It seems like most of my posts here at Candidly Christian begin with a confession. Today’s is this: I struggle with fear and chronic worry. By the grace of God, I’m beginning to recognize fear for what it is. And more importantly, I’m taking action, because I know that God has intended for me to live a life of victory, not defeat. I want to share some of my journey with you today in hopes that it will equip you to walk in victory over your own fears.
3 Steps to Overcome Your Fear & Subdue Chronic Worry
“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 10:5 (NIV)
The picture I get in my mind as I read 2 Corinthians 10:5, particularly the “take captive every thought,” is the image of an exclusive fishing activity reserved only for Alaskan residents known as “dipnetting.” It’s a form of subsistence fishing that involves wading out in a river holding a huge dip net and basically letting the fish (usually salmon) swim right into your net. You can catch a year’s supply of fish this way. I have to be honest…I’ve never done it myself; it’s still on my Alaska bucket list, even though I’ve been a resident for years now. But I’ve seen plenty of people doing it. And it was this unique picture of the shoulder-to-shoulder Alaskans with their giant six-foot dip nets standing chest deep in cold Alaska river water that held the key to the three steps that have helped me in my struggle with fear.
Step 1: Take Those Fish Fears Captive!
So you’re an Alaskan resident now. You’re in your chest waders, which keep you mostly warm and dry (unless you got that “great deal” on the pair from Craig’s list because there was a good sized hole in them), and you have your huge net ready to catch some fish. If you’re like me, the fish (let’s say those represent our fears) are plentiful. They’re swimming in so fast you can barely contain them! You have to examine your catch, and decide which ones to keep, and which ones to release.
In my own struggle with fear and chronic worry, this step means taking some time to pray for God to help me use that net to capture and identify fears. I like to pray this prayer:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” ~ Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Then I sit and write down the fears and anxieties that come to my mind. Sometimes they’re really obvious, but other times through prayer and listening, God reveals fears and worries that I had never identified as such – but that can tarnish my view of God and life in general, and affect my ability to operate in the freedom and victory He intended.
But here’s the kicker: Fear itself isn’t all bad.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
Now God is clear: a “spirit of fear” is not from Him. But a healthy fear of heights or dangerous situations? For the most part, those are a God-given alarm system to aid in self-preservation! Without fear of any kind, we’d be doomed to physical ruin. Most of my fears surround my children, and some of the fears I have can serve as warnings or cautions. So we need to take those fears captive so that we can examine each one.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” ~ Matthew 6:33-34 (NIV)
I’ve found that my own fears become sinful when they stop serving their purpose as a momentary warning. When they become chronic worry. Or worse yet, when I see a red flag and start playing out in my mind all the terrible things that could happen in the future as a result. So I’m going to ask a few questions right now that I ask myself as kind of a litmus test to tease out the God-given fears from the worry:
- How much time have I spent thinking about this fear?
- How much Googling have I done about this fear? (ouch!)
- Has this fear launched me into positive action to solve a problem?
- Did this fear serve its purpose and go away, or am I still wrestling with it?
If a fear hasn’t served its momentary purpose and gone away (example: I’m afraid that my boys’ bunk bed will fall over in the event of a large earthquake, so I attach it to the wall with fasteners), it’s in the category of chronic worry (example: I constantly worry about my children being hurt or killed in a large earthquake).
Step 2: Bonk Your Fish Fears
You great Alaskan, you! Look at those fish. But they’re slippery little suckers, and trapping them in the net is only the beginning. Did you know there’s actually something called a “fish bonker”? You’ll need one. It sounds crude, but it’s the quickest, most humane way to be sure your fish doesn’t escape.
In the same way, taking our thoughts and fears captive is only the first step. Identifying fears is great, but if you just sit there staring at a list of fears – or a net of floundering, flopping fish – there’s a good chance they’ll get loose again. We must use our fish bonker to lay those fears to rest. My favorite “fear bonker” is prayer.
This can be done in a couple of ways:
– Praying scripture that is full of truths to counter the lies within my fears. Speaking those scriptures aloud is even more powerful. This is a form of spiritual warfare!
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God…- 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
– Viewing the onset of fears as warnings or cautions and taking forward, positive action by asking for God’s help and intervention through prayer. This releases worry instead of perpetuating it.
“When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” ~ Psalm 86:7 (NIV)
Step 3: Keep Your Net in the Water!
Just because there’s a lull in fish traffic doesn’t mean there are none to be caught. Dipnetters may spend hours waiting for more fish to come up the river, but like any good fishermen they know to keep their nets in the water, or they might miss them.
Likewise, just because we do a “fear purge” and practice taking those fears captive, making them obedient to Christ, doesn’t mean our job is finished once and for all. In fact, if you look at the NASB translation of this verse which reflects the original Greek by using the present tense of the active participle in “we are destroying” and “we are taking,” you’ll see it’s ongoing:
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB, emphasis mine)
For me, addressing fear and worry is an ongoing battle. But Jesus died and rose again so that we could have victory! So let’s claim it, but remain vigilant in the ongoing process of naming our fears and taking them captive, making them obedient to Christ.
Are You Ready To Go Fear Fishing?
Have you struggled with fear or chronic worry? What are some strategies you use to hand them over to God? Join the conversation in the comments below!
Books for Related Reading
(Reminder: We participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program)