeat Him. No matter what the world or Satan threw, Jesus would always have the ultimate victory and there was nothing the enemy could do about it.
One thing it is important to do is to identify exactly what we fear. For some that will be easy. For others, it is not always so clear. Another way to put it is this: What is holding you back? Sometimes, our fears can be completely emotional, such as fear of failure, fear of success, or fear of looking stupid in front of others. We don’t try new things because we’re afraid.
Another thing to think about is what is feeding our fear? Sometimes, we need to get rid of pride in our lives. Pride can actually hinder us from getting the help we need or taking the risks necessary to realize our dreams. Pride keeps us blinded to our own faults and hinders our growth. How can we change if we don’t acknowledge our need to change? If you or I have a problem saying ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘Can you help me?’ pride is at work. If you or I have a problem saying `You’re right and I’m wrong,’ pride at work. Get rid of it. Proverbs 16:18 says, “First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall,” (The MSG).
If we put things in perspective, we can see how silly it is to be prideful about anything. All our lives we’ve needed help of some kind, whether it was learning to read or simply learning the ropes to our new jobs. We’ve received help from books, from others, and from the Lord, knowingly or unknowingly. How simple it is to let go of our pride and get the help, insight, and even encouragement we need. It is better to live without crippling fear than holding onto both pride and fear. Pride and fear go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other. Of course, Pride says, ‘I’m not afraid.’ Ha! Don’t believe it. Pride is terrified of being found out, because if it is found out, it may be thrown out. Well, good riddance!
Something else that can feed fear and hinder growth in our lives is an unforgiving or bitter attitude. Who haven’t you forgiven in your life?
Was it a family member? Was it a friend who deceived you? Was it a boss who treated you unfairly? Don’t be afraid to look long and hard into your past and root out that bitterness you’ve been harboring. It’s like a weed that needs to be pulled up by the roots. If unforgiveness or bitterness is not dealt with, it is like a cancer in your life. It is a dream killer and will eat you alive.
Sometimes, we have legitimate reasons for being angry and hurt over things done to us. It may be that some person really did do you wrong. It’s okay to acknowledge that. Forgiveness doesn’t mean acting like it never happened. Forgiveness is actually ‘paying for it yourself . I know that doesn’t make sense. Bear with me and I’ll explain. Say you and a friend go out to eat at a restaurant and your friend forgot to bring his wallet. You, being the wonderful person you are pay, pay the two of you and don’t expect your friend to pay you back. You have ‘forgiven’ your friend’s debt. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget it ever happened. The next time you two go out to eat, you will probably make sure your friend has his wallet with money in it on him.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that now you have to trust that person. For instance, say someone robbed your home. They return your stuff and you forgive them. Now, that doesn’t mean that they don’t go to jail and it certainly doesn’t mean that you will let them house-sit for you! Forgiveness and trust are two totally separate things. When someone hurts you, you don’t have to go back and be best friends with that person. What forgiveness does mean is that you won’t hold it against them. You let those feelings go. Of course you had a right to be angry, but don’t let it end there. Don’t hold onto your anger, justified or not. When you hold onto unforgiveness, you let it control you. When you let go of those feelings, they have no power over you anymore.
Keeping things in perspective think of all the rotten things you’ve done in your life. Jesus forgave you. We are commanded to forgive others. Really, this is for our own benefit more than for the person who wronged you. God wants you to be free. Holding onto bitterness is not freedom, it is bondage.
In some ways, forgiveness needs to become a habit. Some hurts can go so deep, that it has to be untangled like a big knot, one string at a time. Every day, sometimes several times a day, we need to decide to forgive that person. Over time, the knot does get untangled and one day, we find ourselves completely free. This is the life God intends for us. Again, however, it is our choice. Which will you choose, bitterness or forgiveness?
Psalm 73:21-28 says it well, “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant—I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do,” (NLT).
Basically, the story behind Psalm 73 is a man was jealous because he worked hard, and all he saw was toil and trouble. The wicked seemed to get on so well. It wasn’t fair. However, this man looked and saw their end and it wasn’t pretty. He realized that no matter what life threw at him, he had the Lord. I love the last few verses: “When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me. You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, GOD is rock-firm and faithful. Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again. But I’m in the very presence of God—oh, how refreshing it is! I’ve made Lord GOD my home. GOD, I’m telling the world what you do!” (MSG).
