“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
— Hebrews 11:1
Have you ever heard the saying that fear and faith are the same in that they both are certain of something that hasn’t happened yet?
I can honestly admit that I’ve been afraid throughout my life.
In elementary school, I loved participating. But when I was in 5th grade, I cried in front of the class after reading a paper out loud I had written. I remember feeling humiliated because I didn’t feel sad enough to have just burst into tears. I thought “what’s happening?” and I was terrified of it ever happening again. I became afraid of the fear.
By 6th grade, I would run out of the room in panic to avoid speaking. It didn’t matter whether I was standing in front of the class or sitting in my seat. I was certain that if I spoke up, my voice would shake and I would choke and cry. I knew I would be humiliated without having any logical reason to give. The doctor labeled it “performance anxiety”.
My performance anxiety didn’t just stop at public speaking (glossophobia); it branched out into social anxiety, anxiety with my career, anxiety with relationships, and even anxiety with God. This continued on in my teens and 20s.
I feared the unknown.
I feared what was outside my control.
I feared making decisions.
I feared that everything I did wasn’t good enough.
Now in my 30’s, I still wrestle with anxious thoughts today, but I’m thankful in how far God has brought me through these 20 years and I hope these next four ideas will encourage someone else who currently wrestles with anxiety and fear.
- Change Your Perspective on Fear
What if we change our perspective to see that fear was designed by God as a positive response to glorify Him?
“Blessed are those who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands”
— Psalm 112:1
Fearing the Lord is about reverence. The angels in Heaven sing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty!”… day and night they never stop. God is infinite and there is no end to His goodness, His power, His wisdom, His grace, His beauty, His holiness, or His love. I really don’t think we can truly, presently, fathom how glorious He is and how deserving He is. When we get the tiniest, faintest glimpse, we find ourselves in worship.
THAT is the kind of fear I want to position myself in: a fear that is rooted in love and is trembling in awe of God. Instead of saying, “woe is me”, I want to be able to say, “wow is He”.
In her book, Fearless in 21 Days, Sarah Ball says that when fear is rooted in lies, we find ourselves trembling in torment rather than in awe. Satan has taken God’s good design of fear and perverted it. The right trembling before a holy God has been replaced with phobias and worries in which we are often responding to a threat that isn’t a real threat. We’re putting our confidence in something that hasn’t happened yet, but not in a way that looks like faith.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”
— Proverbs 9:10
If the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and you suffer greatly from anxiety, then perhaps Satan is SO threatened by your potential to carry godly wisdom, that he’s doing his BEST to pervert your fear into torment. Change your perspective on fear and imagine the impact of a life, your life, being so gripped by the reference, awe, and fear due to our infinite God.
- Pray for Truth and Humility
What we fear the most is also rooted in what we value the most, which can usually reveal our idols.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
— 1 Peter 5:6-11
If I fear being rejected, being humiliated, or being a failure, then I am probably putting a higher value in acceptance, praise, and success than I am on the things of God. This reveals an issue of pride and an idolatry of self. When I fear these things, I am fearing man instead of fearing God and thus have replaced the Creator in His rightful place of worship with the created things.
We so easily misplace worship. Whatever our attention is pulled towards the most, is probably what we’re worshipping. So, we must look at the things pulling our attentions and ask, “Are we worshipping the Lord?”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”
— Luke 10:27
When we pray for God to give us strength to help us overcome what we are fearing, we need to also be praying for God to reveal His truth to us and for Him to soften our hardened hearts.
Courage, the opposite of fear, has to do with the heart, but for our hearts to be turned towards God with courage, they need to first be softened. For our hearts to be softened, our minds need to be renewed.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
— Romans 12:2
“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;”
— Ephesians 4:17-18
John Piper describes this process of renewal as allowing the Holy Spirit to expose our minds to truth (from the outside in) through hearing the gospel, meditating on the Word, studying Christ, and receiving wisdom from others. We also should allow the Holy Spirit to break through our hardened hearts (from the inside out) and humble us.
When our minds are renewed to truth and our hearts are softened through humility, the Holy Spirit helps us to behold the glory of God. When we behold the glory of God, finding ourselves in that position of reverent worship (rooted in love), then we find ourselves in the capacity to take courage through the Lord, apart from tormented fear.
- Take Heart
The Bible tells us to take “courage”, a complex word with roots describing the condition of the heart. John 16:33 says, “Take heart!”, which can also be translate as “be of good courage” or “be of good cheer”. I find these nuances intriguing because we don’t typically think of “good cheer” when we’re facing fear.
What do you think of when you think of cheer?
My mind immediately imagines a cheerleader at a football game, jumping and shouting and praising and encouraging the players from the sidelines. I honestly wouldn’t have thought of “courage” when I thought of a cheerleader, but even in English we can see the similarity in root words. Cheerleaders are ‘en-couraging’, meaning that they “inspire with confidence”.
Being courageous (or being of good cheer) isn’t about waiting for fear to go away and it isn’t about being heroic. Instead, it’s about having confidence towards the Lord. It’s more difficult to feel tormented by fear when we’re praising, rejoicing, and worshipping God because our negative fear is being actively replaced by the good kind of fear.
So when the Bible tells us to take heart, it is acting like a cheerleader to “inspire with confidence”. Its reminder to us of the character and nature and worth of God works to turn our hearts to rightly placed worship, reverence, and fear towards God. When we allow the Bible to inspire us towards confidence in God, we can also respond in courage and cheer in the midst of trials.
- Walk in Gratitude
Lastly, I just want to remind you to walk in thanksgiving.
“Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
— 1 Thessalonians 5:18
When we have anxiety, we often imagine the worst possible scenario that COULD happen, or perhaps we’re anxious from what we’re lacking and we become envious of others, seated in comparison.
Instead of thinking about all the terrible things that COULD happen, start thanking God for what HAS happened. Remind yourself of all the times He’s been faithful and good. Instead of thinking about everything you’re lacking, start thanking God for everything you have. There’s so much we take for granted. And yes, you may already know this truth, but I know I need the reminder every day.
Gratitude helps shift our focus. We are more ready to choose faith over fear when we can recall God’s faithfulness. A heart of thanksgiving and contentment truly leads us to “be of good cheer” which again, leads to courage.
“REJOICE in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your HEARTS and your MINDS in Christ Jesus.”
— Philippians 4:4-7
So next time you feel anxious about anything, and Satan seems to be saying, “God is not as good as you think. You’re doomed.”, renew your mind and say, “God has answered my prayers before and He’ll come through again. He loves me. He cares for me. Even if His answer isn’t exactly what I want, God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).”
If you feel led, consider praying this prayer (or similar) to ask for freedom from worry and anxiety:
Lord, you are good, and you are sovereign. I admit, I’m afraid. I pray you rule over my mind and my heart right now and renew this tormented fear rooted in lies into a reverent fear rooted in love. I pray you reveal your Christ-revering truth to me. I pray for a softened heart through humility. I ask for forgiveness if I have misplaced worship towards idols. Help me turn towards You and to be of good cheer. I ask for your strength and wisdom. I praise you for your faithfulness. I thank you for your grace through Jesus. I love you, Lord, and I want to love you with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I pray you will be glorified through this situation as I’m placing my hope and confidence in You. I pray your will be done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Written by: Olivia White