Fear is a cage that holds your mind captive in negativity. But, even though fear can be powerful, God has given us something even more powerful: a key to unlock the Holy Spirit’s wealth of peace and strength. I have traveled a long, bumpy road to uncover this truth.
I started struggling with anxiety attacks when I was 10.
There were too many nights I had difficulty falling asleep. My mind would be haunted with evil and disturbing images. The fear eventually caused my whole body to shake involuntarily. My parents would pray over me, and after what would sometimes be hours, my body would finally relax and slip into coveted slumber.
Eventually the nighttime attacks began to fade, but my struggle with fear never really ended – it just manifested itself differently. I became scared of illness, large public places, and any type of disaster. Really, I was scared of just about anything that wasn’t within my control. Yes, I had control issues. But, I didn’t want to trust God — I wanted to get over the fear myself.
A year and a half ago, the fear came back in a different way: chest pains…and because it was out of my control, I panicked. As the pain got worse, I cried out to God, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Nonetheless, I started hating the life I had been given; that was how miserable the cage was around my mind. Those days were filled with uncertainty. My mom believed my struggle was mostly mental, so I was convinced I seriously had a problem. After about a week the pain went away, but not until after I had done a lot of praying and surrendering on my part.
My journey can be summarized in three steps:
Step 1: Fight
The first step to breaking free of my fear was to realize that the devil is waging a war against me. As Christians, we are engaged in a constant battle between righteousness and evil.
If you want to survive, you have to fight.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but… against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
That whole summer I struggled with dizziness as a result of fear. I literally felt on pins and needles all day. Sleep was the only time I got relief. I soon realized this wasn’t just a problem with me; Satan was trying to get at me. He knew right where to hit me — my fear. You see, Satan knows all about us. He knows our weaknesses. And his only plan is to destroy us.
Be alert and of a sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. -1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)
Devour — what a strong word. Devour means to eat quickly, consume destructively, and to completely absorb. That is what the devil plans to do to the believers that are a threat to him.
Step 2: Surrender
Second, surrender to God and accept that He’s in control, not you. Sometimes we feel that our chains are a safe haven. That’s why we cling to them. I was almost afraid to trust God, because that meant I had to give up my control. I had to grasp that I didn’t need to worry, because God is in charge. He already knows everything that is going to happen to me and He has already overcome Satan. I have victory in Jesus’s death and resurrection!
I have told you these things, so that in me you have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33 (NIV)
Step 3: Control
Understanding that God has already won, there is s a third step: taking control of the mind. Yes, we can’t do it alone – we desperately need God’s help. Yet, we do have the power to take control of our mind. Why? God has given it to us. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). I recite this verse in moments of anxiety, because it reminds me that when I have the Holy Spirit living within me, I have power.
The mind is intense. It controls your body. That’s why I experienced physical effects such as dizziness, pain, and fatigue because of my fear. Your mind (especially the female mind) connects everything. Because I felt alone and captive in my fear, depression sprang out of fear. My mind was a cage that encapsulated me from outside fellowship and encouragement. However, in my loneliness the Lord brought godly friends into my life to remind me that life is only found in Him. I didn’t have to live with fear and depression. Instead I could live with freedom and joy!
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NIV)
Ladies, we are engaged in a war. We cannot remain passive and allow the Enemy to conquer us. Instead, we must use the power given to us through the Holy Spirit to take negative thoughts captive and conquer them.
Practical tips to overcome fear and anxiety:
Pray for wisdom and strength.
Even though God knows our struggles, He wants us to share life with Him. There is great power in confessing our worry to Him and asking Him to exchange our fear for hope. He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Write the truth on your heart.
One of my friends encouraged me to write down the lies that I believed about myself that led to fear. Then, I counteracted those lies with truth from the Bible. Having a stack of notecards with the lies and truth helped me identify my shortcomings and allowed me to fill my mind with God’s promises.
Share your journey.
When I stepped outside of my comfort zone and shared my struggles with my church’s seniors, I found a friend who shared similar struggles. We are now able to encourage each other, pray for one another, and offer advice. One of the greatest ways we can defeat the Enemy is through our testimony of God’s faithfulness in our lives.
I want to conclude with a passage from The Message: Ephesians 6:10-12 says, “And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is a for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.”
Stand strong, chosen one of God! He has a greater plan for your life than living under anxiety. Let Him drive away the clouds of darkness and replace them with the light of hope!