Hi everyone! This post is essentially Part II to the post I wrote about a month ago, Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone. Since writing that post, I’ve had to step out and do so many uncomfortable things. It is not easy, but it sure makes life interesting and purposeful, so – onward!
This brings me to today’s topic – fear. Lately I feel like wherever I turn, the concept of fear is brought to my attention. There was a window of time where fear was the sermon topic at my own church, my previous church, and my sister’s church (I’ve provided some links at the bottom if you’re interested in listening to some of those sermons). On top of that, I watched Batman Begins for the first time, and fear was the prevailing theme throughout the movie.
After a couple more additional run-ins with this topic, I decided that I needed to sit down and really organize my thoughts about it, which resulted in this blog post.
I’ve noticed that fear itself can have different meanings or manifestations. It’s a term used for everything from our natural reaction to danger, to the fear of God. Both of these are appropriate and wise fears to have. But the fear I’ve been thinking about is something a little less helpful and a little more common – fear that is defined by anxiety, insecurity, and worry about the smaller things in life.
To be honest with you, this is certainly something I have to combat in my own life. I like having my life planned out and organized. This is probably good in itself, but it can lead towards anxiety about the future. I also always want to be at peace with people. This is good too but it can lead towards worry about offending others or saying the wrong thing. This in turn leads to ridiculous conversations like, “Uh – are you mad at me? Are you sure? Because when you said you weren’t mad I could tell by your voice that you were still a tiny bit mad…”
I’m willing to admit all this because I feel pretty confident that I’m not alone in it. Christian made the point in his sermon that Americans in particular are an anxious and impatient people, and we tend to get all worked up when little things don’t go our way.
It’s so easy to feel surrounded, overwhelmed, and anxious, especially when we consider all the possible outcomes to the situation we are concerned about. This kind of fear causes us to imagine and worry about terrible possibilities that may or may not be realistic.
Here is a Friends clip that illustrates my point. This is the episode where Ross and Rachel are locked out of their apartment, with the baby still inside (you will have to follow the link to watch this on YouTube’s site).
I see two dangers in letting ourselves get carried away by worries and anxiety. One, is that it is a big waste of time. This life is so fleeting, and the moments are precious. Why spend so many of them obsessing over things when the outcome is probably out of our control? “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mt. 6:27, 34)
The second danger I see is that fear and insecurity can prevent us from moving forward. It could cripple us and prevent us from putting ourselves out there and letting the unique qualities and gifts we have benefit other people.
So, what can we do about it? I really think an excellent weapon to combat this type of fear is simply to turn around and face it. Define the issue, and look at it square in its face. Batman took his deep-rooted fear of bats, dealt with it and turned it into a strength.
If we don’t do this, the situation we’re thinking about can take on a nightmarish quality. Have you ever been worried about something happening the next day, so you toss and turn at night, thinking dramatic thoughts, but then when you wake up the next morning, things look a bit better or more realistic?
When all the possible outcomes are swirling in our head, we forget just how ridiculous these hypothetical situations are. The truth of the matter is that one or two of those bad things might happen, but probably not and probably not all of them.
I remember reading Dale Carnegie’s classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living several years ago. The one point that stuck with me is his advice to face and examine the thing you’re worried about, and imagine the worst possible outcome (within reason). Then, deal with this worst-case scenario. Think about how you will proceed if disaster occurs, and create a plan of action. Then stop worrying about it, and when the time comes the situation will probably not be as horrendous as you imagined.
This is not easy of course, and it is a discipline and a habit that needs nurturing. But it does get easier. Everything I’ve said here I am saying to myself as much as anyone else, and I do still have my moments of anxiety. But I’ve learned to recognize when my thoughts are becoming unreasonably anxious. I make it a priority not to be defeated by worry, because I refuse to let something so silly dictate my decisions.
If you deal with this, I hope these thoughts help. It is not easy to stop worrying. But freedom is worth fighting for. Good luck!
- Here is a really excellent sermon on anxiety and trusting God, by Pastor Christian Lindbeck over at Canyon Creek Church: http://vimeo.com/45460553
- Quest Church is doing an entire series on fear: http://www.seattlequest.org/view/sermons
- Pastor Chris Manginelli of Mill Creek Foursquare spoke about the fear of God (a different side of fear): http://mc4square.podbean.com/2012/07/15/071512-wisdom-living-well-from-proverbs-part-1-the-fear-of-god/