What Do You Fear?
For years, I feared escalators.
Does that seem irrational to you? To me, it was terrifying. Those metal steps. The jagged edges. The unstoppable motion. You have to step on, balance yourself, and wait expectantly for the end you know is coming. You know what I mean. The End. Where the step disappears underground and you barely escape being sucked in with it.
I hated them.
It started after an incident in a department store when I was five years old. While my mum shopped for clothes, I played and twirled and danced and ran around the top of an escalator.
“You stay away from the top of those stairs,” Mum told me.
And I did. Until the moment I didn’t. Instead of listening, I chose to play around the top of the escalators anyway. That’s when I saw the handrail and grabbed on. Not realizing the handrail moved with the steps, I found myself being pulled with my feet still resting at the top of the stairs. Before I knew what was happening, I was yanked forward. I fell down the escalator and cut myself on the jagged metal steps.
It was a terrifying experience, and it stuck with me. Through my childhood, through my teen years, into adulthood, I was still that scared, little girl crying out for her mother in fear and pain because of that metal monster.
After my husband, Ashley, and I got married and the kids were still small, we took a trip to London. Do you have any idea how inconvenient it is with buggies and strollers in the underground subway system in London when you can’t take an escalator?
I would go further than I needed to go, walk longer than I needed to walk, make traveling more complicated than it needed to be, all to find an elevator. All so I could avoid the monsters. When that wasn’t possible and one of those mammoth escalators was the only option, I would climb on and grip the handrails until my knuckles turned white. My heart would race. I’d start sweating. Then the dizziness would hit. It caused a full-on panic attack. I was a grown woman still holding on to a child’s fear that somehow, someway, I would fall again.
Fear Like an Escalator
Our fears act exactly like that escalator, don’t they? They suck us in, pull us down, and leave us terrified. And they’re everywhere.
We can’t get from where we are to where we want to go without being confronted with them constantly. To move forward, we have to face those fears, overcome those fears, maybe even use those fears to take us from here to there. To avoid them, we choose a lesser route or even a lesser destination.
If we’ve got to travel through, over, or with those fears to fulfill God’s plan for our lives, maybe we’ll just wait it out until He comes up with a better plan. Right?
Sorry. It isn’t going to work that way. Overcoming those fears may be the very thing God is going to use in your life to bless you beyond anything you could imagine. He is going to use you for His Kingdom in ways where you will know without a doubt it was God and God alone.
That fear may have you chained now, but God sent Jesus with bolt cutters! It’s time to prepare for the freedom He wants you to experience.
The Many Faces of Fear
So, maybe you don’t fear escalators. I hope you don’t! The step’s edges are like metal teeth. Did I mention the metal teeth?
Instead, your fear may be less around something that could happen to you and more around how people see you. You fear how you’re perceived. You fear being ostracized or criticized or insulted. You fear people won’t like you, won’t esteem you, or will think ill of you. That’s the fear of man.
Or, maybe your fear is about want. You’re worried God won’t provide all your needs. You stress over the bills, over your responsibilities, over finding yourself without any means to take care of your family. You look at the future as something that is coming at you in attack mode. What will it bring? Will you be prepared? That’s the fear of lack.
Perhaps your fear is about the coming consequences of your actions. You know you’ve done something wrong or sinful. You stress and fret and twist yourself into all kinds of regret, while denying God’s forgiveness. Even if you could finally forgive yourself, you know that second shoe is about to drop. That’s the fear of punishment.
People fear all kinds of different things, from the ultimate fear of death, the understandable fear of pain, to fearing abundance, attention, or popularity. If it’s out there, we can find ways to fear it. But, why? Where does all this fear come from?
In 1 John 4:18, we read that “perfect love casts out fear.” Ultimately, fear is a lack of faith. Deep down, though we mourn admitting it, we don’t trust God to keep His Word. We doubt that God is good, that He is true to His Word, that He is with us, that He will never leave us, and that He has good for us. If we aren’t completely captivated by the love of God, fear will play a predominant role in our lives. What’s worse, our fears may also play a predominate role in the lives of our loved ones.
Fear Is Contagious
During a conference in Arizona, a man approached me to lay hands on him for his wife. He explained, “She’s in bed in the hotel room because she’s incapacitated. She’s bed-bound. She’s unable to come down to receive prayer,” he said. “I want you to lay your hands on me so that the power of God is in me, and I can go lay hands on my wife.” That’s how he was believing, and that’s how he wanted to receive.
As I placed my hands on him for prayer, the Holy Spirit checked me. God was letting me know there was more to the story here. I heard His still, small voice tell me to look at the man. Instantly, I knew what the Lord wanted me to see. This husband was in desperate fear of losing his wife.
