Have you ever been afraid? Completely and utterly terrified? I think we have all been there a time or two. Whether it be a fear of public speaking, a fear of a relationship or a fear of telling the truth, we all must face the things that cause us anxiety. But is it possible to overcome even the greatest fear—the kind that keeps you paralyzed from doing anything about it?
To conquer fear, we need to know what it is: a response to our understanding of a given situation. Fear is based on expectation, not always reality.
I was once in a relationship that was not God-centered. I knew that I needed to end the relationship, but I was terrified of hurting the guy I was dating. I was also scared of his response when I gave him the news. I put it off for weeks, too scared to take that first step. When I finally faced him to break up, it was not pleasant, but it was not as bad as I’d feared, either. My expectations were not the reality.
But expectations loom large when we’re afraid, paralyzing us from doing the right thing. To face down fear and overcome it, we need to link arms with the only one who can conquer fear: our God!
God is all-powerful (1 Corinthians 6:14) and God is love (1 John 4:8). The combination of these two character traits equips Him to help us as we face even the most terrifying of situations. In order to conquer fear, we must trust the Conqueror of fear, because trust and fear are opposites of one another.
How do we trust? Just as in human relationships, we do not trust those we do not know. This means to trust God—and overcome what we are afraid of—we must know God’s character and what He can do. We can then lean on Him as we walk through the circumstance facing us. This is easier said than done! Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves that can help move us from a state of anxiety to a state of trust:
- Has God called me to this task? Sometimes we fear things God has not called us to conquer. Evaluate the situation or relationship by bring it to the Lord and asking for specific instructions with how to proceed. God delights to answer the prayers of His children, but we rarely ask Him specific questions! We have that privilege. So ask Him: is this something He wants you to do? If it is, you can rest assured He will walk you through it.
- What am I most afraid of in this situation? Once you have determined to face the fear, write down you worst nightmare in the situation. Get it out on paper where you can see it. Very often, we turn our fears over and over in our minds without ever rationally examining them. Writing them down allows you to consciously examine your fears and make sure they are realistic. Once you know what you are afraid of, you can pray for strength in those areas and determine practical ways to face each fear: whether determining the words for a break up or for a job interview.
- Who is God in light of this fear? Once you know what you are afraid of you can counter those fears with the character of Christ. Are you afraid of being alone? God is your ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). Are you afraid of the opinion of people? God is the One who approves of you (Galatians 1:10). Are you afraid of looking silly or stupid? God formed you and He will give you confidence (Proverbs 3:26).
Psalm 56:3 says: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” Trust is the antidote to fear. It is the key to conquering whatever anxiety plagues you, whether it comes from the outside (other people) or the inside (our hearts).
John writes in 1 John 3:20: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”
And the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
Peace (the absence of fear) comes by submitting your fears to God. When we come to God with fear, He transforms it into trust. By trusting Him we invite His presence into the situation: a presence that is strong where we are weak, confident where we are nervous, and bold where we are afraid.