Halloween is a day many have accepted as harmless and synonymous with giggles and sugar, but the deeper meaning celebrates fear and the author of fear. Living in a fallen world, we have all been affected by fear in different forms. Fear of man. Fear of sickness. Fear of relationships. Fear of rejection. Fear of hard work. Fear of failure. Even fear of success and the pressures which come with it. Fear has certainly affected my life. How has it affected yours?
Sometimes I miss the days when my biggest fear was a neighborhood kid dressed as a ghost or missing a note during my piano recital. My most reminiscent childhood fear was the time I ran to my bed sobbing and when asked what was wrong, I blubbered, “I might grow up and drink beer!”
Would You Love to Face Your Greatest Fears?
If you have ever seen the show Impractical Jokers (truTV), you know they frequently challenge each other to do outrageous and embarrassing stunts. Many times, they have challenged each other to face their biggest fears. Heights, sharks, tarantulas, cats (yes, cats) – the show’s cast each has had to face their deep fears. As much as I do not envy them in the moment, I do sometimes wish I had to face my fears (Eric, don’t get too excited). It is their job to walk into situations which terrify them. Situations they would never choose on their own. One of the cast members, James Murray, had to go skydiving and swim with sharks – his two greatest fears. He was horrified to the point of tears as he waited to jump out of a plane, but I wonder how much conquering that fear improved his life? I would guess he gained something tremendous from that experience.
Deep inside most, if not all, of us is a desire to cast off the chains. Even if we hide and distract ourselves from our nagging fears and anxieties, there is a part of us which wants to face them and emerge victorious.
A woman dreamed she was being chased by a lion. She ran for her life, but when she turned to face him, she realized he did not have any teeth. How many of our fears are “toothless”?
Looking back over my life, I can see a theme of fear running through every season. Fear I allowed to rob me of so much. Fear which even affects my relationships and marriage. If you can relate, stay with me. Let’s start facing the toothless lions, the man behind the curtain, and the eerie shadows on the wall.
- List your top five fears. This will take a little introspection, but it is worth the work. Like much of the public, I am terrified of public speaking. Because of this, I chose to speak briefly at my dad’s funeral because I could not think of a greater way to say, “Dad, I love you so much” than to face what I (and he) so greatly feared. In addition to public speaking, I am afraid of rejection, losing friends and family to death, being alone/isolated, and I still have to put snakes on the list (but not at the top!).
- After you map out what scares you most in life, list five ways to combat each fear. A few years ago, I started my snake desensitization process by holding a snake at a local pet shop. That is a great first step, but in addition to that I can (2) study snakes, (3) stand in the snake section of the pet store for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, until walking by the snakes does not bother me anymore. After studying snakes and learning about the snakes in my area, I can (4) take walks on trails I would have formerly avoided (with friends). Then finally, (5) I can go to a reptile exhibit and touch/hold/experience an array of creepy friends. My goal is to see a snake in the wild without completely losing my mind.
- Get a buddy. God did not intend for us to walk this path alone. When I held my first (and so far, only) snake, my friend came with me as a witness and moral support. Facing fears is easier when we have people in our corner. Displaying our weakness requires vulnerability, but it leads to greater strength.
- Be specific when you pray. “Lord, please break this fear of looking foolish from me so I can spread the Gospel as your Word tells me too.” “Lord, please release me from this terror of asking someone on a date.” “Lord, please give me boldness to lovingly confront my friends when they offend me.” God does not want us walking in fear.
- Make it a lifestyle. Once you have your fears listed, a plan to combat them, friends to assist and encourage you, and are consistently praying to overcome each fear, start moving down your list. Most likely, you can chip away at your toothless lions in everyday life – at work, at church, and even in the grocery store. Some fears are more difficult to loose; you can consider working with a Christ-centered counselor to talk and pray through those fears. When you overcome your first five fears, start a new list, and then keep breaking down barriers.
A Different Approach
As Christ-followers, we do not celebrate fear and evil. So, maybe we can take a new approach to Halloween. Instead of celebrating darkness, we can use this day each year to conquer fear. Or, at the very least, do something proactive to help overcome one of our fears. Henceforth, the last day in October could be called Conquer Your Fear Day.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37, ESV)
Being afraid is typically seen as a personal problem; something we all face, but also something which only affects us individually. At times, in life, this may be true; but, in relationships and especially marriage, our fear absolutely affects the other person involved. Regardless of your relationship status, confront your fears. Look them in the face, and with God’s help, get rid of them.
But, if you are in a relationship, take time to consider how holding on to your fears will affect your partner over time. What will he or she miss out on because of your fears? What added burden might your fears place in his or her life? If you are in a trusting relationship and are considering marriage, talk to each other about what scares you. You might even ask them to point out problem areas of which you are not even aware.
Proactively conquering your fears and working through your anxieties is one of the greatest gifts you can give your partner and yourself.
Below are great verses to help us combat fear. We recommend committing these to memory and repeating them often. Remember, God is not the author of fear.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, ESV)
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, ESV)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, ESV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32, ESV)
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31, ESV)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3, ESV)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27, ESV)
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)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, the destruction that wastes at noonday. (Psalm 91:1-6, ESV)
God covers his children like a bird protects her babies; what a comfort. A final verse which shows the depth of God’s love in responding to His children’s fear:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (I John 4:18, ESV)
Which fear will you work towards conquering this week?