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Fear is something that all of us face at some point in our lives. From fear of failure, not having enough, rejection, and abandonment to fear of taking risks, speaking up for Christ and even fear of the devil, fears abound in the lives of many. 

Understanding what it is and how to overcome it is vital to thriving. Christians battle with fear and need encouragement to face it.  

Here are 10 thoughts to help you in overcoming your fears:

1 Healthy fear is natural

Fear can be healthy as a natural reaction to a perceived threat. God placed a system in your body to warn you when you are in danger. It acts as a survival mechanism enabling you to discern when you need to be protected. Many of us react with fear to things like snakes or spiders. This kind of fear keeps you safe.

2 Fight or flight or freeze

Some of the natural reactions your body has when it considers something a threat is a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, aching stomach and more. Your body is preparing you to fight or flee away from the threat. This sudden and intense reaction with adrenaline alerts and enables you to do something. However, sometimes it might freeze you up. 

We freeze when our minds find we have limited options to act and not doing anything might be the best response to the situation. It also happens when you have limited skills to react or feel overwhelmed. 

3 False Evidence Appearing Real

Whereas some fears are healthy and may originate due to trauma, some fears are not based on reality. It becomes problematic when your reaction is out of proportion to the actual threat. We tend to overgeneralise, see all or nothing scenarios and jump to conclusions. These thinking styles are unhelpful since they exaggerate the fear. This can cause stress for you because it limits your coping in the situation. 

These thoughts could sound like: 

“You will not be able to do this”

“People hurt you so nobody can be trusted”

“I failed therefore I am a failure and not able” 

“It is going to be terrible!” and more. 

Believing these thoughts lead to paralysing emotions such as anxiety, depression and fear. These lead to all kinds of behaviours like avoidance (into substances or the virtual world), self-medicating (with food and drink) or stopping yourself from even trying and testing your limits. 

Yet, these thoughts can be challenged. Checking whether you have used unhelpful thinking will provide some clarity. 

4 Balancing your thoughts

When you see things out of proportion to reality, you usually go to extremes and lose balance in your thinking. To change this, you could employ some cross examining questions. 

Asking yourself whether your thoughts are in line with reality, or how a mentor would see the situation, or whether there is evidence for your fear, will help to create a balanced picture. 

The thoughts could end up sounding like: 

“I might not be able to do this right away, but with guidance and practice I will surely improve”

“Some people have hurt me in the past, but that does not mean everyone can’t be trusted. Sometimes people make mistakes and I do too”.

“Even though I did not succeed in the past, this does not mean I am a failure or will never succeed. I am more than my failures and can try again”, 

“The worst case scenario is very unlikely to happen”. 

This process should start to reduce the fear. 

5 Facing fear reduces it

The emotion of fear often overwhelms and frightens us. Therefore we stop and feel threatened. Allowing yourself to do what you are afraid of gives you the opportunity to see whether the fear was as bad as you initially thought. Fear generally reduces when we face it. It is called “exposure”. Preventing yourself from reacting in a fight/freeze/flight way helps you to get used to it, called “habituation”. You get used to the feeling of fear like getting used to cold weather. Later on your mind sees it as safe. 

6 Step by step

You can face fear by ‘exposing’ yourself to it in small doses that become more and more intense. For example, if you know you can sing, but you fear of singing in front of others, start by singing in the shower, then with one person you trust, later on sing to a group of trusted friends, then slowly up the exposure to a wider audience. By the time you get to a public stage, you will be ready to face that fear. One step at a time. 

7 Flooding

This is for the brave! You jump right to the stage and start singing. You feel flooded as you do it but then your brain realises you are actually okay! This is the quickest way to overcome fear. The more you ‘flood’ yourself, the more you overcome it. It is however uncomfortable whilst you are doing it and your brain will scream “danger” whilst it is getting used to what you are doing. Persistence will pay off. 

8 Fear and the Christian

Just as fear is not always rational, it is also not always spiritually true. For the Christian, fear goes against trust in God. Faith in God is based on trust. 

Trust is based on knowledge of who He is. Knowledge is found in the Word of God, the Bible. There you learn about His character and love. 

Knowledge in action, or experience with God, is based on trusting in His Word and the leading of His Spirit. This results in understanding of Him and His ways.  

Fear means one does not know God, His promises and His character of love and faithfulness. When this happens, one might not trust Him in the area one fears. Therefore, one will not step out in faith in His Word. This could limit seeing the evidence of His faithfulness and lead to a reluctance to trust, or a continued lack of faith. It is a cycle that keeps us bound. 

9 Fear and lies

Spiritual fear, or lack of trust in God, is usually based on some belief that is not Biblically true. This could lead to disobedience, insecurity, jealousy, anger, loss and other sins. 

These lies go against who God is and what He wants to do. It may sound like “God does not love you”, “You are alone”, “, “You have no purpose”, “God will not help you”, “Your sins cannot be forgiven and you will be condemned” and more. 

10 Faith is based on truth

Since fear is based on lies, faith is based on truth. Ultimate, absolute truth is found in the Word of God and sets you free. The Christian should know the Word and trust it. 

Truth can sound like “God loved me so much that He gave His Son, so I must be important to Him”, “ God has promised to never leave me or forsake me”, “God made me as unique and has a plan to use my gifts in His Kingdom”, “God wants to help His children and show how strong and good He is”, “When Christ died for me He took all the judgement for my sins. God has given me eternal life”. 

These thoughts lead to emotions such as courage, peace, hope, determination and joy. The actions that follow these emotions can be praying with faith, obeying God, developing my gifts, receiving His forgiveness, forgiving others and myself, and reaching out. 

To overcome our fears and grow in trusting God, we should first find out what He wants us to do. Then align what we say and think with His word. This leads to actions, or obedience. 

Once we take God at His Word and obey, our experience of fear might temporarily escalate. Yet, if we persist, the fear will dissipate because we will see His faithfulness. However, if we remain stagnant, faith cannot be activated, and we will receive no proof of our trust. 

Stepping out in the direction that He is leading us, facing the fear with the knowledge that He is with us will boost our confidence and grow our faith. 

Isaiah 41:10

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.

By Erich Schoeman (Clinical Psychologist), Matters of the Soul (mattersofthesoul.org)