Too often, even Christians believe that anxiety and worry are annoying but unavoidable parts of life. “Oh well,” we say, “No one enjoys fear, but it’s to be expected, right?” WRONG. This mindset is a major roadblock to living fearlessly. Let’s talk about it.
About ten years ago, when I first saw the ocean, the Lord began to show me why we should never shy away from the fear of God. In fact, pursuing the fear of God will allow you to be fearless about the very things that used to cause you to panic. In this video, I discuss this subject along with a few others, including the question, What does God’s wrath have to do with His love?
I battled with anxiety for decades (!!!!!), but I’ve been free of it for more than five years. So can you. Take a look at the story of Peter walking on water in a brand new way and discover the key to fearlessness.
Lately, God has been challenging me on almost a daily basis to decide what I believe and then stand up for it, no matter what others might think, no matter if I come across as radical or even foolish. He has allowed me to be pushed into corners where there’s no happy medium, so that I must either defer to unrighteousness or profess and defend the truth—and then live accordingly. He is eradicating the “middle ground” and challenging me to come out of hiding as far as who I am in Him.
For too long, with few exceptions, the typical American Christian has been able to tiptoe and dance around controversial topics; it’s entirely possible to go for years without having to stand up and declare what you believe regarding matters like the sanctity of life or the definition of marriage or the significance of sexual purity. In the process, we’ve bought in to the lie that there are no absolutes, that everything is relative. More and more, we’ve learned to live in the grey areas until we’ve forgotten that there is light and there is darkness.
We’re so desensitized to sin that we’re offended by the word “sin” rather than by the things that dishonor the Lord.
Not so long ago, it was understood that a wise man gave his allegiance to God. Now, it has become second nature to excuse, defend, and even celebrate the things that offend God. We’ve become compromising and spineless.
But not for long. The tide is turning, light and dark are polarizing, and soon we’re going to have to choose, and there will be no grey area in which to hide. Lord, embolden us to defend Your honor, embrace truth, and obey You at all cost.
Many of us have bought into the lie that we can’t choose our thoughts. Think about how often we say things like, “I can’t stop thinking about such-and-such.” Or how frequently we say we’re stressed when what we really mean is that we’ve worried ourselves into a frenzy. We talk about fear like it’s a wild animal that jumps out from behind the bushes, attacking us against our will and overpowering us. We’re far too tolerant of fear when we see it in this light—as a predator against which we have little recourse. It’s time to adopt a zero tolerance policy in regard to anxiety, worry, and fear.
Fear vs. fearlessness is far more a matter of choice than we think it is. Granted, turning from fearful thoughts to healthy ones can require Herculean strength, but the fact remains that we can choose our thoughts, and we have a responsibility to do just that.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Love Pray, the author’s friend Richard instructs her to choose her thoughts like she chooses her clothes each morning. This morning, I sailed right through the task of choosing my blue and pink running shorts and a cotton T-shirt. It’s not as easy to choose certain thoughts and reject others, but it’s just as possible. Think about it: if we were powerless over fearful thoughts, God wouldn’t have given us instructions like this one: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8, NLT). I can name a hundred topics that are honorable, pure, excellent, etc. But anxiety is never lovely, and having cold sweats because you’re fretting about what might happen tomorrow is never admirable.
Once you commit to disciplining your thought life, and if you’re consistent even when various crises arise, you’ll find yourself rejecting fearful thoughts as quickly as you once accepted them. You will walk in courage and peace in situations that would once have reduced you to a meltdown.
“We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One” (2 Cor. 10:5, Voice).
My next word of caution as we hash out the topic of fear versus fearlessness is about prayer—and it’s probably not what you think…
Let’s assume you’ve made up your mind to “Fear not,” just like Jesus said. If you’ve read the last couple of posts, you now understand that, as soon as you have that “oh-crap-I’m-gonna-hyperventilate” feeling, Rule Number One is to stop giving your attention to the fear and give it instead to what’s right in front of you.
Rule Number Two is to refrain from praying about what’s bothering you.
At the risk of sounding like a heathen, I’m going to say it again: now is not the time to pray—because right now, you’re disciplining your mind to turn away from fear and think wholesome thoughts. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: prayer is crucial to life. We’ll shrivel up and die without it. But sometimes, the fearful person will use prayer time to hash out (and then rehash and rehash) his or her fears. Sometimes, what a fearful person calls “prayer” looks a lot like freaking out and dwelling on the issue. In other words, trading thoughts that sound like this: “What am I gonna do, I don’t know what to do!” for prayers that sound like this: “Lord, what am I gonna do, I don’t know what to do!” does not equal progress. So, for now, when you’re tempted to worry and fret, don’t spiritualize the situation by disguising your meltdown as prayer. Stick to the plan. Take your thoughts captive. You’ll discover that, as you learn to live apart from fear, your prayer life will start sounding a lot more like a peaceful conversation with God rather than a mental breakdown.
Stop begging God to make you courageous and simply embrace courage. Lay claim to it—it’s yours because Jesus paid the price. Don’t worry if you don’t feel courageous—that’ll happen sooner or later. This isn’t about emotions, it’s about stepping across the border between “Afraid” and “Fearless” because fearlessness is your birthright as a child of God.
(I do not like bears. At all. So to me, this is what courage looks like.)