“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Deuteronomy 31:6
One of the stories my mother use to share about me from my childhood is one of my fear of the dark. I was probably about 2 years of age and apparently did not like sleeping alone. One night I asked my mother to stay with me, as I did not want to be alone. She told me I was never alone, Jesus was always with me. I am told I responded with, “but I want someone with skin on them!”
As I grew older, I would have nightmares, and would wake up crying for my father to come and give me a priesthood blessing of comfort. After he moved out, I remember laying in my bed, praying to God for strength. This was a pattern, my growth out of fear. First I wanted my mother, then my father, and finally I turned to God.
How long do we wait before turning to the Creator, the King, and Ruler of the universe? How long do we stay trapped in fear, while God waits for us to ask for help?
“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” -Psalm 34:4
Everyone’s journey to Christ is unique, yet similar. It is unique in that we all have different paths and open our eyes at different times and in different ways. Yet it is similar as we all can see the power of God clearer in our lives, even looking backwards, as we build very real and very personal relationships with God. As we grow these relationships we lose our fear. As we travel in this journey of fear over faith, we will find four stepping stones:
1. Recognizing Your fears
Fear does not come from God, and once we see what it is we are afraid of, it becomes easier to find the source. As a child, I use to walk the short path down the hill to my maternal grandparents’ home from my paternal grandparents’ house on Friday nights after watching a scary television program. It was dark, and there was a tall, dark tree. I would imagine the aliens from the program dropping from the tree and taking over my body. I would not run, I didn’t want anyone to see or notice me walking. I would pray for safety, and thank God when I got to my destination.
One day, I stopped merely praying and tried listening to God. The Holy Spirit spoke to me, asking me why I thought these monsters were real. I then started coming up with other things to be afraid of: bandits, kidnappers, police wondering why I was out after dark, and so on. Again, God asked me, why I would be afraid of these things? This was a safe area where people didn’t need to lock up their homes. No one was coming for me. It was all in my mind, and I was putting in extra effort to find a reason to need God’s protection from nonexistent threats, rather than enjoying the peace God made available in my life
2. Admit Your Fears
Once I knew where my fears were coming from, my imagination, I was able to admit that I was afraid. I realized what triggered my fears, and how to stop them. I chose to use my over active imagination for the good. I reminded myself that if evil exists, then so does good; if evil demons, then righteous angels, if nasty monsters, then those that could fight them off, including me. I began thinking of fun scenarios, how heroes, angels, or even I, myself, would stop whatever thing my fears were sending at me.
I understand that this is a simple childhood example, and there are real and serious threats out there. As I became an adult I used this in my growth everyday life. When I was afraid of getting fired for an error, for example, I would remember that everyone makes mistakes, and image how things could go right, rather than merely focusing on what could go wrong. At times when my life was in danger, I knew the Lord was in control, not the person or situation threatening me. Then, with the Lord’s guidance, I would find a way out of each bad situation, rather then seeking to run away and hide from them. It is important to understand that I did not do this alone. I was and am only able to do this through my relationship with God, by following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
3. Pray and Read Your Scriptures
I know that some of you are thinking, “that’s the Sunday School answer!” And, you are correct. However, that does not make the answer wrong. I was able to get over my fears in the past by growing my relationship with God. How do we do that? By studying, praying, and listening to God. This is important because by learning how to listen we will know when we are trapped by fear, and when we are warned by God.
There have been a number of times when I have been warned by the Holy Spirit, and consoled as well. Sometimes I hear a voice, or feel warmth in my chest. Other times I am reminded of scripture passages or stories from the scriptures that help in that situation. How God speaks to each of us will be different, unique, yet we must learn how to listen. Study and prayer helps get us there.
4. Keep Your Eyes on God
In our religious movement, we are often told to keep our eyes on a leader; be they a prophet, an apostle, or a minister of some sort. And while this is good advice, we do this as we work to become prophets in our own right. A leader cannot always be there for you, personally, like God can. A leader will give inspired advice for your church, sect, or movement; but that advice may not always be what God wants for you personally in every situation. We must build our own relationships with God and build our faith in Him.
Because humans are fallible, Satan will plant weeds in our hearts, teaching us to fear our leaders when their general advice is not right for us, personally. As we see their humanity, that devil grows these fear weeds, telling us that if our leaders are imperfect, yet God put them in charge, then God must not be real, or be wrong as well. The adversary is careful not to remind us now of our own failings, trapping us in fear that we are being led astray, telling us we are wiser than those called of God. Now we are hit with fear, pride, and ego. We cannot allow Satan to take us back to square one. Only by keeping our eyes on God can we see past these lies and these fears and know what God truly wants for us.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7