If I were to ask you to name something you fear, what would you say? For me, spiders are at the top of the list. When I was young, I had a healthy respect for spiders. We had a ton of them in our dairy barn, and I would catch flies and feed the barn spiders as I did my chores. Sick, I know, but I found it entertaining. However, when I was thirteen, something happened that completely changed my view of spiders and honestly scarred me for life.
I walked into our basement one day and saw the largest wolf spider I have every seen in my life. Large as in his body, just his body, not including his legs, was probably the size of a water bottle cap. No joke. Now, even though I respected spiders, there was one rule that I always followed. That rule was: there shall be no spiders in the house. So what did I do? I quickly stomped on it with my shoe. Can you guess what happened next? If you guessed that I missed, you’d be wrong. My shoe hit its mark, however, my foot bounced back off of its body as though I had tried to squish it with a feather. (Even as I type those words, I can still feel his body under my foot!) In my panic to end his life, I grabbed the first heavy object I could find as he scurried across the floor. It happened to be a 13-inch black and white tv. I not so gently dropped it onto the spider, pressed down for good measure and then proceeded to run upstairs screaming. Ever since then, I have declared that spiders are no longer friends, but the enemy. An enemy that must be eradicated. Every time I see one, I can feel a scream bubbling up from inside of me as I run for the nearest shoe, vacuum, or better yet, my husband. He is my spider killer. I love him.
Fears. We all have them, and I think that once you became a mom, that list of fears seems to grow, doesn’t it? MOPS conducted a survey a few years ago asking moms what their greatest fears were. The top five responses were: #5 – Moms worry that their child will have a serious illness or disability. #4 – Moms worry that their child won’t fit in socially or will get picked on. #3 – Moms worry that their child will be hurt in an accident. (On a side note, it was once we had kids that I asked my husband for an emergency hammer for my car. If I happened to be in an accident with my kids, I wanted that reassurance that I could possibly get my kids out safely.) #2 – Moms worry that their child will be snatched by a stranger. And the top fear at #1 – Moms worry that they are not enough as a mom, that they’re not capable of being a good mom, or that they have enough money or resources to adequately care for their kids. Fears that moms have. Can you relate to any of these? I know I can.
We all have something that we fear. In my last post, I shared my fears of being unloved, unworthy, and unseen and how those fears drastically affected my life. Those fears were deeply rooted in my heart and kept me from living the life God had for me. And, I think that holds true for most of us. I think most of us have fears that are deeply rooted in our hearts, holding us captive, and preventing us from moving forward in the life God has for us.
Fear is defined as an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. Danger that is real or even imagined. When we perceive that we are being threatened, our body responds by releasing chemicals into the brain that tell our heart, blood, and muscles to be on the alert. This is known as the fight or flight response and is our body’s way of helping us survive a dangerous situation.
Last spring, I took my daughter away for a weekend. As I checked us into our hotel, I could not shake the feeling that something was wrong. Our room door wouldn’t lock, the bathroom was not clean, and a woman kept walking up and down the hallway asking the clerk from the front desk what he was doing to keep her safe. Despite the fact that it was almost midnight, I packed my girl up and got out of there. This natural fight or flight response that our bodies have, helps protect us from danger.
But, this fight or flight response can have a negative reaction on our bodies if it is repeatedly triggered. If we are consistently finding ourselves in a place where we are allowing fear and worry to overwhelm our days, this fight or flight response can actually be quite damaging. As those chemicals are released into our brain to put us on high alert, our heart rate and blood pressure increase. We can experience diarrhea or constipation as the acid in our stomach increases, and our digestive enzymes decrease. Cortisol, which normally boosts our immunity, can actually suppress the immune system if introduced too often. High levels of stress can also increase our risk for depression or anxiety. Repeatedly giving into fear and triggering our fight or flight response isn’t healthy for our bodies or our minds.
So how do we handle the fears that hold us captive and keep us from moving forward into what God has for us? First, it’s important to remember that we live in a broken world: a broken world that in reality has much for us to fear. But an equal reality is this: most of those things we fear may happen to us, actually never do.Michel de Montaigne is quoted as saying, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” It’s easy to make a list of things that we fear, isn’t it? However, research has shown that 97% of what we worry about doesn’t actually happen. 97%!
In the study done by author Don Joseph Goewey, subjects were asked to make a list of things they feared. They then keep track of the results of these fears over a set period of time. It was found that 85% of what they feared would happen, never did. Of the 15% that did happen, “79% of the subjects found that they handled the difficulty better than expected or that the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning.”
Most of the things we worry about or fear never actually come to pass. It’s important to identify which fears are possible and which are probable. If a fear is only possible, then that is a fear we need to let go.
For example, I’ve seen posts on Facebook about this being coyote mating season. The posts suggest that male coyotes tend to be more aggressive during this season and that one should not leave their pets or children outside unattended. So, I as a mom, now have this fear that my precious cat or any one of my kids will be mauled by a coyote if they step a toenail outside. Is this possible? Yes. Is it probable? Unlikely. This is one fear that I need to release.
Secondly, sort your fears and worries into two categories; those in your control and those out of your control. Identify those fears and worries that you have control over, and ask yourself what steps you can take to ease those fears. For example, you may worry about your child getting sunburned while playing outside. You have control over this fear in the fact that you can prevent it from happening by simply placing sunscreen on your child. That fear is one you can control. However, there may be some fears and worries that are completely out of your control. When faced with a situation that is out of our control, the best thing to do is pray about it and trust God with the outcome.
