To escape fear, you have to go through it not around.
How many times have you heard that in order to overcome fear we have to face it? For someone living with fear, the mere thought of “going through it” can bring anxiety. One reason is that we picture ourselves overcoming fear by jumping right into whatever we are afraid of. We skip all the steps in between.
If someone has a fear of water/drowning, would we tell them to jump into a pool? Of course not! We would help them gradually get acclimated to the water first. This article explains the gradual process of overcoming the fear of water. First, sit at the edge of the pool and dangle your feet in the water. Then scoop your hand in the water and splash your face as if you were washing it. Next, hold your breath as you scoop water onto your face. Then gradually step into the shallow end of the pool until you are able to walk around.
With any fear, there are gradual steps we should take to overcome. I wanted to provide a general, step by step process to help myself and others overcome fear, so I came up with this acronym:
Focus your thoughts!
Equip yourself for battle!
Remember, God’s in control!
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 Click To Tweet
Focus Your Thoughts
1. Understand Your Fear
First, you need to evaluate what you are afraid of.
Is your fear unhealthy or healthy?
How has your fear interfered with your life?
Why do you want to make changes?
2. Acknowledge the Reality of Your Fear
It’s easy to deny that fear has affected your life in a negative way. Be honest.
What are you afraid of?
How has your fear impacted you?
How has it impacted your family?
What have you avoided in order to protect yourself from this fear? I have missed baby showers, weddings and important family events due to my fear of driving on freeways. This is something I want to change.
Are you willing to take small steps to overcome your fear?
3. Confront Your Negative Thoughts and Replace them
Our minds automatically think of the worst case scenarios. Do some research into the likelihood that what you fear will actually happen. Look up statistics.
Think of all the times that it hasn’t happened.
Give yourself a plan B to alleviate anxiety.
Make a list of things you can do just in case of that worse case scenario. For example, I’m afraid of getting lost–of missing the exit. I’m afraid of not being able to find my way home. These thoughts immediately produce anxiety for me. I picture myself stranded on the side of a dark road unable to find my way home.
Part of my Plan B involves some redirected thinking. I had to tell myself that I don’t need to panic. If I miss the exit I can just follow the GPS to get back on the freeway. It will eventually lead me home–even if it’s a way I’m not used to going. If I still can’t find my way home, I will ask for help. If it’s night time (and I can’t see to drive) then I will get a hotel and figure it out the next morning. If I get lost, I have options. I have a plan.
4. Replace fearful thoughts with scripture verses.
Post verses in areas where you are prone to feeling anxiety.
Some of my favorites are:
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Psalm 16:8 I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked
for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared.
Equip Yourself for Battle
1. Put on the full armor of God!
The Bible tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of the heavenly realms. We need to be armed! God has given us the supernatural power to defeat satan by giving us the Holy Spirit.
Fear is one of the devil’s favorite “flaming” arrows to throw at us!
Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)
When we put on the armor of God, then we can stand firm and not be afraid.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)
2. Talk About Your Fear
Once you decide to face your fear, don’t be afraid to tell others. Talking about your struggle will help bring it to the surface, which helps you acknowledge it instead of avoiding it. It will also allow others to rally around you to encourage and support you.
My fear of driving on the freeway began to impact my daughter’s attendance at sports games. I tried tackling my fear when I signed her up to play games that were supposed to be within an hour from home. But once I found out some of the locations were a few hours away, I had to be honest with myself. This felt like jumping into a pool when I didn’t know how to swim. I learned that tackling my fear was something I had to do gradually. And being honest about it helped. I was able to find other trustworthy parents who were willing to take my daughter to some of the games.
-List two people whom you trust and feel comfortable sharing your struggle with. Ask them to pray for you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
3. Make a Fear Ladder
Many resources suggest making a fear ladder. I think this is a great idea! I made one for you to use (see below). Write your fear at the top of the ladder. On the bottom step, write a way to reach your goal that feels manageable (not too scary). Gradually increase the level of exposure to your fear. You may need to repeat a step several times in order to get used to it.
Say to those with fearful hearts, be strong, do not fear! Isaiah 35:4 Click To Tweet
3. Make preparations
Making preparations and planning ahead can really help to reduce anxiety. Before I drive somewhere far, I need to:
map out the directions
set my GPS
fill up the gas tank
What preparations can you make to alleviate anxiety?
Start with the first step on your ladder chart and take action.
Journal your progress
Repeat the step until you feel more comfortable
Go to the next step (this may take some courage)
Remember God is in control!
1. Trusting in God’s sovereignty helps us to release the fear that tries to control our circumstances.
A healthy respect for God’s power and authority will help to alleviate all other fears.
We need not fear anything because God is greater and more powerful than any fear we struggle with Click To Tweet
If you haven’t read the first post in this series, The Unexpected Cure to Face Fear: Fighting Fire with Fire, I encourage you to read it here.
A healthy fear of God trusts in God’s power and control over our lives. A healthy fear of God trusts in His love for us.
A healthy fear of God is evident by our desire to obey Him and love him with undivided hearts.
