The Fear Factor: Part 1

I understand that the Fear Factor is trying to make a comeback on national TV.  You know, that reality game show that makes people do crazy things by having them face their fears through  bravery or stupidity (you choose).  Oh what people would do for the chance to win loads of cash.  Facing our fears is nothing new, though.

I had the opportunity to watch Green Lantern the other night and saw one theme that ran throughout the movie.  Facing your fears.  Fear of what?  Of death.  Rejection. Intimacy. Failure.  All of these fears were prevalent throughout the movie, and the main character, Hal Jordan, had to overcome them in order to save the world.  Of course, he did it all rather quickly, too.  Amazing!  For most of us in the real world, overcoming fear takes a bit longer…probably because we  don’t have the fate of the world on our shoulders either.   Whew!  What a relief.

In all seriousness, we know from the wise words of Yoda that fear leads to the dark side, so we want to make sure that we overcome fear in order that we do not turn to the dark side of depression, hopelessness, or anger.  So here are some steps to overcoming fear:

1. Identify the Fruits of Fear: Fear, which is rooted in the heart, produces certain actions and behaviors. What are your patterns of behaviors when you are uncomfortable, anxious, or in a situation with which you are unsure? Do you bite your nails? Sweat? Yell at others (to control others and the situation)? Do you clean and get organized (control your environment)? Do you eat more? Sleep less? Sleep more? Withdraw from others? Put your wall up? Try to please people? Think or obsess on your fear? These are all your fruits or actions that evidence fear and anxiety in your life.

2. Look at your Heart: Your actions are providing a glimpse into your heart, even if you don’t know it. The heart (and mind) is where fears are rooted. When you can identify your fruits of fear (step 1), that is when it is good to stop the actions and ask yourself: “What is it that I am afraid of? What do I fear?” Common fears include fear of rejection, fear of being abandoned by those who love you, fear of being hurt physically or emotionally, fear of losing control, fear of being a failure, fear of the unknown, fear of suffering, fear of death, etc. These fears often play out in the mind and effect sleep patterns, but sometimes they are pushed out of the mind and are demonstrated physically without knowledge of what’s going on in the heart or mind. This happens with panic attacks where the body acts all crazy (heart racing, breathing heavy, sweating, etc.) without any thought or acknowledgment of any fear. Then, often the panic attacks become the fear in and of themselves! Even so, it is important to get to the heart to identify what is at the root of our surface behaviors or physical responses so that we can work on permanent change.

3. Face your Fear through a Relationship with your Savior: I Jn 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Fear does not come from God. But perfect love does. Fear has to do with punishment and suffering. Love has to do with peace and rest. Fear involves enslaving someone to itself. Perfect love has to do with freedom from subjection. When we confront our fears through our relationship with God, fears dissipate and hopes lives on. When we choose to confront our fears, we need to understand that we are unable to adequately do so on our own. We need perfect love. We need a Savior.

My next blog will take a closer look at how a relationship with the Savior will help us see the truth behind John’s statement: “Perfect love casts out fear” and help make fear an uncontrolling factor in our lives.

The Fear Factor: Part 2 – Finding the Peace in Perfect Love

In the last blog, The Fear Factor: Part 1, I shared how fear can have a significant impact in our lives, but that a relationship with Christ will help us combat our fears.  I Jn 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”   How does this happen?  How can “perfect love” drive out the fear that we experience?

First, when we see (or hear) the phrase “perfect love,” we need to understand that perfect love can only come from a perfect person (God or Christ).  Our love can hardly be seen as perfect as it is often intertwined with selfish motives and agendas (though I admit that it is possible through Christ in us!).  The evidence and understanding of God’s perfect love in our lives through a relationship with Christ will drive out the fear in our lives.  Let’s look at how a relationship with our Savior helps us to face our fears:

a. Fear of Rejection: Though it hurts when we are rejected by others, we can rest in knowing that God will not reject us (that is, for those who have accepted Christ).  Accepting and believing God’s opinion and perfect love for us as greater than the opinions of others will decrease and eradicate the fear of rejection in our lives.  We can be secure individuals through accepting His perfect love for us.  We must also understand that Jesus has been rejected by his closest friends, by his bride (the church), and by us.  He knows the feelings of rejection.  He’s felt the pain.  You’re not alone and he will lift your head as you lean on him. (For in-depth understanding, read The Search For Significance by Robert McGee & When People Are Big & God is Small by Ed Welch.)

b. Fear of Suffering/Death:  No one wishes to suffer, but one may be willing to go through it for those they love.  Jesus knows suffering.  He knows physical pain.  He knows emotional pain.  He was willing to be “obedient unto death,” to place himself in suffering because of his perfect love for you and me.  He knew that his obedience to the plan of salvation would dictate his suffering as he placed himself under his Father’s will.  Rom 8:28-29 explains that “all things will work for the good of those who love him” and that he is conforming us “to the image of Christ.”  To be willing to go through suffering (or at least, choose to go through it well) means trusting in His perfect love, character, and plan that it will work out for good.  Christ’s willingness to endure worked out according to his plan and our good (as well as his good!).  When we know that our ultimate fate rests in the hands of God, we can have a peace that rests upon His perfect love demonstrated for us on the cross.  He endured suffering and defeated death by raising from the dead.  When we believe this, we too will endure suffering well and will defeat death to have everlasting life through Christ.

c. Fear of Intimacy: A Fear of intimacy is often a masked fear of rejection or suffering.  “If they get too close, they will reject me and I will be hurt.”  “They will see me for who I am, know all of my faults, my failures, my quirks….me.”  God knows all of these things already.  He loves you for who you are, warts and all.  When we accept His perfect love for us, one that is not dependent on what we do or did, but depends on His character alone, then we can begin to accept ourselves as we are (not who we think we should be) and allow others to accept or reject us.

d. Fear of Failure:  Is this a fear of failing or being labeled a failure?  Failing at something occurs all the time.  Every day we fail to live up to perfection as defined by God (though often redefined by ourselves).  Often, the guilt of failing turns to shame as we label ourselves a failure.  In God’s eyes, for those who have accepted Christ as Savior, we must begin to see ourselves “soberly.”  Though we have failed and in many senses of the word are failures, we are not seen by God as such.  We are seen as holy, righteous, and perfect.  Why? Because of His perfect love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”  Our failures have fallen upon His Son on the cross, and the Son’s righteousness has been given to us.  When we believe in the Son, God chooses to see us as His Son.  As holy, righteous, and perfect.

We must change our thinking and our hearts so that our lives reflect these truths of God’s perfect love.  Our fears will not be cast out simply by knowing these truths, but when we apply these truths of God’s perfect love for us through Christ, we will achieve peace and victory in our lives over our fears.  Need help?  Call Foundations Christian Counseling and set up a time to discuss in person (570-402-5088).