For example, I didn’t want any of my kids to get teeth. Go ahead and laugh, but it’s true. When each of my kids were born, I thought they looked absolutely perfect. Though I knew they would all grow quickly there was one thing that I never wanted to change: their toothless grins. I thought each of my children would look utterly ridiculous when they got their teeth, and I may or may not have begged God not to let it happen. I even dared to admit this fear I had to my husband who of course thought it was absolutely ridiculous, and God must have thought so too because all three of my children currently have teeth. Was my kids getting their teeth completely out of my control? Absolutely! Am I glad now that they have teeth? Of course!
This is a crazy example, but it proves to show that there are some fears we have that are just out of our control. We can’t control how other kids are going to treat our kids. We can’t control the thoughts that others have about us. We can’t control loved ones getting sick or accidents happening. We can’t control a lot of things in our life. But, we can control our response to them. We can pray about these out of control situations and trust God with the outcome. He promises in Isaiah,
“Even if the mountains heave up from their anchors, and the hills quiver and shake, I will not desert you. You can rely on My enduring love.”
Isaiah 54:10 (VOICE).
He will not desert you. During those times that you feel completely out of control, surrender your situation to Him and trust Him with the outcome.
Next, filter your fear through God’s truth. As I mentioned before, we live in a broken world; a broken world that can strike fear in our hearts just by reading the daily news or scrolling through Facebook. When fear tries to work its way into our hearts, it’s important to take that fear and hold it up against what God says is true. Romans tells us,
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
Romans 12:2 (NLT).
We have to start changing the way we think. The world is going to tell us to fear. God however, says,
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
The world is going to tell us to think about everything that can go wrong. God says,
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Philippians 4:8 (ESV).
When fear begins closing you in, take it immediately to God and ask, “Is this true?” If it doesn’t line up with what God’s Word tells us, then it doesn’t deserve a second thought. Change the way you think and filter your fear through His truth.
It’s also important to find an “unshakeable”. In her book, Brave Mom, Sherry Surratt identifies an “unshakeable” as someone who doesn’t panic, but faces situations with a steady calm. Think about this for a moment. How often have you shared something you are worried about with a friend only to have that friend come back and share other things related to that worry that you should also be worried about?
For example, my oldest traveled with the marching band to Disney a couple of weeks ago. We decided to go down as a family, but would permit our oldest to actually travel with the band. This meant separate flights, separate hotels, separate transportation, and even a separate Disney park one day. I was completely at peace about this until a friend shared with me that she would never let her child go on such a trip at his age. What would happen if one of our planes crashed? What if someone tried to snatch my child at the airport? What if he got stopped going through security? What if he forgot to lock his hotel room door at night? What if he got lost at the park or hurt or kidnapped? There was no one way she would let her child go on such a trip. Now, how do you think I felt after this conversation? She shared an entire list of worries that I hadn’t even thought about, and now I was worried about all of that too!
There will be people in your life that will add fuel to your fears. It’s important to find an unshakeable, someone who will listen, encourage you, and give you calm, wise advice when you feel fear closing in. Proverbs, says,
“Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”
Proverbs 13:20 (MSG)
Lastly, choose gratitude. Sherry Surratt shares that fear can make us feel small and hopeless. When you feel fear beginning to overwhelm you, she suggests making a “thankful” list. Make a list of all the things that you can be thankful for in the moment. Maybe you’re thankful for your kids, maybe it’s a cup of hot coffee, or the opportunity to take a shower by yourself. Whatever it is, write it down. Then look over your list and be reminded of how much good is in your life right now. A grateful heart can give you a new perspective on any situation. 1 Thessalonians says,
“Whatever happens, always be thankful. This is how God wants you to live in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ERV)
To close, I want to remind you on one thing. If you have taken that step and asked Jesus to come into your life, then God’s very spirit lives within you. His Spirit is not fearful. 2 Timothy tells us,
“God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
He has given you a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. It’s time to step into that and let go of the fears that are holding you back from the life He has for you.
Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
Building 429. “Fear No More.” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cJFAGw3OaQ. Accessed 4 Feb. 2020.
Cherry, Kendra. “How the Fight or Flight Response Works.” Very Well Mind. 18 Aug. 2019. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
Daly, Jim. “The Top Ten Fears of Moms: How Do You Fare?” Focus on the Family. 20 Aug. 2015. https://jimdaly.focusonthefamily.com/the-top-five-fears-of-moms-how-do-you-fare/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
Dictionarycom. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fear?s=t. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
Goewey, Don Joseph. “85 Percent of What We Worry About Never Happens.” Huffpost. 6 Dec. 2017. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/85-of-what-we-worry-about_b_8028368. Accessd 3 Feb. 2020.
Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
Surratt, Sherry. Brave Mom. Zondervan, 2014.
Surratt, Sherry. “Busting Your Mom Fears: 6 Easy Strategies for Overcoming Worry and Fear.” Faithgateway. 6 Oct. 2014. https://www.faithgateway.com/busting-your-mom-fears-6-strategies-overcoming-worry-fear/#.XjXXkC2ZOfU. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
TerKeurst, Lysa. “Overcoming Fear.” Lysa TerKeurst. 20 May. 2010. https://lysaterkeurst.com/2010/05/overcoming-fear/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.
“What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out?” Cleveland Clinic. Mar. 2017. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-your-immune-system-gets-stressed-out/. Accessed 3 Feb. 2020.