Picture this: Like something out of a suspense novel, you wake up in a cold sweat with disturbing thoughts. Your chest feels tight and you have a racing heartbeat. The thoughts in your head are overwhelming, refusing to allow sleep to come. You begin to wonder how many nights and days this anxiety will continue. The gripping reality is that your mind is working on overdrive and is unable to calm down and turn off. You, my friend, are experiencing fear.
These are some of the experiences my Christian clients describe when fear, anxiety, worry, and panic have overcome them. They feel helpless to manage the physical symptoms, while beating themselves up for not having enough faith. In my years of supporting clients who struggle with fear, I have realized that their problem not so much a lack of faith as needing to learn coping skills for when fear attacks.
Fear and the Symptoms of Fear
Fear. No one likes it, yet fear is a God-given emotion that can keep you from hurt, harm, and danger. We are called to have a reverential fear of God. In this, we develop courage and faith that enables us to engage the unknown.
The best way to describe fear would be as an overwhelming sense of being afraid or anxious about a possible or probable situation or event. Fear can be a debilitating and overwhelming experience. From phobias to panic attacks, individuals can feel physical, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms.
The physical consequences of fear include:
- Lack of energy
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Tightness in the chest or throat
We can behave in fearful ways:
- Having trouble sleeping
- Inability to have effective social interactions
- Appetite disturbances
- Panic when speaking
We can experience emotional symptoms of fear:
- Trouble concentrating or being preoccupied
- State of shock or numbness
- Guilt and shame
- Denial, sadness, or disbelief
Turning the Tables on Fear
Fear has a lot to do with perception. Consider perception a form of storytelling. We repeat a story to ourselves over and over when experiencing physical or emotional distress. The story can be a projection or distortion of what may or may not really happen. When you take time to change your perception, then you can change how you perceive your situation. Whether your anxiety centers on death, illness, loss, or rejection, there are alternatives that enable you to address your fear. It takes patience, courage, and faith to place fear in its place.
Turning the tables on fear involves asking yourself, “What if?” What if your perception of the situation is not real? What if this is an opportunity to trust God? What if you really took God at His Word? What if the fear you are experiencing now is actually an opportunity to grow your faith? What if the current fear you face now is an opportunity to place every moment on the promises of God? For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. (II Tim. 1:7)
You Can Conquer Your Fear in Faith There are times when our fears are justified and real. In the book of Exodus, we read in chapter fourteen how the children of Israel were afraid when they heard Pharaoh’s chariots coming after them. Their fear was real. A client of mine called in distress because she had frozen during a recent math exam. “I remembered how poorly I performed on the last test and could not complete my exam.” This is where patience, faith, and courage come into play. In 1 Corinthians we read:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
This teaches us that, regardless of what has actually happened, God will turn the situation into something helpful in your life. (Romans 8:28) Standing up to what you fear means applying grace and patience one moment and event at a time.
You can turn the tables on fear by having faith and questioning your fears. Search back to where your fear was birthed, for perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) Challenge your fear. Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen? Give yourself a moment to think about it. Then ask yourself: “What if?” Slowly give yourself authority over your fear. Meditate on what is good, pleasant, and of good report. Concentrate on things that are praise worthy. (Phil. 4:8) Many of my clients have found prayer to be a soothing balm when great fear and anxiety.
Conquering Your Fear Takes Great Courage
Turning the tables on fear takes great courage. Be strong and of good courage. (Deut. 31:6) Courage is the strength to face what frightens you and the ability to do something that you know is difficult. You can give yourself permission to be afraid while standing on God’s sustaining strength. To put on the full armor of God and to stand and see the salvation of the Lord can be the most liberating moment in your life. This involves a process of one moment at a time and means taking one step at a time.
Christian Counseling Can Help You to Turn the Tables on Fear
Fear and anxiety are real challenges and sometimes we do not feel able to face them on our own. A trained Christian counselor can help you to look at how you relate to your fear and can support you as you seek to overcome it.
- “Man suffering from a headache wincing,” courtesy of Stockimages, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID# 100234439
- “Panic Calm Buttons Show Worrying or Tranquility,” courtesy of Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID# 100207217