Dear people who are struggling with fear:
I want to share with you what God has been teaching me about fear over the last three months, but first I need to make a distinction between two different types of fear. There is a rational fear that is linked to respect, and a counterfeit fear that is not. For example: Fear of lions is a good fear, lions deserve your respect because they are dangerous and powerful. Fear of the dark is counterfeit because the dark does not deserve respect. They are easy to get mixed up as they often work together. For example: Coronavirus does deserve some respect since it is dangerous, but it is very easy to let the fear carry us into a counterfeit place of “what ifs”. For a very long time, I did not realize there were two types of fear, but luckily the remedy is the same for both types (I’ll get to that later). The devil wants us to live in fear because he knows it allows him to influence our decisions. As with a lot of his tactics, he uses rational fear to convince us that fear is good, and gradually we begin to let it control us. That is what happened to me. Growing up, I viewed fear as a rational response that would keep me safe, and often used the phrase “better safe than sorry.” Slowly I began to rely on fear, and inadvertently adopted fear as a kind of guardian to protect my shy and insecure self. I am a type 6 on the enneagram which means that I value security, and for me security was not being alone. A lot of my fears of being alone ruled my early social development. Fear kept me from reaching out and interacting with others for fear they would dislike the interaction. I was constantly worried about what others thought of me—afraid that they would reject me and I would end up alone. (It is interesting how the fear of being alone ended up isolating me in many ways.) If given an opportunity, I always chose to stay where I was safe. My fear rested in my stomach. I don’t know if it is the same for everyone, but when I was really afraid (like before I had to go to my public speaking class) I would get physically sick. I could feel it starting days before the event, and I knew I would be sick when the event arrived—in fact I began to expect it.
In college, I started to long for change and I see now that God blessed me whenever I made a decision that was not the “safe” choice. For example, I chose to go to a college alone (one that no other classmates where attending) and to this day, that was one of my biggest blessings. In late 2019, God began to reveal to me my partnership with fear, he started to show me that He wanted to be my guardian instead of fear. That fear is something the devil uses to sneak in and convince us that we can be safe on our own outside of God’s nest. At this same time, he began to show me that my identity should be first and foremost as His daughter. Not as a type 6, not as a fearful child, but as a princess who has been adopted into God’s family, and as I grow closer to Him, I will receive the authority that comes with being a princess. I wanted to step into that role, but didn’t know how to be free of the fear that was always lurking in my heart and mind.
Our church was putting together a mission trip, and I just felt that I should be a part of it although I didn’t know why or think that I could be of any use on the trip. God kept placing it in front of me, so eventually I signed up to go. The trip was to Haiti in early 2020. As the trip grew closer, I could feel the fear inside of me growing. I wasn’t afraid of anything specific, I could just feel the fear deep in my stomach. Just before leaving on the trip, I listened to a testimony in which the person shared that God asked her to choose “Faith or Fear” in an extremely scary situation. I didn’t realize it then, but “Faith or Fear” has been a key to my journey to freedom. On the flight down to Haiti, I got more motion sick than I have ever been before. I threw up for four hours on the flight from Florida and on the “short” 15 minute flight to Pignon; I never got to see outside of the little white bag. I must have looked awful when we arrived, because some wonderful people ushered me over to a shady spot to sit while everyone else took care of baggage. I laid down as soon as there was a bed available, and asked God what in the world was the point of going through all that?! He told me that the whole ordeal was ridding me of my fear. It sounds strange, but it made sense to me. It all came from the same deep place, it was awful altogether, and I did feel strangely at peace in this new place just because I was SO thankful to be on the ground! From that moment on, I felt a new freedom. I can’t really explain it other than I felt joyful. Throughout my trip, I began to realize that compared to the poor people around me, I had nothing to really fear. God showed me how I had let silly (counterfeit) fears hold me back and as the trip went on, I started to slowly learn to choose Faith over Fear.
Through climbing a mountain, God also showed me that it is okay to slow down because it gives you time to process and really see what is going on. I was climbing the mountain with an experienced group, and started out rushing to keep up with their pace, but when I realized that I was not as experienced (or fit) I slowed down and focused more on enjoying the journey and seeing the sights. Because I stopped to see, I found a rare and beautiful snail shell which became a symbol of joy. God was teaching me that joy comes from stopping to look around and see what God is doing around you.
I also learned on my trip about how decisions based on fear have severely hindered the economic growth of Haiti throughout its history, and I felt a connection to them, and really felt that my little journey with fear on my trip was a foreshadowing of what God was going to do in Haiti.
Upon my return, God continued to teach me to live without fear. He showed me that our minds and emotions get caught in cycles, but we can choose which cycle we stay in. One cycle is Fear and Doubt. The other is Faith and Trust. It is easy to get stuck in the fear and doubt, but when we focus on remembering his Faithfulness, we can get into the faith/trust cycle and be free of the feelings that come from fear and doubt, and instead be filled with joy.
Six weeks after returning from Haiti, God was still giving me lessons from my trip. I finally got around to cleaning the snail shell that I had brought home with me as a reminder to look for the little beautiful things God is doing, and when I left it on the counter to dry, it crawled away…
God showed me again that when we slow down and take the time to see the small things he is doing, the joy that he gives is more than we could even imagine! As ridiculous as an empty shell coming to life after six weeks of being in a bag and traveling the world. God’s work will surprise and delight us if we just slow down; stop focusing on keeping up with those who are more fit, or more wealthy, or more successful.
Now, with the Corona-virus spreading through the world, I see so many people responding in fear. At first, I was disheartened by this, but after talking with others and hearing about what God is doing, I am certain that God IS working even now. Maybe my vision of foreshadowing in Haiti was too small- maybe God wants to work on ridding fear not just in Haiti, but in his whole church!? Maybe He is opening a door allowing us to slow down and look at what he is doing, opening a door for us to experience an unexplainable joy. He is going to use this strange time for his glory. Even over the last few days, God has been asking me to live joyfully even though I don’t understand what is happening. To be—as a good friend put it—“Already joyful for what God WILL do.” God is asking his people to step out in faith and live in joy- even in this uncertain and scary time! He wants all of us to be free of fear, and it is possible because we know He is faithful. We can break out of the cycle of fear/doubt and into faith/trust knowing that He will make good on his promise to carry us through, to walk with us, and show the whole world His glory. So, please join me in casting off fear and living in the joy of knowing that God is in control, and that He is working even when we can’t see or even imagine the outcome.
Below you’ll find a song that I’ve been singing with. Hear and feel the joy and truth in it!