Overcome Fear - A Personal Story
I was never taught to overcome fear, but rather fear was ingrained in me from an early age. My mother and father were both religious, but were of different faiths. My Catholic father dominated and so Catholicism was a way of life for our family. The first eight years of my education were in a Catholic school. The message that came across to me from home and church was that I had to be good or I would go to hell. That belief alone was sufficient to generate fears-everything resulted in death and hell! It was like living in quicksand. Confession, contrition, and penance would rescue me, but was always short-lived. I had no spiritual understanding of death, but what I had heard added to my fear of death.
One night, when I was about thirteen, I was about to drift off to sleep when I heard, "If you go to sleep, you will die!" I sat up in the bed to see who might have said it, but no one was there. So, I laid back down, passed it off as a bad dream, and hoped for sleep to come, but it didn't. Instead, I heard it again. That time fear consumed me. I broke into a cold sweat and began to shake. I called out to my mom and she came running, sat besides me, and held me. When I told her what had happened, she comforted me, reassured me, and then laid beside me until we both drifted off to sleep. I woke up thinking, "Wow. That was really weird. It felt real, but I'm still alive. I didn't die so that's that!" But it wasn't. In fact, it continued for the next 20 years of my life. I could never predict when it was going to happen. It was not an every-night occurrence so it always caught me off guard. And it always sent me into a full state of panic. I never again called out to my mom and I never told anyone about any of these events.
I left the church in my early 20's because I had become angry with a god that held me in this quicksand, who wasn't loving or kind, but strict and never pleased. I earned a bachelor's degree in education and later obtained a master's degree in educational counseling. I learned a lot of psychology, but I never learned to overcome fear even though I looked for answers in every psychology course I took. By my early 30's, fear was shutting my life down and had become multifaceted. I married, had a daughter and then a son. My life on the outside was wonderful, but the inner turmoil was stifling. There was never peace and I could never stay busy enough to stop my fear-based thinking.
Finally one of my brothers sat with me and said, "The God of the Bible is not the god we learned about as children. We should have read the Bible for ourselves and if we had, we would see Him differently. He really does love us, He will heal us, and He will set us free." That was the first time any hope had risen up in me and it was enough to send me to the Bible for answers. I reconnected with the church, but stayed away from both of my parents' denominations. It took a couple of years of study-listening and learning-before I finally understood that these fears were in control of my life because I allowed them to control me. I finally understood that it was not God's intent that I should fear anything. Rather He desires that I would trust Him, rely on Him, and be confident of my eternal existence with Him.
One evening, I laid down to sleep and again heard, "If you go to sleep, you are going to die!" That time, I sat up in my bed, pondered whether to believe what I heard or believe what I had learned from the Bible. I decided I had nothing to lose, but fear itself. For the first time, I acknowledged my fear and spoke out loud to it saying, "That's a lie and it's been a lie from day one! You have tormented me for the last time. I am not going to die tonight because my life is in God's hands. If He chooses to take me, it would be just fine to die because I know what lies ahead. I am sick and tired of this lie and all the others that are stealing my peace. I refuse to give in to fear because it does not line up with what God says. I'm changing my thinking tonight. My mind is officially under reconstruction and it is now under God's control." Fear tried to mount its offense, but then I heard another voice say, "The devil hates to see you smile and if you will put a smile on your face, lie back down and go to sleep, you will confuse him." I smiled, thanked the Lord from my heart, laid back down, and went to sleep.
Did everything stop right then? Were all my fears conquered? I believe they were, but the battle for my mind continued for months. God was faithful to help me recognized when I was responding to old fear-based thoughts. Each time, I would make a conscious choice to stop believing what was in my mind and choose to believe God's Word instead. John 8:31-32 says, "…If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." It's been 30 years since I sat up in my bed and conquered fear. I've spent the same 30 years keeping new opportunities for fearfulness from taking hold. With the help of the Holy Spirit I guard my belief system!
Are you struggling with fear? Psalm 34:4 says, "I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." God wants to release you, so ask Him! Why not take that fear to God? If you've never had a relationship with Him before, you can begin one right now. Overcoming fears of any kind is possible, but first requires that we become a child of God. He is only a prayer away.
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