I can remember cowering in the hallway with my hands over my head in the fetal position, praying for it to be over. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and began running down my face parallel to the tears streaming down my cheeks. I clung to the wall of my school hallway like it could protect me from the terror of what was to come: a funnel cloud of debris swirling at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour, headed directly for ME. As residents of Northern Indiana, we lived in Tornado Alley… and I had SEEN what these twisters could do. They flattened homes made of brick and mortar like they were built with flimsy toothpicks. They carried people away and deposited them miles down the road… sometimes alive, but sometimes dead. As a 9-year-old girl, tornados were my absolute worst fear. And when that fear surfaced, it was crippling.
Obviously, I never got swept away by a tornado or killed by clouds of flying debris. My fear may have proven to be pretty irrational, but it always grounded in the fact that tornados are dangerous… and they really do hurt people. So what changed? Why do I no longer cry and cower in the corner when the tornado siren goes off whenever we’re back in the heart of Tornado Alley? The honest answer is probably because I learned the chances of actually coming in contact with a twister is actually really slim. BUT… I still overcame my greatest fear… and I think there’s something valuable to be learned in that.
So let’s pick it apart. How DO we overcome fear? Even the most rational kinds of fear that are rooted in the most trustworthy of truths and likelihoods? Our journey begins at the core of it all…
1) Identify what is at the ROOT of your fear. What are you really afraid of? This could take some time to think about… and it can sometimes bring to surface other emotions you didn’t know you had. And that’s okay! WHY are you so scared of ______? When you think about what might be at the core of it all… when you can discover what is feeding your fear… only then can you start to make progress and move forward.
For example, one of my greatest fears right now is that something terrible is going to happen before me and Justin can get married. It’s so silly but I think I’m just feeling like I’m so happy that it’s too good to be true and something’s going to come and take away my happiness. At the core of this fear is that I’ll lose my joy. I’ll lose the spark that makes my heart sing and what makes me excited to get out of bed in the morning… which is sharing a life with Justin. It’s what I’ve wanted for the past five and a half years of my life, so it’s natural to feel like this dream comprises a good portion of my life and my heart right now. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that! So what am I really afraid of? A life without Justin? I think that’s a good enough cause for fear in and of itself… but if I dig a little deeper… if I probe a little further… I think the next layer of fear is the fear of being alone. Of not having someone to share my joys and my sorrows with. To wake up next to. Someone to laugh and cry with and experience life together. Of course that’s a rational fear. Nobody wants to be alone! We were made to be social, to love, to serve, to share life. So I’m scared of being alone. That’s my ROOT fear underneath it all. But where do I go from here?
2) Understand that your fear is perpetuating a FALSE reality. When you recognize what’s at the core of your deepest fears, you’re likely to find that what you’re really scared of is simply not a plausible form of reality. For instance… I will never, ever be alone. I live on a planet with 7 billion other living, breathing souls. The chances of me ending up somewhere that I’d actually be alone, like the Sahara Desert or lost in a forest, are so slim that I’m not scared of that reality. So why am I so afraid of one that’s even less likely to happen? Even if something WERE to happen that prevented Justin and me from getting married, I’d still be surrounded by people who love me. I’d still be a child of the Creator of the universe and a receiver of His love. (I’m feeling better already just writing this out!) And suddenly, I can breathe again. I know that even if my happiness was temporarily taken away, I’d still have the joy that comes from knowing I’m just a small part of something much bigger than myself and that my moment of sorrow is still just a moment in the great timeline of the history of the universe. And thank goodness for that.
3) Accept the truth as your new reality… and live in it. Visualize it as a new place and then go there. And once you arrive, you’ll probably find that the place where you’re going looks pretty similar to the place where you already are. You’re alive. You’re breathing. You’re okay. And you’re not alone. One of the most beautiful ways to conquer fear is by knowing that as Christians, we’ll ALWAYS be alive. There is no death for those who desire to be a part of the body of Christ, and so our reality is that we will always be okay. We’ll be more than okay because we have a peace that surpasses all human understanding. We find hope in God’s promise that we will have everlasting life.
“When God made a promise to Abraham, He made that promise in His own name because no one was greater. He said, ‘I will make you happy in so many ways. For sure, I will give you many children.’ Abraham was willing to wait and God gave to him what He had promised.
When men make a promise, they use a name greater than themselves. They do this to make sure they will do what they promise. In this way, no one argues about it. And so God made a promise. He wanted to show Abraham that He would never change His mind. So He made the promise in His own name. God gave these two things that cannot be changed and God cannot lie. We who have turned to Him can have great comfort knowing that He will do what He has promised. This hope is a safe anchor for our souls. It will never move. This hope goes into the Holiest Place of All behind the curtain of heaven. Jesus has already gone there. He has become our Religious Leader forever and has made the way for man to go to God.” (Hebrews 6:13-20)
One of the reasons I’m a Christian is because of this promise and the hope it gives me every day of my life. In God’s love, there is no fear because it simply can’t exist there. And my life is and will continue to be a journey to getting closer and closer to the Source of this love. And no matter what happens in this earthly life, my heavenly life cannot be affected because my soul is cemented and rooted in this hope. To live in the mission and body of Christ is to live for something bigger than oneself, meaning all of my fears that are by nature limited to the confinements of my mind become small and insignificant in comparison to this much larger, much more important thing that I’m a part of. And there’s no truth more powerful than that.
– Make a list of your top three fears and be specific in describing them. How do they make you feel?
– Identify what’s at the core of each of your fears. Why are you so afraid of these things in particular? What false reality are you living in by feeding these fears?
– Write out the reasons why each fear is unlikely to come into being.
– Draw a picture or use descriptive words to illustrate your new reality: a place where this fear does not and cannot exist. Do this for each one of your fears.