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!
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.
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.
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.