“You know what? What I’m sensing when I’m looking at you is fear,” I told him.
He appreciated the prayer and left. I didn’t think any more about it until hours later when I ran into him again. He looked completely different. In fact, his countenance had changed so much, I didn’t even recognize him.
“You don’t recognize me, do you?” he asked. “You prayed for me this morning. I’m the man with the fear. Well, I want to introduce you to someone. This is my wife.”
She stood beside him looking healthy, happy, and simply radiant. He told me that after the prayer, as he was in the elevator going back to his room, the power of God hit his wife in her bed and all her symptoms left. All her pain was gone and her mobility returned!
Fear had kept this woman in bondage. She had been struggling to believe God for her healing and wean herself off medication. She had been taking steps forward in faith, but her husband’s fear was keeping her bound. He loved her so much that his fear had kept her from stepping out in faith.
His sympathy was—literally—loving her to death. When the fear was finally broken in his life, the power of God was able to flow, and she received her healing.
When you have a spouse or loved one who is ill, it’s natural to feel fear and trepidation. You’re worried and anxious. Every day, you’re fighting off the fear of what might happen. These emotions are natural and expected. When our daughter was given a week to live, I had them all.
But we can’t just stop feeling. That’s not the answer. It isn’t even possible. We are going to have fear. Fear of what might happen. Fear for them. Even fear for how their illness will change our lives, too.
This can be especially tormenting when a family member suffers from an illness that could be hereditary. Not only are you watching that disease attack them and hating to see them in pain while stressed over providing them care, you also know in the back of your head it could eventually be you.
That’s a potent fear that can grip us at a time when we’re already exhausted, emotionally drained, and susceptible to stress. So, what do we do?
We make the choice to not allow fear to drive us. We must always stop our fear before it becomes the predominant emotion in our life. We must deny our fears any authority. They may exist, but they don’t need to be in the lead.
Fear of the Unknown
Ashley tells this story about a school experience that perfectly illustrates how his fear of what could happen was so much worse than what actually did happen:
When I was in school, there was this big kid who I offended somehow. I don’t know how, exactly, but it was enough that he decided to beat me up after school. That day, everyone was talking about it. Other kids kept coming up to me and saying, “He’s going to deck you after school. Just wait. He’s going to beat you up.”
All day, that’s all I could think about. This guy was coming for me. He was bigger than me, tougher than me, and he wanted me to pay. I imagined exactly what was coming for me. All day, through all my classes, all I could think about was that dreaded moment.
Eventually, the school day ended, and I had to go face this guy. I’d worked myself up imagining what was coming. Walking into that school yard, I felt my terror in every step.
Once I got there, the guy stomped toward me and punched me once. Then he said, “Now, don’t say that again,” and walked off. All I could think was, Is that it?
It was no big deal. It didn’t even hurt. All day, I’d been trembling over what was coming to me when that final bell rang, and it turned out my fear leading up to the event was far worse than the event itself. My dear Ashley. He’s a lover not a fighter.
Fear often starts small. It’s a small seed, a small thought. Then, as time goes on, as you give it more focus, you water that fear and it grows. You waste your time thinking about it. You spend your energy obsessing over it. You forfeit your productivity in other areas to allocate more effort to cater to it. And all it does is grow. The more it grows, the more you feed it. The more you feed it, the bigger it grows. Before long, it’s gotten so big it can crowd out the light.
We find ourselves fearing, even to an irrational degree, something that may not even be true. Fear becomes F.alse Evidence EINppearing Real. And we can’t convince ourselves otherwise.
Fight Fear with Faith
Fear, of the known or unknown, of the real or imagined, works to paralyze us with the threat of “the possibilities.” We become stuck—unable to move forward, unable to overcome, unable to stop feeding the monster we’ve created.
Now what? Are we doomed to fear?
Satan would love nothing more than to convince you that your fear is insurmountable. Never forget, his sole purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He steals our peace. He kills our hope. He destroys our joy.
But that’s not the end of our story. God is the author here, and He’s the ender of all fear. That includes your fear, too.
Here’s how we fight fear with faith:
1. Take control of your thought life
Our thought life affects every other aspect of our lives. The more time we spend thinking of things that do not produce life, the more our lives will be eroded. Scripture tells us that out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak (Luke 6:45; Matthew 12:34). When we’re consumed with fear, we talk about it. We internalize and verbalize it. Before long, our words become toxic, reflecting our toxic thoughts. If you’re consumed with worst case scenarios, with always finding the negative, with focusing on anything fearful you can find in every situation, you will give your life over to your fears.
