“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
Once upon a time, if you had shared with me you were suffering with anxiety, I would have hopefully kept a pleasant look on my face while I offered some Christian platitude such as “I’m sorry. I’ll pray for you.” But all the while, I would have been thinking to myself, “Poor thing! I’m so sorry you’re so weak.” God forbid if you mentioned you were having panic attacks, because I would have then thought you had serious mental/emotional issues and needed professional help ASAP. And let me just be completely honest and say if you admitted you were taking medication for anxiety and panic attacks, I would have thought you were just plain crazy and I would have walked away thanking God I was so strong and above that. UGH! I know that is so ugly, but sadly, true.
THANK GOD I am no longer like that!!! THANK GOD for showing me truth. Unfortunately, I had to learn that truth the hard way, but even so, I thank God for it!!! And now, I can use my personal experience of living in the bondage of anxiety to better identify with others who are struggling with their own and encourage them with the hope that there is indeed a path to freedom!!!
First, let me be clear that not all fear is bad. God has not given us a “spirit of fear” but He did give us a wide range of emotions, including fear, in order to engage and experience our lives more fully. Believe it or not, fear can be a good thing. It is fear that rises up within us and causes us to pull back from a snake or wild animal. Fear causes us to be wary of strangers. It’s even natural to be a little fearful of a visit to the dentist’s office (For some of us, myself at the top of the list, there can be a LOT of fear in that!) or of an upcoming surgery. Being fearful as your 16-year-old pulls out of the driveway on their first solo drive is common to almost all parents. Experiencing fear in the midst of a worldwide pandemic is completely normal and natural. Fear serves as a guard and a prompt to protect ourselves from potential harm. Fear also causes us to realize we are not invincible and we certainly do not have full and complete control of our lives and are very much in need of the One Who does!
Unfortunately, for growing numbers of us, fear is no longer only a God-given means of protection. For far too many, fear has ramped up to what we refer to as “anxiety” and countless people are suffering with anxiety, panic attacks and are being diagnosed with anxiety disorders. This anxiety is greatly hindering the ability to enjoy life, it is interfering with everyday activities and relationships and is causing us to withdraw and isolate. Fear and anxiety have become a stronghold, even a bondage, in the lives of many…even in the lives of believers. Yep, there I said it…even in the lives of Christians!!! And I know because it happened to me when I was well down the path of my walking with the Lord.
So where to begin? You first have to decide if your fear is more of the “normal” variety, a totally understandable reaction to circumstances around you that causes you to be wise and to take action in protecting yourself and those around you. Or, if your fear is of the sort it is hijacking your thoughts on a regular basis and interfering with your daily life and activities. All fear requires an acknowledgement of God and an invitation for Him to intervene on our behalf whatever we are facing. In all fear, we need God’s presence and strength to see us through, but in fear that has become debilitating, we desperately need to experience a power, a love and a sound mind that can only come from Him as He leads us to the freedom that is ours in Christ.