Fear is a monster.
It’s a prickly little demon that sits on your shoulder and stabs you with “what ifs” and worries every time you start to breathe or enjoy or God forbid, relax.
And the thing about fear, for me, anyhow, is that no matter how much I try to stand up to that fear, the scariest part about that little monster is that it could be right.
What if that person does think I’m unintelligent?
What if my relationship is doomed?
What if I don’t have enough money for that expense next month?
What if that person never forgives me?
I’m pretty skilled at getting to the bottom of my fears, at thinking through the question of “what is really going on here?” But what happens when I get to the bottom and I can’t disprove it or rationalize it away? The problem with “what ifs” are that they are about the future, so I can’t promise they will or won’t come to pass. That leaves me feeling stuck. I am afraid and anxious, my head swirling with fears that I have no response to.
Fear loves to invite its friend, Shame, along to play in our minds. Shame is the creature that tells us to keep quiet, not to admit these things, that we are the only ones who face this, and that there’s something inherently wrong with us that disqualifies us from the peace and security that we see in those around us.
I can’t believe that God intends for us to stay buried under this mountain of fear when His words are so often about life and love and service. There must be something I’m missing or haven’t yet fully believed.
This current season is full of fear and anxiety in my life. On a daily basis, what I have come back to over and over again is this When fear and shame claim the loudest voices in our minds and hearts, our defense is to anchor ourselves in the present, in reality, and in truth.
- Anchor myself in the PRESENT
One of the reasons the future can be so terrifying is because it is always a step outside our reach. What is within our reach is today, the present, and that knowledge always brings a fresh relief to my worries. If nothing else, it forces me to acknowledge the presence of today, and my responsibility only to what is in front of me. In fact, what often brings about my anxieties and fears is a wrong belief that I have control over the future, and therefore, must work to secure my own happiness in it. The truth is that I have very little control over anything outside of my attitude, actions, and choices in the present moment. And strangely enough, it seems that’s exactly how God meant for us to live.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
- Anchor myself in REALITY
I learned a strange-sounding, but oddly-helpful skill from the amazing Beth Moore. She instructs her readers to practice “finishing their worries” with a healthy dose of reality. This seems counter-intuitive, since we are so often prone, or even advised, not to think about the things we are afraid of. Beth says, jump right in and think it all the way through.
Here’s an example: one of my big fears is failure, especially in my career. (Newsflash: pastors and leaders aren’t exempt from this.) I’m afraid I will make a big mistake and have to answer to my leadership about it. This causes me all kinds of hesitance and worry, and keeps me from stepping out and taking risks in my job and community, because I’m afraid of failing.
Beth’s advice is to think through the reality of that. Keep asking yourself, “Then what?” until you get to the end and back to normal reality. When it comes to my fear of failure, it’s not just possible, it’s probable! I will make a mistake and have to face the consequences of it. Then what? Then, I will feel embarrassed and awkward, and have to deal with what comes. Then what? I will probably cry at home and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to avoid that ever happening again. Then what? Then I will go back to work and people will get past it and so will I. Then what? Then that’s it. Life continues. That can bring a helpful dose of reality for me in the moments when the uncertainties feel like a giant un-conquerable mountain.
- Anchor myself in TRUTH
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have to anchor myself in truth. Truth is what identifies me and reminds me of the bigger picture of the universe and who is in charge.
The truth is that God has been in control, He is in control, and He will continue to be in control, despite every ounce of circumstantial change that can occur in my life, or ever will occur in my life. He is simply more powerful than those possibilities.
Sometimes when we learn something new or a fresh fear is awakened in us, it can feel like everything has changed all of sudden. I like this reminder of truth that while my understanding or awareness may have grown, everything that was true 5 minutes before this is still true now. The world is still turning, God is still victorious, and the end of our story, our truth, cannot be intercepted.
Anchoring myself in the present, in reality, and in truth leads me again and again to one inevitable result: HOPE. I start to have hope that all is not lost, that there is calm beyond the storm, and that God continues to be in control. Even though my circumstances and reality haven’t changed, and sometimes my feelings of fear and anxiety haven’t waned, I have grounded myself in an unshakable truth that God is still in charge. Then I experience the blessed choice to rest on that anchor, trusting its depth and foundation, instead of my own.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)
ABOUT SARAH ROSE LOCHELT
Sarah Rose Lochelt is a Southern-California native who is passionate about the power of communication and the connection that happens through conversation, especially when there is coffee involved. She is a pastor in the LA area and loves to write and speak about the lies of shame, the truth of grace, and the freedom that comes from relating authentically to one another, especially for women in the church. She always has at least one book to read in her purse, is infamous for making silly faces at babies in public, and could live on pizza for every meal.Follow Sarah