How to Fight Fear by Focusing on God
Irrational Fears are Almost Certainly Holding You Back
Did you know that we are born with only two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds.
All other fears are learned. For example, the fear of spiders and snakes is believed to come from way back when the threat of being poisoned by these creatures out in the wilderness was real. Through the ages, children were taught to stay away from those creatures because they were venomous.
Like this example, many fears are taught and they continue to grow and develop over time.
How Fears Develop
Children take cues from their caregivers and become afraid of certain things based on the projection of the adults around them. They can also come upon children more indirectly, such as from parents’ fears that they have projected onto their children unconsciously or through our social environment (i.e. social programming).
A real-life example:
If I react fearfully when thunder and lightning strike, my 4-year-old daughter will pick up on those cues and feel that there is something fear-worthy in storms. My reaction, displayed over and over again, can certainly result in my child becoming wary of the same things.
How the Brain Processes Fear
The brain processes fear with a “fight or flight” response. We are standing close to a cliff and our brain sends signals that say either “back away” or “it’s okay — this is a safe distance and I won’t go over the edge”.
As we learn that we can inch closer to the edge and still be safe, our rational brain kicks in and we understand that we are okay.
There is also a chemical reaction that takes place when you are bridging the gap between what might be safe and what might not. Some people feel a rush with the potential danger of what could happen. This same feeling comes up in many people who are ‘thrill-seekers’ — they love the thrill and the release of dopamine and they continue to seek out more exciting adventures that release chemicals in their brain.
Rational and Irrational Fears
Being frightened isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it’s been a survival mechanism for humans for thousands of years. There are basically two types of Fear — Rational and Irrational. The main differences between the two are around the likelihood and logic of your fear actually coming to fruition; and the way your body reacts to the fear.
A rational fear is one where your fear is something that can actually harm you or someone you care about. If you’re afraid when your kids play outside at night in a rough, gang-ridden neighbourhood because there have been reports of abuse and grooming, the fear is rational because they’re likely to be influenced in a negative way or even hurt if they’re not protected by an adult.
An irrational fear would be a feeling of inner stress and anxiety about letting the kids outside in a fenced backyard in a safe neighbourhood during the day because you fear they will be kidnapped. There is no real threat of danger, but the anxiety coming up in you tells you that there is.
Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between rational and irrational fears, especially if you have learned to be afraid of something as a young child and that fear has solidified inside you.
By determining whether or not your fear is rational or irrational, it can help you take a step further towards facing these fears head-on.
One way we can determine whether fear is real or perceived is through discernment. This may take really analyzing where the fear comes from and whether it makes sense or not.
Analyzing the Fear
We can ask ourselves some deeper questions to determine if the fear is rational or irrational:
Question #1. Where does this fear come from and how did it initially enter my mind?
Can you trace back to a time when something was projected onto you or a situation that happened that caused this fear to be internalized in you?
If the fear came from a projection of someone else’s fear it may be irrational. If there was a story in the news that triggered you into believing something bad would happen, maybe that’s an irrational fear.
However, if there is a rapist on the loose around your community (as there was when I was growing up) then the fear of a child playing outside (me) late at night alone was rational. If I bring that fear along with me into my adulthood and am afraid of the same thing happening to my daughter now (even though we live in a very safe neighbourhood, she is only out in the daytime, always with friends and she has been taught what to do if a stranger approaches her) it might be irrational.
Question #2. What is the likelihood that this perceived fearful situation could actually happen?
Are you basing your fear on fiction (making up a scenario of what could go wrong) or on fact (real information that this situation is a threat)?
Most of what we fear never actually happens and we can sometimes think of the ‘worst-case scenario’ instead of what God wants to bring into our mind, heart, and life.
A made-up irrational fear may keep you from living into God’s purpose for you. For example, if you are afraid of failing or being ridiculed, that is not God’s best for you and it might be holding you back in life.
Sometimes we need to courageously step out with God’s strength! There is no failure, only feedback. Even your perceived failures can lead to huge growth and refinement when you look to God.
Question #3. Does the fear come from the enemy or God?
The enemy will put fears in your head at every opportunity and it’s important to think about whether the fear is happening inside you because of the enemy’s lies and deceit.
If it is holding you back from something that would honour God, then it might be an irrational fear from the enemy.
On the other hand, if the fear is keeping you safe and protected from harm, is in God’s will, allows you to make a decision that honours Him and keeps you walking in faith, then it is probably a rational God-given fear.
These fears are worth paying attention to and honouring. God will instill healthy fear in us of things that are not of Him. This is also called discernment.
Question #4. Is it something you know you need to face?
Fears get stronger the longer we avoid dealing with them. If you have an irrational fear, you might want to face it sooner than later. You might have irrational fears coming up inside you such as “what will other people think of me?” or “what if I fail?”
Being courageous involves trusting God will give you strength and protect you as you venture out into the unknown.
I was terrified of singing. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense except I had an irrational fear about what others would think. I was afraid if I sang, people would laugh at me. When I was 36, I decided to face my fear. I began singing lessons and for the first 5 lessons I wouldn’t sing a single word – I would only hum notes.
Eventually, I began opening up (with God’s strength) and as the years went by, I got better. I stepped out and did karaoke one night — it was a milestone for me, as I was facing a HUGE fear! It built my confidence and eventually led me to audition for my worship team at church — and I was accepted as a vocalist!
Here’s a video of me singing on this same worship team at my Christmas service this year — I’m in the red coat ;).
