We’re not meant to live in fear
By Teresa Della Monica, Captain –
“This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance…In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things…Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for…We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well…”
These were the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, during his first inaugural speech in 1933. Given at a time when the world was reeling from the downfall of the Great Depression and all around were disappointment and imminent failure, his words: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…” still remain true for us today.
Science explains the emotion of fear by saying that human beings are born with only two innate fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds. Further it says that it is possible that we may also be predisposed to certain other natural fears, like dark places, spiders and snakes; however, most other fears are learned. In a likewise fashion, animals feel intense fear when they’re threatened in any way, regardless of whether they’re predators or prey. The fight-or-flight response that we have all learned about is a reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to survival.
Fear, whether perceived or real, can cripple you. There is no doubt in my mind that if not viewed and handled appropriately, living in fear or with fear can be detrimental to your overall well-being.
When we are controlled by fear, then, “unreasonable, unjustified terror paralyzes our needed efforts to convert retreat into advance,” Roosevelt said. I believe that if fear takes hold of us, it keeps us chained and imprisoned to its illogical demands, making us think unclearly, react thoughtlessly and observe our circumstances from a clouded and obstructed viewpoint. Only when we face our fears for what they are can we challenge ourselves in a fresh and new way.
I have an unnatural and unhealthy—though, at least in my mind, substantiated—fear of cockroaches. Allow me to be clear about this: cockroaches of any size. My fear and dislike of cockroaches have led to panic attacks and cries so loud that you would swear that I had severed a limb and was screaming in horror and pain. In reality, I was only staring at a brown bug with twitching hair-like antennas that in size is no bigger than a quarter—a bug that could be squashed by me, a human being. Yet my perception and my fear cripple me, and I revert to childhood. I revisit the horror of my cockroach experience. One day, when I opened the medicine cabinet in our bathroom, a load of cockroaches fell down my pajamas. From this point, it becomes almost impossible for me to move forward and think clearly about my next move.
Fear-led thinking has the capacity to keep us in chains. Back in the 80s a comedian named Louie Anderson shared a story that went something like this: “I had four older brothers, and all they did was mess with me. In particular, one of them said to me one day, ‘You know that swamp out back?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘You know there’s a monster living in there?’ To which I replied, ‘I’m glad I’m over here. To which he said, ‘His arms can reach you.’”
When the arms of fear can reach you anywhere you go, it may be time to exercise some swamp draining. Fear should be left for falling and loud noises. A healthy and temporary amount of fear of the unknown and unpleasant should be just that—temporary.
How then, do we recognize and separate a justifiable fear from one that freezes us from moving forward? I am not sure that I have the answer to that, for I myself continue to struggle with the fear that so easily ensnares me. Throughout the years, I have learned to recognize my “fear trigger.” By familiarizing myself with the debilitating effects of my fear I can then begin the healing process, which for me means running to the Lord and allowing him to soothe my heart and therefore my fears.
Psalm 56:3-4 says, When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
As believers, we are not meant to live in fear—fear involves torment—and Christ came to save us.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
I pray that you find peace in knowing that fear can be overcome because God knows your fear. These Scripture passages may help during your search for peace: Isaiah 35:4, John 14:27, Joshua 1:9, Matthew 6:34, Isaiah 43:1, Psalm 23:4, Psalm 34:4, Romans 8:38-39, Psalm 27:1, 1 Peter 5:6-7, Psalm 118:6, 2 Timothy 1:7, Psalm 115:11, Psalm 103:17, Psalm 112:1, Deuteronomy 31:6, 1 Chronicles 28:20, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 41:13, Isaiah 54:4, Matthew 10:28, Romans 8:15, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Hebrews 13:5-6, 1 Peter 3:13-14, 1 John 4:18.