2. Remember that God loves you and will give you the strength to face your fears.
So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
If we want to overcome fear in our lives, we have to connect to the source of power that will enable us to conquer our fears. That source is Jesus.
3. Remember you are not alone!
Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to share your struggle. People are usually supportive and want to help you.
Know Your Limitations
If fear is interfering with your life and you can’t seem to gain any ground, you may want to seek a licensed psychologist/counselor to help you.
When you do attempt to climb the ladder of your fear, it’s important to know your limitations. Don’t rush going through the steps. Think about the step you’re on before you think about tackling the next one or the final one.
Recently, I had to drive my husband home at night from a medical procedure. I wear corrective lenses/glasses and can’t see very well at night. My husband wanted me to take some backroads to beat traffic. I could barely see to change lanes. The lights were glaring back at me. I thought to myself… here I am “moving through” my fear and I’m still terrified! My new limitation is, no driving on the freeways at nighttime–fear or no fear–because I can’t see!
Don’t be discouraged if you have gained the courage to tackle your fear and you still have anxiety. Don’t give up. Give yourself some grace. Be proud of yourself for your efforts to control fear rather than let it control you. And remember–one step at a time!
Thank you for reading the second post in the Facing Fear Series. To read the first post, The Unexpected Cure for Fear: Fighting Fire with Fire, click here. I’m excited to be featuring guest posts from fellow strugglers who are learning to overcome fear in their life. If you would like to receive these posts in your inbox just sign up with your email below.
My biggest fear is that the daily multiple seizures I’m having will worsen. Doctors have no clue, medication don’t work. As they don’t know what kind they can’t go beyond medication. The next step is a second narcolepsy test, but first the special blood tests said a rare epilepsy. I’m confused and scared even my service dog sits at the door and do nothing. And he used to help faithfully.
Dear Krizelle, I’m sorry that I missed replying to your comment. I’m so sorry about the seizures you are having. If you happen to see my comment, I would love an update. I hope doctors have been able to help you. Dear Lor, I pray you would comfort Krizelle. Help the doctors to diagnose Krizelle properly. I pray her siezures would not worsen. Lord, it’s scary when we don’t understand our symptoms and why we are having them. Give Krizelle your peace. Make your presence known to her. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.
My biggest fear is my marriage failing and enfing up in divorce. Im anewly wed and this fear is so cripling to me! It makes me worrued, anxious, sick to my stomach. My husband is an amazing wonderful man, soo good to me and I sometimes (too often) feel unworthy and undeserving of hus love. I feel at times unlovable but yet he always shows me grace and love no matter what even in the midst of my bouts of anger/frustration, the attitudes & all…Im working on myself, being more positive, reacting better and trying not to allow fear, anger, negative thinking to run my life. I pray for my marriage, my husband, & our family daily. Trying to trust in God but yet I still feel defeated by this thought that is unrelentless…what can I do about this? I dont ever intend on giving up on my marriage, I am in this fir life and happy to be doing so with my amazing man! I need to get over this fear but I am not quite sure where to start.Hmmm maybe my fear is due to the fact of my first marriage ending unexpectedly as I became a young widow at 21 and single mom of two little girls….Now 5 years later, remarried to the man of my dreams and struggling with this fear…maybe this is why I fear my marriage failing….fear of the hurt and lonliness, the loss of a love.
Dear Sabrina, I’m so sorry it took me a few days to reply to your heartfelt comment. I agree that your past trauma of losing your husband unexpectedly contributes to your fear of your marriage falling apart. I’m so sorry that you experienced that loss. Often times we rehearse trauma and feelings of loss over and over in our minds until they become almost habitual patterns of thinking for us. I’m learning this as well in my pursuit to overcome my fears. I just finished reading a book called, The Rewired Brain, which talks about these traumas and thoughts creating superhighways in our minds that we have a hard time exiting from. Change and progress can happen but it takes time and concerted effort to get off the “superhighway.” Often times counseling is needed to help us work through these repeated thoughts and fears. Actionable steps of training our minds to think in other ways (memorizing the word) takes determination and reliance and trust in God and His care for us. God loves you, Sabrina! You don’t have to prove yourself to be worthy of His love. He just loves you. He gives us the power and strength in His word to change the way we see ourselves and to live for him. I found that once I accepted God’s love for me and learned to be confident in who he made me to be (still learning) that I had more confidence in my marriage because I stopped trying to prove my worth to my husband and to myself. I’m so thankful you left a comment here. Praying for you. BTW I plan on writing a lot more about facing fear. You can subscribe to recent posts on the sidebar if you want to get recent posts emailed to you.
I am facing the same fear, although it is my first time being married. It makes me so sad, Sometimes, I think of leaving my husband, to save me the worry and anxiety. But he is such a great person and I have learnt a lot from him and also impacted in his life
I can’t find the link to your fear ladder printable. I would love too resent the idea at our ladies’ bible class since we are studying a book about Conquering Your Giants. Loved this post!
Sorry about that. I’m adding another series of posts to the facing fear series this fall and I was planning on re-designing the fear ladder. But I just added it again ;). Thank you so much for your kind words! Your Bible Study sounds great!
