Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Fear freezes me.
Whether it is threat of imminent harm that physically freezes me or a greater fear that freezes me emotionally, relationally. It freezes me.
At times it feels so powerful that I am paralyzed by it.
Fear, according to many of you, is the emotion you struggle with the most. I wonder about this. Why is this? Why is fear the hardest one?
I am not sure if I can answer this question for all people, but I think I know how I can answer it for myself.
Fear is the hardest emotion for me to handle because it freezes me. It alludes to powerlessness and cowardice. It makes my feet feel heavy and unable to move. It makes my mind feel incapable of rational thought.
Fear is what freezes me when I want to go make a new friend, but fear rejection.
Fear is what freezes me when I want to give up writing; it's so much work.
Fear freezes me from jumping head first into a dream.
Fear freezes me from standing up to someone who puts me down.
Fear freezes me when I no longer have control.
Fear freezes me. I can't move.
And I don't like being cold, much less frozen.
I think this is why it is hardest for me. I don't like the unknown fear brings, and I don't like the powerlessness it brings, either.
I have been thinking about some moments in my life when I felt deep fear.
It was a Sunday in the Summer of 2009. I was with a mission team in Italy that summer. Our mission was to initiate spiritual conversations with students there, students who have become more athiestic and agnostic as the years go on. It was a challenging experience. I was afraid a lot. But this particular Sunday, we were worshipping with a local Italian church.
And my little pay-by-the minutes travel phone rang. It was home.
I remember standing outside that little church, talking with a man who was my bible teacher in 11th and 12th grade. He and his wife had gone to the hospital to be with my family. My dad was having an emergency quadruple bypass on his heart. And I was thousands of miles away.
The days leading up to his surgery, fear enveloped, no... no it choked me. I could hardly do any of the ministry I was supposed to be doing. I felt powerless. I felt helpless. What if I would never see my dad again this side of eternity? What if he did not make it out of this? Maybe I should go home.
I was a nervous wreck the day of his surgery, anxiously waiting for the phone call to tell me he was OK. The little Italian church service took away the fear for a while, but then my phone rang.
Coach Inman told me that my dad was ok, that the surgery went well, and now they were waiting for him to wake up.
Breathe, Kerrah. He made it.
My fear flooded out in tears down my face. I did not realize that I had been holding all of it in. And fear freezes me when I hold it in. What I did not find out until later was that my dad did not wake up well from his anesthesia. He woke up very hostile, and they had to keep him sedated in ICU for longer than they had hoped. I kept asking to talk to him, but my mom would not give me any details.
Then I got the call. He finally woke up. Days later.
Instead of complaining about how he was doing on the phone, he said, "God is going to do great things in Italy, Baby."
And for the first time in what felt like weeks, my fear started melting. I started remembering who God is. He is not the author of fear, not this kind anyway.
It took me a while to be aware that it was fear I felt. I knew there was anger and doubt mixed in, but fear was the strongest. I was afraid that I would never get a chance to hug my daddy again.
It also took me a while to accept it. No, Kerrah. Dont be afraid. Be strong. Be courageous.
Self-given mantras that were out of my reach. The fear was too strong for courage.
Once I accepted that I felt a deep, paralyzing fear, I began praying endlessly, acknowledging this fear to Him. I wrote with intensity in pages and pages of prayers in my journal that summer. I bared my soul before God. I allowed myself to pray things that seemed impossible. I told him how scared I was.
And you know what happened when I started telling him that?
He spoke truth to me. Through his word, He reminded me that He never leaves or forsakes me. That He is a good Father, that He is a protector. That He is strong and kind.
I began to admit that my fears were getting the best of me, that they were paralyzing me so much that I was not even doing the task I was supposed to do there in Italy. I admitted that my fears were the culprit behind my ever-isolating and irritable behavior. I admitted that the truth I knew about God did not line up with the fear I felt. And I admitted that it must be fear that was lying to me. Because I know that God is not a liar.
Once I was able to admit these things, I praised and admired Him through the next pages of my journal. I worshipped and gave thanks. It was beautiful. And so healing for me.
This is the way David interacts with God in many of the Psalms. He shares how he thinks and feels, and then he remembers truths about God that lead him to praise and admiration. It is a reorientation from a feeling of disorientation.
Look at the words of Psalm 56 with me. David is the Psalmist here. This is when the Philistines seized him in Gath, according the the introduction of the Psalm.
Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. 2 My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me.
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words; all their schemes are for my ruin. 6 They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, hoping to take my life. 7 Because of their wickedness do not let them escape; in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
8 Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll— are they not in your record? 9 Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise— 11 in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
He shares his fears and why he feels his fears. He remembers who God is and begins telling himself that truth. "In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" These truths he begins speaking literally moves him from fear to trust (v. 10-11). These spoken and remembered truths about God transform David's fear. He begins to praise and honor and admire God when he remembers what He knows to be true about God.
This is authenticity. This is awareness and acceptance and acknowledgment. This is admittance and admiration. (What I believe to be the 5 steps to deeper authenticity--- Steps are below! Just scroll down below this post to get them right to your inbox!)
This is the same process that I had to go through in Italy. And you know what, when we can understand our fear, give it a name, understand why it is there, and be brave enough to tell God about it, He shows up. He changes it. He heals. He frees.
He moves us from being paralyzed to being able to act. He thaws out the frozen and brings the warmth of his trusting presence.
In fear, we ask a lot of "What if" questions. A lot.
What if I don't make it out of this?
What is going to happen if?
What if this person ...?
What if I can't pay all my bills?
What if I never feel better?
What if this sickness gets worse?
What if I lose this baby?
What if I never get married?
What if my spouse cheats on me?
What if I can't make any friends?
What if I pick the wrong major?
What if... What if... What if...
But what if instead you focused on the "What is?" The truth. The promises that you know to be real and trustworthy. I wonder what would happen to those what ifs. I wonder if the fear would fade and trust would take its place.
I wonder if you would not be as frozen. I wonder how full your life could be. I wonder what kind of things you could offer the world. And listen, fear is normal. We all feel it. But if it freezes you like it does me, it has too much power.
So let's take the power back.
I feel afraid, and I do not know what to do.
I feel paralyzed, unable to move forward.
I feel afraid that I can't do it.
I feel afraid of others.
I feel afraid of this situation.
What if my fears actually came true?
I choose to put my trust in You.
When I fear, I will trust you.
And even if my fears come true,
I will still trust in You.
Because you love me.
You take care of me.
You promise to be with me.
You are trustworthy.
And that outweighs any fear that I have.
In Jesus' Name,
Creative Journaling Prompt
How do you experience fear?
What does it do to you?
How do you know it is fear, not something else?
When do you most feel it?
Where do you feel it in your body?
What are you truly afraid of?
How do you handle your fear?
How does your fear affect you?
If you felt no fear, what would your life look like?
Create two columns on a piece of paper.
One side has the "What if" questions that you have been asking.
The other side has the "What is"- the things you know to be true about the situation.
Memorize Psalm 56:3
"When I am afraid, I put my trust in You."