Fear can be a gift if you can get to the roots and then grow some wings…
Everybody is afraid of something.
Maybe you are a happily married mom whose husband travels frequently, and you find yourself checking his flight status constantly because you are secretly afraid that you will become a widow long before your time.
Perhaps you are like my husband, who works extremely hard because he subconsciously wonders whether or not we will have enough money when we eventually retire.
Or maybe you are like me and you fear major change. Our family moved several months ago and I struggled with the fear of the unknown.
No matter how big and strong you are, everybody is afraid of something.
Many years ago I read an excellent book called the “Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Beker, a book that educates readers on how to trust their gut instincts in order to reduce their chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime. Many of the principles I learned have stayed with me over the years and I have used the “if your gut thinks something is off, it probably is” concept many times.
In this post, I will highlight several fears I have struggled with throughout my life and how I have found freedom and healing from many of them. I can summarize my approach to handling fear using two simple words:
Roots and Wings
Roots: I had to learn to get to the root of the fear and be able to summarize it in simple terms, and then thrust that fear into the light.
Wings: I imperfectly rise above the fear with God’s help and strength.
Think of fear as being an indicator light in your car, letting you know that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. The “gift” of fear is that sense of freedom and healing I received once the root was identified, brought into the light, and burned away.
I have struggled with many fears including a deep fear of rejection, the fear of moving (which is really the fear of the unknown), and the fear of missing out. In the following post, I will dig deep into just a few of my fears and how I have found freedom and healing from almost all of them.
Fear of ghosts, demons, and bad guys:
Many nights as Erik and I were trying to fall asleep, we would hear what sounded like many squirrels were up in the attic, scurrying around. We were lazy and tired so we let it go for months (I’m embarrassed to admit this). One day, Erik’s brother Ed came for a visit and Erik and Ed ended up working in the attic. While they were up there, I asked them to look for any evidence of squirrels (like nests, droppings, etc) and report back. They came down later and said “nothing. No squirrels.”
That night as we were in bed trying to fall asleep, the racket started up again. I looked at Erik and said “those stupid squirrels!” Right then a thought popped into my head: ‘those are not squirrels.” Oh my! At first, I was filled with fear as I thought: what can that possibly be? Is that a demon up there? So in that moment, without even consciously realizing it, I figured out the roots (fear of the unknown, and fear of harm). I had already learned about the authority I had through Jesus Christ to make demons go away. I looked up toward the attic and prayed (wings) that the demon(s) leave my attic in Jesus’ name. Right at the moment I finished praying, there was a very loud BOOM that filled up our entire bedroom!! It was as if something was pissed and hit the side of the attic wall with angry force. It was so loud that Erik and I jumped out of our bed in alarm! After that huge boom there was complete and utter silence.
And then the attic was as quiet as a mouse for the next nine years we lived there.
Fear of getting married: It’s not that I didn’t want to marry Erik (my husband) because I most certainly did! He was and still is a wonderful man. But I was extremely terrified that he would change after marriage. I’m not sure where the root of that fear came from, but it may have been from my deep distrust of men and their potential to hurt me or reject me, or maybe I had watched too many LifeTime movies. Not sure. 🙂
Anyway, I remember listening to the old Elton John song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” while I studied for Masters degree at his apartment. I remember writing a school paper on Erik’s computer while quietly singing the famous lines of the song under my breath (because Erik was within ear-shot):
“You nearly had me roped and tied. Altar bound, hypnotized, sweet freedom whispered in my ear. You’re a butterfly, and butterflies are free to fly.”
I would then look over at Erik and secretly wonder if he was tricking me this whole time and secretly waiting to turn into a psycho after marriage. Looking back, this fear was silly and irrational, but at the time, it had a hold on me.
Roots: Fear of death (maybe not physical death, but the death of a dream of a happy marriage), fear of being fooled, fear of rejection (of course), and finally, the worst one for me: the fear of being trapped in a bad marriage. I am a very free-spirited person who likes to make very careful and wise decisions. I didn’t want to mess up the biggest decision of my life!
Wings: I turned to the Lord and prayed about it, and told Him all of my fears. I prayed that if Erik was not the man that God had intended for me, could God please communicate that to me in a way I could understand.