Basically, I was an idiot, but you didn’t treat me like one. You tenderly led me and then you blessed me with the truth. I am in the very presence of God. How good that is! We have the opportunity to be in the very presence of God, to make God our home. There is no better life (here or in the life to come) than simply walking with Jesus wherever He leads us.
One more thing I’d like to say before leaving the topics of pride and unforgiveness: You can’t have the victory all by yourself.
John Donne said, “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
John Donne got it right in that truly no one can have any kind of life of victory all by himself. A life well lived is lived in community with others.
It’s not your job you’ll think about on your death bed, but those whose lives have touched you and those whose lives you have touched.
However, I think John Donne did miss one thing. We are all a part of the joys and sorrows of one another, but we are also linked inexorably to our Creator. We were created to worship. God wants us to live in victory, but that is impossible without Him. Now, man has done some pretty amazing things without acknowledging God. Think about the tower of Babel. However, to truly live a victorious, joyful, peaceful, abundant life one must live it with God.
My husband made the statement, “So many people live FOR God, but very few actually walk WITH Him.” In order to have the victory in our lives, in order to truly defeat fear forever, we must learn to walk with Jesus. He needs to be a part of every aspect of our lives. He is interested, even in the most mundane things. He cares about you. He wants to be a part of your life.
Think of it this way, God has called us His bride. When two people love each other, they share their lives with one another. They share with each other the things that get them excited or angry or just find interesting. A true love relationship is not just physical. It is also emotional and spiritual. It is a vital, living thing.
It grows and changes over the years. My love for my husband has grown and changed as the years have gone by. I’ve discovered new things to love and appreciate about him just as he has found in me. In effect, we are Jesus’ fiancé. We need to take time to spend with Jesus every day. In fact, God’s Word says we should ‘acknowledge Him in all our ways.’ Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” (KJV). Remember when I talked about horizontal and vertical relationships? Though the Lord is so much greater than we are, He wants to elevate us to a horizontal relationship with Him, one on one. This simply means we walk WITH Him throughout our days.
How do we walk with God? Well, it’s simple really. Just talk to Him throughout the day. Realize He’s always there with you. Pray. Ask for help when you don’t know what to do. Ask for His opinion on…whatever. Speak in tongues. There’s nothing like it in the world for reorienting us when we become frazzled. The more we include the Lord in our lives, the more He will share with us what He is thinking. As we draw near to Him, He draws near to us, (James 4:8).
Now, onto other things that can cause fear and what to do about them: Psalm 23, “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life,” (NLT).
Let’s look at these verses in a little more detail. “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction,” Psalm 23:1-3. Now, sheep are very dependent creatures. They have to be led everywhere and watched carefully, or they’ll end up in trouble. When there is trouble, they don’t know how to get out of it. Wolves, bears, and lions will hunt them because they are especially vulnerable. Without a good shepherd, the sheep
Like it or not, we humans are a lot like sheep. However, we have a loving Shepherd to care for
we choose to follow him. (Remember the part about sheep being led. It’s not like herding cattle and forcing them to go in a certain direction. Sheep know their master’s voice and FOLLOW him.) It’s when we follow our Shepherd closely that we are blessed. We have plenty to eat and drink. We have the rest we need and the direction we crave. We don’t need to be afraid, ever, because we are following our Shepherd. He will fight the wolf and bear and lion for us.
Verses 4-5, “Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.” Sometimes, like it or not, we have to walk through Death Valley. The Lord actually leads us through Death Valley, but remember, He is with us all the way, even when it’s dark. I don’t need to be afraid when I know Jesus is by my side. I can choose to walk through Death Valley with confidence and dignity because I’m walking with Jesus. My husband says, “When Satan comes knocking, I just ask Jesus to answer the door!” When Jesus speaks to Satan and his demons, they flee in terror.
