"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the LORD, your God, Who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.' " ~ Isaiah 41:10-13, NIV
I think it's safe to say that I've spent almost my entire life living in fear. That's a pretty sad and embarrassing confession to make. Below is a list of some of the things that I've allowed a spirit of fear to infuse into my heart over the years:
Fear of the dark
Fear of flying
Fear of drowning
Fear of public speaking
Fear of change
Fear of pain
Fear of cancer
Fear of failure
Fear of being rejected and abandoned
Fear of being unloved
Fear of letting go
Fear of dying
Pretty hefty little list I've been lugging around all this time, don't you think?
Fear -- it's the roadblock to recovery and redemption, to hope and healing.
Fear -- it's the stumbling block to salvation and serenity.
As followers of Christ, the spirit of fear should have no rule or reign over our lives. But as flawed and fallible human beings, it can. If we let it. And oh....sadly, how I have let it!
The spirit of fear can rise up in one area of your life, and much like cancer, if not recognized and treated aggressively, will metastasize quickly to all other areas, paralyzing you and choking the very breath right out of you.
God's Word has so much to say about not allowing ourselves to be held captive by fear. We are told again and again to 'fear not,' 'be not afraid,' and 'do not be terrified.' In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses encourages the people of Israel, who are about to cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land, with this message of truth from the LORD God: "So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT). And then to Joshua, who would be leading them there, Moses said: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT). The prophet Isaiah tells us that the LORD says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine" (Isaiah 43:1, NIV). And Jeremiah, the youthful prophet, was fearful of speaking to the nations, as God had appointed him to do, and began to make excuses, but God said to him, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:7-8, NASB).
In the book of Romans, Paul reminds the church then, as well as us today, that we "did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption" (Romans 8:15, NIV). Paul also points out to his protégé, Timothy, that "God did not give us a spirit of timidity and fear, but of power, love and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT). And the apostle John tells us that "God is love", and that His "perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love" (1 John 4:16b;18, NLT). A notation in my study Bible states that love and fear are opposites. Never looked at it that way, but now that I have, I'd tend to agree. How can you truly love Someone (God) of whom you're deathly afraid? How can you be afraid of Someone you truly, dearly love?
In Psalm 27:1, David poses these two statements and accompanying questions: THE LORD is my Light and my Salvation--whom shall I fear or dread? The LORD is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? If these statements are true in my own life, then whom am I fearing and dreading? Of whom am I afraid? Those are questions I've had to ask myself and contemplate recently. Yesterday, in response to an email prayer request of mine for two of my family members, a friend called me. She wasted no time, minced no words and refused to sugarcoat her message that I was being held captive to a spirit of fear, and that I needed to be serious and relentless about removing it from my life and my home. This was NOT what I was looking to hear and acknowledge from my friend...or from anyone for that matter. It was a hard, awkward and extremely painful message to receive. It made me physically cringe, but it was a necessary message --a warning, if you will. And it was the truth. The truth, spoken in love: I am a prisoner to the spirit of fear.
The spirit of fear is a weapon that Satan, our adversary, wields easily and skillfully in battle. Make no mistake, dear ones -- satantic attacks and spiritual warfare are FOR REAL. We are delusional if we do not believe that we are fully engaged in a daily battle for our souls and for the souls of our precious loved ones, most especially for our children (young and adult children alike).
When this spirit of fear take over, it blinds and deafens me to the truths that God is in control, that He is faithful, that I can trust Him with everything and that He is mighty to save. I've allowed the spirit of fear to give growth to the problematic circumstances and people in my life until they tower over me like hideous, monstrous giants. I've allowed the spirit of fear to wipe out my memory of what God has done for me in the past. In Samuel 17, a young David stood up to fight against the Philistine giant, Goliath. King Saul tried to disuade him, telling David he was just a boy. But David told Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:34-35;37, NIV). David was fearless, not caving into a spirit of fear, because he remembered what God had done for him in the past.
Like the ten of the twelve spies that whom Moses sent to survey the Promised Land, I've allowed a spirit of fear to distort my view of my circumstances and to focus only on the negative and on those things that seem to be larger than life. And like the apostle Peter, after stepping out of the boat to walk on water towards his Savior, I've taken my eyes off Jesus and allowed a spirit of fear to engulf me and try to drown me.
Notice each time, I've said that I've 'allowed it.' Because I have. But my friend's words cut me to the heart, and I can no longer allow a spirit of fear to remain in my life and hold me captive. It must be removed. I must break free.
But how? What am I to do when I find myself in fear's vise grip?
Look to God's Word. Listen for His Voice of truth within the Scriptures; cling tightly to Him and to them, and stand firmly on His promises. Remember what He has done in the past and KNOW that He will deliver me from present and future trials and difficulties. Have faith and trust God, taking Him at His word, because He is worthy of my trust. I mentioned David's fearlessness against Goliath. Later on in the book of Psalms, it's apparent that David struggled with a spirit of fear: "My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest— I would flee far away and stay in the desert; Selah. I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” (Psalm 55:4-8, NIV). What removed that spirit of fear from David? In the very next psalm, David states exactly what he did and what I need to do in order to vanquish this spirit of fear that has haunted me for years and break free from this prison that I've allowed it to cast me into:
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4, NIV).
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says "Do not be afraid!"~ Voice of Truth, by Casting Crowns
(I've included the beautiful song and video below)