But then here its the kicker, because God does not always shield us and protect us in every situation. I prayed that God’s will would be done, and that, whatever He allowed for me, as good or as bad as it might be, that He would give me the strength and the wisdom to withstand the trial and be ok with whatever happened. I trusted His plan for my life and trusted that He would bring good from it. And I believed that He would never leave me or forsake me even if my husband did. I basically prayed the Prayer of Relinquishment, which models Jesus’ prayer in the Garden, before He was led away to death. He prayed several times that the Lord would find another way for Him to make atonement for the sins of mankind, but God said no, it had to be the cross. Finally, Jesus ended up praying: “Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.” Jesus went to the cross and died for the sins of the world, and was resurrected on the third day. He accomplished what He came to do.
After I prayed God’s will for my life and marriage, I had a peace to go forward with the wedding. It was like a burden lifted from my shoulders and I felt free! Erik and I had a beautiful wedding day and (thank God) we still have a happy marriage to this day.
Fear of moving.
Roots: The number one root was the fear of death of all of my carefully built up relationships, fear of not making good friends, fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear that my kids would not thrive, fear of making a huge mistake, and me not finding my purpose here in our new state.
Wings: I prayed to God to help me to find new friends, help my kids to adjust, help my Maryland friends to still love me and pursue me even if I moved away, and to trust that God was allowing or even orchestrating this move. Update: it’s been seven months since we moved, and although our new neighborhood is super quiet (compared to the AWESOME hood we have just lived in) my neighbors are very nice, we’ve made a few friends, and my Alderman lives here and I received a part-time job working to help her reelection. We found a great school for the kids, Khloe is thriving academically and socially, and the girls did great on their varsity basketball team. Additionally, we remodeled our kitchen and I love it! My Maryland friends still love me. The local area is cool. The weather sucks.
In closing….I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I have my whole life put together in a neat bow…so here are two last fears that I am still working on: first, the fear of losing my husband and children. Second, fear of the “life’s little things” involving my family and my home (and my little job).
First, losing my husband and kids: the only way I have personally developed a peace about this is to entrust my family and the timing of their life on earth into the hands of the Lord. The illustration I heard about this that helped to set me free is that on the back of every gift you have (in this case, my husband and children) exists an expiration date that the Lord himself put there. The expiration date is hidden to us. The expiration date could be tomorrow, 5 years from now, or 100 years from now. But, an expiration date exists indeed. I don’t think this analogy completely eradicates this fear for me, but it puts it into perspective: my husband and children are a gift from God. He is in control of all aspects of life and death and it’s ultimately up to Him as to how long my greatest gifts exist on this earth. And the root of this fear is being alone and lonely for the rest of my life and just simply enduring the loss of those I love the most in this world.
Fear of little things that cause me stress: Stress, for me, is an indication of a small fear that I am not dealing with straight on. Stress indicates that I am trying to control something that is too hard to completely control. Lots of times it involves my kids: stress about how my son is doing in school, stress about my daughter’s constant headaches, or stress about getting behind with household or administrative tasks (dumb, but true). I still need to bring these “smaller fears” into the light by using the roots and wings model. Sadly, I often let these little fears continue on, causing me to become cranky and more controlling with my husband and children. Not good.
Even this morning my son (who is struggling a little bit in school) said to me: “mom, don’t stress, but my teacher said that we might have all of our tests today because so many people are leaving for Spring Break.”
Because I’m in the midst of writing this post, I calmly said to him: “It’s ok Logan. I trust God.” But then I added, “but if you want, you can still study on the drive to school.” 🙂
Before I close, I need to reiterate a major qualifier. God does not always promise us that our greatest fears will not come to pass. I know many people who have lost their battle with cancer, lost a husband or wife, lost a child, have never been married (yet), had to move to a different state or make a major life change, had a friendship change or die, or be trapped in a horrible marriage! Many good men, women, and children had their greatest fears come to life. So what do I do with that?
For me, there are two things about God that take the edge off this reality.
First, I know that no matter what I go through, God promises to go with me and will never leave me:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Second, God promises to make all things work together for good.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28.
To summarize this verse, to me it means that God promises to take any bad circumstance and bring good from it, and in the process, God will make me more like his Son, meaning I will have more peace and calm when facing whatever trial God allows for me. He will also shave off sin and adjust other areas of my life that need major improvement. And, I need to add that God is a loving God who carefully considers every trial He sends my way. There are no mistakes in God’s design. Sometimes God will allow hard things for me, but He promises to be with me and help me and make something good come from it.
In conclusion, it is only through God’s strength that I have been able to overcome my many fears. Fear eventually turns into a gift of perspective and it no longer has control over me in the same way. The true gift that fear can eventually give me is the gift of freedom and healing. No longer will that fear have control or power over me.
In summary, the gift of freedom and healing makes it worth facing down my greatest fears!
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31