Have you ever found yourself afraid of something and no matter how much logic was spoken to it or how much you dealt with it, it never really went away? So often we think of fear as black or white. You are afraid or not afraid. The fear is what it presents itself as, nothing hidden.
When I was a kid, I found myself afraid of so many things. I would hear and see things in my room and around my room at night. Often I was too afraid to sleep. When I did sleep I would have nightmares. I was afraid of being weak, physically and emotionally. We tried to explain every fear away, but none of the explanations worked, so I continued to fear.
The explanations never worked because we never got to the root of any of the issues.
I think what we often misunderstand about fear is that it doesn’t always display what the real problem is. A host of issues developed in me while we tried to fix the surface issues; what I thought I was fearing, and what other things manifested because of fear. My anger issues are linked and tied tightly to anxiety, but that anxiety comes from fear. While the root is fear, I often try to deal with and fix the anger. We often think of fear as an overt thing that we need to press forward and get over, but often, fear covers itself with other things and it’s hard to get to the root – the start of it.
In the case of myself, because my fear manifests as anger, it’s easy to deny I have fear about something. In the case of my daughter, what she feels like she is fearing is only a symptom of the real fear and it directly correlates to the things happening around her (I’ll explain this). There are layers to us. Everything we take on, everything that happens to us and around us affects us. We don’t always know what’s lying under the surface because we’ve pushed it down or we just didn’t realize it was there.
When I was a kid we either classified what I saw and heard as ghosts (which don’t exist, but demons do) or an overactive imagination. With those explanations, my options became very limited.
The ghost explanation proved damaging. You can’t control ghosts; they do what they do, so my option was to simply learn to live with it. Every time I encountered it, and I did with almost alarming frequency, I would try to shove it down and move past it. It created layers upon layers of fears and triggers, but years later, I didn’t understand what I was reacting to. As each layer was laid, it buried the previous layer, so those triggers were now hidden from my knowing but not completely from my mind.
With an overactive imagination explanation, I had to work hard to convince myself these things didn’t exist. That created a fear of my own abilities – a level of self doubt that is still hard to let go of. It also had the unexpected effect, for me, of using substances to try to shut out those things causing fear; those things I thought weren’t actually real.
When I became a Christian is the first time I truly began to understand my issues – what things have taken root. What I experienced in my childhood was spiritual warfare. You see, we have an enemy that, “seeks to steal, kill and destroy,” us (John 10:10). Fear is the easiest and most effective tactic of that enemy; the spirit of fear.
The spirit of fear can be a subtle thing and it is persistent on top of that. Fear paralyzes us. Whether it’s the fear of failure, rejection, self, speaking, death (the list is endless), etc., we knowingly and sometimes unknowingly function around them. Those fears, whether buried or on the surface will change and affect how we act and react to everything if we let it. The enemy is very aware of the asset he has in fear.
Understanding spiritual warfare is the only thing that helped me to peal back the layers. That is vital to ridding yourself of fear, any fear. However, becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically make that happen. When I became a Christian, I was renewed and set free. I had the Holy Spirit, but I had to learn how to operate in it. The more I studied the Word of God and the more time I spent in fellowship with Him, the stronger and more mature I grew in my faith.
As you mature in your faith, you begin to see and hear what the Holy Spirit is showing and saying to you. For me, it didn’t all happen at once (and doesn’t for anyone); there was almost 19 years of layers built up. I’m still dealing with some of them, but in the last 18 years, I’ve learned how to stop when I see the symptoms of fear arise. I’ve learned to stop and ask questions; what am I really mad at? Am I mad at all? Is there something here that is causing fear? As I ask these questions, I get an answer and it’s significantly easier (not easy) to deal with it rather than shove past it. Understanding it this way has given me that ability to fight it instead of trying to pretend it’s not there or just accepting it. The spirit of fear has no claim on me. I am strengthened by that understanding and by the power I now know I have in the Holy Spirit to cast it out.
It’s also helped me to help my children understand spiritual warfare. Recently, my daughters have had a school change and the social aspect has felt alienating at times. It carries over into the home. One of my daughters has spoken of a fear of dying with no one being around to know it happened. Although I’m certain the fear of dying is a valid fear, there is a direct correlation between that fear appearing (and growing) and her loneliness at school.
We were trying to help her cope and overcome this fear of dying; we answered her questions and pleas calmly and logically. We helped her understand how things work and how she is affected, among other things. None of those things calmed her for long. That’s when I realized we weren’t dealing with what we thought we were. We began to stop in those moments, dig deeper and ask questions as we prayed. We are able to see what she is actually fearing is loneliness that has even begun to alter her personality. As we’ve found at least part of the root, things are getting better because we are addressing that root – that foundation first. She is beginning to understand her authority and call that spirit of fear out when she feels it. The result is her returning to her old self more and more.
Fear is not always what it seems, and only concerning yourself with the surface problems will continue to weaken your foundation. A building, no matter how perfectly built will crumble when put on a poor foundation.
If you are struggling with fear, I encourage you to dig deeper. Reach out to the only One who gives us hope and answers. If it’s hard for you to see a life without fear, I encourage you to turn to Jesus, because He IS the way out.