If fear is keeping you from moving forward, it may be worth facing it head on, feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
By doing this, it can help you move into realizing the dreams and the calling God has placed on your life.
You get to choose if you want to let the fear run you or you want to grab it by the horns and face it head-on!
Fear vs Love
Simply put, fear is not of God — it is from the enemy. The enemy puts fear in us in a way that keeps us from God’s greater plan for our lives. When we go to the Bible, we quickly read about the garden of Eden and how the enemy came to Adam and Eve as a serpent and instilled fear in them.
This story in Genesis helps illustrate how the enemy will lie to us in order to move us further away from God’s best for us:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” — Genesis 3:1–7
In this story, what did Eve fear?
She feared not knowing everything, not understanding, being in the dark, not having wisdom. She ate from the tree because she was tempted by the enemy — by his lies and deceit. God has His reason for not wanting her to have certain information — He was protecting her.
However, the enemy is clever and he will deceive us into believing we should NOT believe God, telling us to go out on our own and decide for ourselves. It is important to see that the enemy is out to lie and deceive us and we need to ensure we are aware of the dangers the enemy presents.
It is the irrational fears that hold us back — and often these can come up in how the enemy tries to guide us to live our lives.
The enemy says:
You’re NOT ENOUGH!
God will let you DOWN!
People will LAUGH at you!
You will FAIL!
There is DANGER ahead!
You will get HURT!
The enemy creates fears in us that become cages that hold us captive and can limit how much we choose to live into our God-given purpose. All the irrational fears that the enemy puts into our minds are the opposite of what God wants for us. God wants us to have healthy, rational fears of real threats to our safety. The enemy wants us to stay safe because we are fearful and that keeps us from living into God’s best plan for our lives.
But we DO NOT need to fear the enemy!
Biblical wisdom states:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”— Philippians 4:6–7
Love, on the other hand, is all about God.
God is love and“there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” — 1 John 4:18
Where God rules, fear does not. God tells us that we will have struggles on this earth, but he has already overcome the world. He says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33
So knowing that God is love and the enemy is the opposite of love, you can learn to pay attention to the love-based voice of God, instead of the fear-based vice of the enemy.
But how exactly do you overcome irrational fears and lessen your anxiety so you can best live into God’s purpose for your life?
How to Fight Fear and Focus on God
1. Allow God in FULLY
In order to allow God in fully, you MUST be open to Him. Allowing Him to work in your mind and heart can help you discern what is from Him and what is not. He will reveal things to you as you take time to listen to His voice. He will give you wisdom, discernment and strength to understand what is from Him and fight against the fears that the enemy puts in your head.
2. Know that God has ALREADY PREPARED you
God has already given you all you need to live in a place of love rather than fear. He tells you exactly how to do this in His word. Whether you follow His wisdom or not is up to you — He has given you free will to choose.
Just like Adam and Eve, God has given you direction and it’s up to you to sift through what is true and what is a lie so you can go down the path He is leading you down.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”God’s Holy Spirit lives in us when we allow it to and His power will work through us and help us discern from a place of strength and wisdom in Him.
He says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10
#3. Protect yourself with GOD’S WORD
Spend time building up your strength and wisdom through the Bible. Some verses that remind me of who the enemy is and what he’s trying to do are:
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” — 1 Peter 5:8
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” — Ephesians 6:11
“When we choose love over fear God wins and the enemy flees. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” — James 4:7
The Bible is FULL of wisdom that helps us see who the enemy really is and what he is trying to do to us.
Spend time in His powerful, living word and it will help you put on the FULL ARMOUR of God and fight against the enemy’s schemes.
On a Personal Note
Fear can feel impossible to get past, but everything I have achieved in my life thus far has been out of my comfort zone — it has come through facing fears. I have stared down all the fears I listed above (you’re not enough, people will let you down, you will fail, etc).
It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. And you know what…I’ve never been alone. God gave us the Holy Spirit to give us the courage we need to defeat the fears. We can choose to notice the irrational fear, feel it, ponder it, then fight through and do what God is calling you to!
I mentioned earlier about my desire to sing and my fear around it. I know the enemy wanted to keep me in bondage. He wanted to keep that fear in me so I wouldn’t live into God’s purpose, overcome and live in freedom. The enemy didn’t want me singing on the worship team at church, singing for God and leading people to a relationship with Him. Imagine if I would have let that irrational fear of what people thought of me or possible failure to hold me back? I wouldn’t be doing what I love and I wouldn’t be living in what I believe is God’s best for me.
The opposite of fear is faith!
When we have faith that God will bring us through it, He will. He is always there and promises that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” — Romans 8:28
When you are afraid, notice if it is rational or irrational.
If it is irrational, choose to overcome then trust God, have faith and look to Him and His word for wisdom and strength.
Remember, the more disconnected we are from God, the more we fear and the more anxiety we experience on a daily basis. The more we surrender and the more we connect to God, the more our fears dissolve.
As David said. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” — Psalm 34:4
Jesus said to His followers in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Stay connected to Him, as He is the vine and you are the branch. Apart from Him you can do nothing, but “With God ALL things are possible.” — Matthew 19:26
For more encouragement when fear begins to set in, download a FREE Guidebook HERE with 10 powerful scriptures to help you fight fear and focus on God.
Alana Palm is the founder of Wake Up Joyful, a ministry dedicated to helping those who are struggling in life to transform their mindset through biblical teachings & personal development so they can live with more joy, confidence & courage.