Fear is a boa constrictor. It slithers into our minds and tightens its grip until it suffocates our peace and joy. Sometimes snakes drop out of trees unexpectedly, other times they glide from shadows, barely noticed. Once a snake finds a way in, it’s tough to get it out. Friends in warmer climates share chilling stories of unexpected encounters with hazardous reptiles only resolved with professional help.
When a boa drops from a tree, we should be frightened. Car accidents, natural disasters, home invasions, battlefields and the like will land on our paths in this earthly jungle. A fear response to danger is a healthy trigger God devised in us to survive a fallen world. The problem is, once the immediate threat is resolved, Satan schemes to keep that fear response going perpetually. He loves to make hay on the normal emotional impact we experience after a fright.
We become fearful of similar situations and alter our lives. The boa constricts more tightly, and we develop phobias. We can’t cross bridges, handle traffic, elevators. etc. Many years ago, I almost became an agoraphobic, afraid to leave my apartment. Others develop ulcers, migraines and such as they struggle to feel “normal” again after a terrifying experience. Our precious veterans often come home with severe struggles due to the terrors they endured while deployed.
Fear is one of Satan’s most powerful tools. If he can’t find a way to make a frontal assault, he’ll send the snake on a stealth mission. Dread and worry are more subtle forms of distress, yet they are just as insidious. They wriggle themselves into our thinking so gradually, we let them be a pet. No judgement here, but choosing a deadly snake as a house pet seems risky. Snakes gotta eat. If it means escaping their enclosure and eating you, they are not opposed.
We dread dealing with certain people. We dread getting old. We dread going to work. We dread facing a surgery. We worry about our children and our aging parents. We worry about our health and our finances. We worry about our country and our jobs. Hear my heart, as a former semi-pro dreader and worrier. I’m not judging you. I want to encourage you towards the path of abundant, joy-filled life God intended for you.
Here’s some tools to conquer fear which I acquired in my own school of hard, hard knocks.
Recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy fear. Some folks manage this on their own, able to move beyond an event and feel whole again. Others get stuck. I encourage people to speak to a pastor or professional counselor if they can’t seem to recover their emotional equilibrium. Don’t allow pride to keep you from seeking help. Some of you are going through long term events like cancer battles, divorce, and other situations that do not resolve quickly. I found it healing to spend time with wise individuals who validated reasonable emotions and assisted me in regaining a positive mindset.
Don’t make excuses for crippling fear and its cousins. Too many people see worry as a badge of honor, which makes you a good parent, employee, boss or whatever. Although we may normalize worry in our culture, it is not normal for a child of God. It demonstrates a lack of faith and displeases God. (Mark 4:40, Mark 6:6)
Concerning dread, watch your words this week and see how many times you say, think or feel, “Ugh, I dread…….” We can fill in the blank with things as large as a surgical procedure or as small as mowing the lawn. Our paths are sometimes rocky and steep, other times flat, dry and endless through tasks and situations we’d avoid, left to our own devices. God uses it all to make us look and sound more like Jesus. When we keep the mindset that all circumstances pass through God’s hands before they touch us, we can remain hopeful and sweet in the worst situations. Our Good Shepherd leads us through dark valleys and treacherous climbs with the promise that we will lack nothing and are followed by his goodness and mercy. (Psalm 23)
If fear is a brutal master or a cherished pet in our souls, we are not controlled by the Holy Spirit in those areas. We are not able to discern things rightly because fear is making decisions for us. Things as small as dreading and complaining about an unpleasant chore can hinder your intimacy with God. Right now, there’s about 20 yards of stone in my front yard, waiting to be moved before I can plant gardens. I’ve complained about it and dreaded it for months until the Lord spoke to me about this foothold I freely gave to my enemy.
Recently, I allowed myself the foolish luxury of worrying about a shoulder injury and knee problem my husband’s been contending with. We are believing God will heal him one way or another, but I slipped into some old habits during this time in God’s waiting room. I recognized the sorrow I caused God by not trusting him to care for Ken perfectly.
Tear down fear strongholds.
Some of my family heritage includes professional fretters. When you see fear normalized in childhood, it becomes a stronghold that you don’t see as such until God puts his finger on it. Maybe that’s what this post is doing for you today. Ask God to sever any cords of sin in this area that run between you and your family. This is not you being disloyal, it’s acknowledging that we all inherit righteous and unrighteous behaviors from our families.
God will reveal fear strongholds you built with no help from anyone, if you ask him. Demolishing these structures is not a one and done deal. Speech, thought and behavior patterns wrap themselves around strongholds inside of you. There needs to be a process of learning to think, speak and act differently when confronted with fear prompting situations.
Refer back to the first post in this series for a list of scripture you can use to tear down strongholds and face fear. Next time I’ll share how God changed my walk and talk in this area.