Love the acronym. Especially the first one – is it a healthy or unhealthy fear. I think that is so important. Some fears are legit and they need to be dealt with one way. Other fears are unfounded and need to be dealt with in another way. Thanks for sharing these great tips! Joining you from Titus 2 Tuesday!
Hi Pam! I’m so glad you stopped by!
I wrestle with fear off and on. This post was so helpful and encouraging.
Fear has no place in our lives and it needs to stop. There’s a healthy purpose to feel fear (i.e. dangerous situations) but with God on our side, we should not fear… regardless of the giant or lion in front of us!
Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you for visiting Jennifer! I’m so glad that with God on our side we can face any fear or giant in front of us!
“Focus on your thoughts!” is the most important step for that. Do that and everything else will follow. This is also the area I struggle with most! Working on it!
Yes, Tara…focusing our thoughts is often the hardest part but vital if we truly want to change.Thank you so much for stopping by!
Love your acronym of how to face fears and how you shared your driving story and are overcoming that! God is faithful!
Thanks, Lil! God has been so good to show me that it is possible to take steps to face fear, though not easy. With His strength we can rest in the fact that He is in control I’m so glad you stopped by!!
Good stuff! Fear is a liar. It distracts us from Christ and his peace. Usually when I find myself afraid the thing I am afraid of is not REALLY the thing I am Afraid of, but the failure or hurt that can come from the thing I am attempting. For example: It’s not the ladder I am afraid of even the heights…it’s falling and getting hurt.
I’m ready to face fear…with God by my side! Your line-up of posts looks great and I’m looking forward to checking them out!
Thank you, Joan! I’m so glad that you will be following the series. I just discovered your blog and love it!
This is awesome. I’m sharing this. A lot of people are dealing with fears. After the holidays seems like a more fearful time. This is very practical.
I think it’s such a great reminder that God is ultimately in control. Sometimes we try to do things of our own strength and fail. Trusting God is big here. He is the ultimate Healer of all pain and fear.
Amen, Jonathan. He is the ultimate healer of all pain and fear! God will give us the strength! Thank you for your comment.
Love the fear ladder idea. Sometimes conquering comes in baby-steps and that’s okay. Thanks for this great word. Blessings!
Hi Deb! Yes, sometimes slow and steady is the way to go! I’m so glad you are a part of this series too!
Love the fear ladder idea! I actually hadn’t heard of it before. I have a great fear of deep water – anything over about 5 feet actually, and have been taking baby steps to get over it as my kids take swim lessons… thanks for the visual aide!
Hi Marissa! Great job taking steps to overcome your fear of deep water. Sometimes the steps of overcoming are small and gradual. Thank you so much for sharing.
Knowing our limitations is so important! When faced with crippling fear it can be difficult to discern a rational fear from an irrational fear. Talking to other people about it can really help us process through some of those emotions as well. And friends who will help us walk through it one step at a time instead of shoving us into the water are critical.
Thank you for your comment, Natalie. Talking about fear does help us to process our emotions and gain support.
Putting on the armor of God is always the best fear protection! I find that it also helps me to Worst Case Scenario it – worst case, I . . . end up in Heaven with Jesus, okay, I can do this . . .
Puts a lot of scary things in perspective – not heading out to go sky diving today, but still.
YES! This is so true. I just finished reading this today Jennifer! “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 16 In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one! Ephesians 6:10
I know that facing your fears head on is the only way to conquer them but sometimes I just don’t have the strength or energy to face all that needs done on a daily basis.
I know it’s hard Thaleia. Romans 8:37 says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” The Lord will help us and give us strength. Sometimes it’s a slow process and we need to give ourselves grace, especially on those days when we are sapped of energy.
These are really great, practical ways for facing fear… thanks for sharing!
Thank you Inez!
What a great word about fear, Valerie!
I love the fear ladder!
I’m going to share this on FB today!
Found your post on FaithnFriends~
Thank you Melanie! Thank you for being a part of the series too!
I love the practical steps you’ve included here! Too often I let fear control me, rather than trusting and believing that God is in control. While my fear is not specifically driving related, I can relate to your story. Thanks for the fear ladder idea! 🙂
Thank you Alison! I’m so glad that you are a part of this series!
This use to be a biggie for me in my younger days. Especially after I had children and my fear of something happening to me and them growing up without a mommy terrified me. I knew where it stemmed from, but I couldn’t shake it. I had to actually force myself to go somewhere after I would have my husband drive with me on a pre-trip so I knew where I was going. I gradually replaced this fear with another fear, I know sick. But, eventually I was able to cross the barriers of driving anywhere out of my neighborhood and know I would return safely home. I really like your acronym for this. I use to put verses all over my house and car during this period of time.
Thank you so much for sharing Michelle. I’m so glad you were able to overcome driving to places you’ve never been. I get the whole pre-trip thing. I’m trying to get over that one still. God is so good. With Him we are able to be more than conquerors. Satan would love for us to stay in a place of fear.