2. Call that which is evil, evil
In Romans 12:21, Paul writes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The fear we’re talking about truly is evil. It is robbing us of peace and attacking our joy. God wants us to trust Him, but we cannot trust Him while cowering in fear. The two simply cannot coexist. When we walk with Christ, we will never walk in fear.
3. Look fear in the eye
I know this is going to be hard, but you’ve got to face down that fear. You do that by asking yourself one simple question, “What’s the worst that could happen?” When I was struggling with my escalator fears, I had to come to terms with the ultimate scenario. What happens if I trip and fall? I’ll hurt myself, but I will survive. In fact, it probably won’t even be all that bad. With other fears, however, the worst thing that could happen is far greater. In fact, it may even result in death. How do we face fear like that?
Power over Deathly Fear
You may be fearing a sickness right now or even the possibility of an illness. You may be waiting on a doctor’s report, and, depending on what it says, you could be facing the ultimate battle with fear. If you are sick, will it be painful? If you need treatment, will it be available? If there is no treatment, are you going to die?
Maybe it’s not an illness but a devastating financial loss. Will you and your family go without? Will there still be food to eat? Will your family starve? Or go homeless?
Perhaps you fear being outcast from society. Will you be alone? Will you lose your job? Your friends? Your community?
Ultimately, all these fears can be traced to the fear of death, either literally or as the death of something beloved. The Lord, however, has something better for us than death.
In Hebrews 2:14, we see how Jesus approached death:
So then, as the children share in flesh and blood, He [Jesus] likewise took part in these, so that through [His] death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were throughout their lives subject to bondage (MEV, brackets added).
The devil once had the power of death. That power is no more.
You see, fear keeps people in bondage, but Jesus says here He’s come to deliver us from the fear of death and living in bondage. He has better plans for us than to live in fear. That first step out of fear begins with courage.
Time to Be Bold
The Lord repeatedly told Joshua, “Do not be afraid” (Joshua 1:6-9). Why would He say that? Could it be that Joshua, the mighty warrior, was fighting fear?
One of the things we learn about Joshua’s life was that he was always fighting people. He was always in one scrape or another, one battle or another, one insurmountable challenge or another.
As the successor to Moses as the leader of the children of Israel, Joshua was tried and tested, sometimes by his own people, sometimes from outside sources. Moses left big sandals to fill, and Joshua must have frequently felt the heaviness of that responsibility and those expectations. He may have even doubted himself.
God saw his challenges and responded by commanding Joshua to only “be strong and courageous.”
The Lord is never going to ask us to do something that He hasn’t already given us the ability to do. When Jesus told the disciples many times, “Do not fear,” or when Jesus told a dying girl’s father, “Do not fear, only believe,” that’s because He had equipped them with His strength and power to do exactly what He was commanding. He had given them the ability to not fear. That same ability is also for us so that we can take power over our anxious thoughts, apply truth, and move forward without fear but with faith.
Fear is part of the curse, but we’ve been redeemed from that curse. In the same way we can look to God for the forgiveness of our sin and the healing of our body, we find in Him the power to overcome fear.
Perfect Love Ends Fear
Jesus doesn’t want us to live with fear. He wants us to have the same hatred for fear that we do for sickness or poverty or injustice or anything else He atoned for through His sacrifice. He wants us to cast off the fear that torments us by being confident in His love.
We have come into an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love He has for us. God is love! Those who are living in love are living in God, and God lives through them. By living in God, love has been brought to its full expression in us so that we may fearlessly face the day of judgment, because all that Jesus now is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:16-17 TPT, emphasis added).
When we come to know and really believe the love that God has for us, it changes us. You see that happening in verse 17, and in the Modern English Version it reads, “In this way God’s love is perfected in us, so that we may have boldness…”
Remember, one of the characteristics of being fearless is being bold. It’s being brave. It’s being intrepid. The passage goes on to say, “…that we might have boldness on the Day of Judgment, because as He [Jesus] is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (brackets added).
God’s love is the antidote to any fears that we might have in our lives.
Fear left unchecked will torment us. It will hold us in bondage, but 1 John 4:18 continues, “Whoever fears is not perfect in love.” God loves us so much that He paid the ultimate price to free us from bondage and torment.
Don’t let the devil rent space in your head by suggesting unfounded fear that’s based on lies or by magnifying a negative experience out of proportion. Satan once had the power of death, but Jesus defeated his power. Be confident that the enemy no longer has power in your life. The only power he has is what you give him when you do not place your trust in God’s Word. Reject your fear and embrace your freedom.