Dealing With Fear

by James Rudy Gray

Mark Twain said, "I don't believe in ghosts but I am afraid of them."

Fear is a response emotion that all human beings have in common. In fact, fear is one of the most chronic neurotic emotions we experience.

Fear is often a paralyzing force for people. It can lead people into bizarre and destructive behavior or it can direct people to withdraw into the dark world of isolation.

The word "fear" is used 309 times in the Bible, in 295 verses. Jesus told His disciples on more than one occasion to "fear not." People fear so many different things! Virtually any person, place, or thing can be something or someone we fear. Two of the most common fears are the fear of rejection and the fear of failure.

A phobia can be understood as an irrational fear.  They can range in severity.

A counselor or pastor may encounter a person who is overly rigid and a perfectionist. This person may be obsessively cautious and hypercritical.  This manner and behavior could easily be the cause of relational problems with other people. The person wants to succeed so badly and is so afraid of failing, he actually fails miserably. This kind of driven and crippling perfectionism can have its neurotic roots in the fear of failure.

How can you help persons like this? You can help them see that a person can fail without being a failure. You can lead them to understand that basically fear involves two kinds of pain: doing what you are afraid of and avoiding what you are afraid of. This is another way of expressing the psychological notion of the flight or fight response.

When a person, under controlled and supervised direction, does what he is afraid of, he can desensitize himself to his fear. This procedure is sometimes called "flooding." Flooding is painful and can be scary, but once individuals have been desensitized to the object of their fear, they can then overcome it. This procedure is risky and it does not always work.

The Bible offers some insightful counsel on dealing with fear. 1 John 4:18 says: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Psalm 27:1 declares: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Hebrews 13:6 reminds us that "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."

To experience fear may not be wrong but to live in debilitating or obsessive fear is. How can we minister to people who are living in fear? We first let them know that God understands them and cares for them. God‘s Word does not deny that people fear but gives us instruction on what to do when we are afraid. Psalm 56:3 says, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee."

Are there other alternatives besides fight or flight? Scripture offers a third option: Trust God. We know that when children are afraid, they can be comforted and relieved of the fear when they feel secure. God has promised His people that He will never leave or forsake them. We know that a child can overcome fear through courage and confidence. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." It has been noted that we never develop fear until we have lost our confidence. Our confidence, therefore, is no stronger than our faith.

Overcoming fear, in large measure, is learning how to deal with the emotion and think objectively about the thing we fear. Many people who have abnormal fears find that those fears are rooted in their childhood. They live with fears in their adulthood, but those fears are not based in reality but rather in childhood trauma or other type of frightening event.

G. K. Chesterton, the British author, once said, "If I could preach only one sermon, it would be a sermon against fear."  The late Adrian Rogers said, "If you are obsessed by fear and overcome by it, you have forgotten who God is and what He has done for you."

People will experience fear. How we handle it is the issue. A godly counselor can help a person see that overcoming fearful living is really possible. Trusting God can overcome the fears we feel.

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