Confession time: I really struggle with the spirit of fear. Whether it is big fears like sickness or current political issues, or small things like confronting someone or getting gas at night, I face each of these with a certain amount of fear and dread. Don’t believe me? Here’s a story to prove it.
When I was a freshman in high school, my biology teacher read us a chapter from “The Hot Zone.” If you’ve never heard of this novel, it’s about the first patient who caught Ebola. So, there I was in my class, listening to the horrible details of this sickness and, for some reason, thinking this was all fiction. Apparently my selective hearing kicked in at some point and I didn’t catch my teacher tell us that this was real. At the end of the chapter she went on to state, “This is sadly still going on to this day in Africa, and there is no cure for it yet.” In that moment, it was like time stood still, and fear overcame my entire being. WHAT DO YOU MEAN THIS IS REAL?!
I went home still in shock and paralyzed by fear. I didn’t want to move or breathe the air around me just in case Ebola was lurking around the corner ready to attack. My sweet grandma even came over to my house that night and I wouldn’t give her a hug and a kiss because I wasn’t about to get sick! (Gram, if you can somehow see this from Heaven, please know I’m sorry for my weird paranoia and I love you lots.)
Fast forward a year later, someone in the Dallas metroplex was in quarantine for Ebola. “Yep. This is the end. It’s all downhill here from here,” I thought as this story hit the news. To make matters worse someone in my school district had created a very real looking, fake news report that two students from my school had caught the disease. As you can imagine, I went into full fledged panic mode. Finally, my dad smacked some sense into me by telling me that I had nothing to fear and I needed to stop letting the fear of things out of my control, cripple my life.
I tell you this story not to make fun of the disease, because it is a very real and tragic epidemic that sadly affects hundreds of people to this day, but to show you just how much I let fear have a hold on my life.
I don’t believe we can completely destroy fear. In the words of Carl Lentz, “Fear never leaves, but the way we handle it can always change. The only way you get through any fear is to step up, even minimally. And, if you survive, it means it wasn’t as bad as you thought. And, slowly but surely fear loses its grip.”
The enemy’s most common weapon against us is fear. He will use the spirit of fear to keep you from walking into your purpose, or even doing a small action that could cause a ripple affect of positive actions. He’s repetitive in the way he attacks us, and if we can recognize the source of the fear, look it in the eye, walk directly into it and keep going – he can no longer win. David wrote in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Notice he says, walk through. We shouldn’t linger on those things that make us afraid. Face them down, walk through them and know that God is there to comfort us.
Something that I recently learned is that there is a difference between fear and discernment. You may be thinking: “yeah…duh, Heather.” But sadly there a lot of us who confuse the two as the same thing, and they aren’t at all.
Fear: “a feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety and well-being of someone”
Discernment: “the ability to judge well. (in Christian contexts) perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding”
Fear comes from the enemy. Discernment comes from the Lord. Fear causes us to feel anxious. Discernment helps us see and judge things, and warns our spirit.
For example, when I first got my car I wanted to surprise my mom and drive to see her. Before I left to go back home, I had a check in my heart and spirit to wait five more minuets before getting in the car and driving. I brushed the feeling off and got in the car and ended up getting into an accident that night. That feeling I got back at my mom’s house, was discernment. It was God warning my spirit to wait before driving. It didn’t wash over me like fear. It gave me the opportunity to judge my feelings and do what I thought was best. I obviously didn’t listen to that check in my spirit and I learned my lesson.
When we can differentiate the difference between fear and discernment, we will start to take control of our moments and know when something is coming from the enemy or our Heavenly Father.
On the other end of the spectrum, fear can make you second guess yourself, make you feel stupid, keep you from saying something you should say, or do something you should do. That’s been the case for me this past year. I wouldn’t say things I wanted to say, because I was too scared I would be misjudged or that things would go terribly wrong. But, sometimes the best opportunities, or moments, are behind the scariest doors of all time. Choose to walk through them anyways.
Fear is a daily battle, but keep swinging and fighting. Don’t stop.
I’ve realized in the moments when I am trying to decide whether or not I should do something that makes me incredibly scared and nervous, that I can either let fear be the boss of me and keep me from doing something I truly want/need to do, or, I can use it as fuel to push me forward. I’m done letting it hold me back and I hope you are too.
“Life is too short for you to live enslaved by fear. I would rather die proving a fear right than live never testing the waters because fear talked me into staying in a boat that was actually floating in two feet of water.” – Carl Lentz
I’m not saying that my life is fear free. It’s still there, but, I just am choosing to look at it differently now. Because I don’t want to look back at life and have the fear of, “What if I had just tried?”