One night my husband was preaching at the Federal Medical Center (prison ministry) in our city to a group of men. One of the prisoners was obviously demon possessed. He had this hideous laugh and he sat in the front row. Well, something rose up inside of my husband that night and he preached Jesus like he had never preached Him before. The man kept moving back a row every time Jesus’ name was mentioned. Soon, he was at the back of the room, next to the door. Finally, as he was backing out the door, he said, “You can’t make me leave.” Then, he ran off down the hall, laughing that hideous laugh. My husband just smiled. Of course the demon didn’t want to admit defeat, but he couldn’t stand hearing that beautiful Name of Jesus. Mark 16:17 says, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My Name (Jesus), they shall cast out devils…” (KJV).
Jesus promises to revive our drooping heads. He offers us that rest which is real rest, rest from stress, peace that passes all understanding. He gives us so many blessings; our cups can hardly hold them. They’re up to the very brims of our cups, ready to spill over. Those blessings aren’t limited to emotional and spiritual blessings either. He will bless our finances if we ask Him and follow His leading. He will bless our physical bodies too. He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). He wants to do us good, not evil, but we have to trust Him.
Verse 6, “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.” How wonderful that God is willing to ‘chase’ us. He loves us and wants a relationship with us. It’s good to be home with Jesus. Acts 17:28 says, “For in him, we live, and move, and have our being…” (KJV). When we choose to walk with God, we live, really live. We move and have adventures that are amazing. We have our very being, we are new creatures, able to accomplish more than we ever thought possible, in (and with) Him. Remember, He doesn’t do our work for us, He goes WITH us, always, but it is our choice.
Now for a game plan. What are some strategies to defeating fear now and keeping it out of our lives for good? The obvious first thing to do is repent of your sins (say you’re sorry for all the bad things you’ve done), get baptized in Jesus’ name, and receive the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, Acts 2:38. That’s the whole born again experience, just as Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:5, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” (KJV).
However, this is only the beginning. Even after we’ve repented of our sins, we still occasionally fail. Those books that come after the book of Acts in the Bible were written to churches,
people who were already ‘saved’. They were still told to repent. It’s very simple, really. When you mess up, fess up. Then, don’t do it again. If you take a look at those churches, they were pretty messed up. Again, God doesn’t do our work for us. He works in us and with us. Pastor Forkpa says, “God isn’t interested in good people, He’s interested in BETTER people.” God doesn’t want to just give you miracles in your life; He wants you to BE the miracle.
So, after the initial salvation experience, how can we defeat fear forever? Well, that ‘born again’ experience is the beginning, but only the beginning. Once a person has been saved, he/she needs to take steps that will insure he/she stays saved. Again, it’s really rather simple. Say you were drowning in a lake and someone came along and saved your life. You’re not going to run out and jump in that lake again, right? You’re going to take swimming lessons, wear a life jacket, be mindful of the weather, etc. You’re going to take steps to insure you don’t have that terrible experience again. Spiritual salvation is the same. We have been saved from our sins; however, we need to learn how to live a life that is different from what we had been doing before, (because, obviously, what we were doing before wasn’t working). We need to learn new ways to talk, to walk, to listen (to others and the Lord).
Think of it this way, when you were saved, you were no longer dead in your sins. You became a brand new creature. II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any person is [engrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!” (Amplified). Spiritually, you are no longer a caterpillar, you are now a butterfly. Butterflies are as different from caterpillars as bicycles are from planes, as dogs are from birds. Butterflies look different, they eat differently, they move differently. Can you imagine a butterfly trying to go back to his way of life as a caterpillar? Yet, that is exactly what many people do spiritually.
In this chapter, we looked at some things that can cause fear, such as sickness, fmancial difficulties, etc. We also looked at some things that might be surprising, yet still can cause fear, such as pride and unforgiveness. We discussed ways of dealing with those things. In the next chapter, we’re going to go much more deeply into what to do about that fear. We’re going to discuss a changed mindset and how you can have that for yourself. We’re going to talk about how you can be your very own miracle to yourself, not by yourself, but most definitely to yourself. I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited about this next one! Read on!
The above article, “Things That Cause Fear and What To Do About It,” is written by Christiana Li. The article was excerpted from chapter six of Li’s book Defeat Fear Forever: Finally Get the Victory Over Fear and Depression.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.