Want to Overcome Your Fears? Then You’re Gonna Have to Fight

The other day I was traveling with a friend in the car when she started talking about the reality of her panic attacks. It didn’t take long for another friend to chime and share about hers. They spoke of how it felt so real. Each woman explained how it came on out of no where and was uncontrollable. They spoke of the shame they felt when they were finally able to calm down and gain perspective back again.

I know those feelings. I have had those same experiences and know the weight of the shame that can consume you after the anxiety fog lifts. It’s horrible. Though my times with these panic attacks have been few,  these two ladies have had them for years.

It reminded me how our fears can feel huge to overcome all-consuming. They are very real. And it can be very hard to know what to do.

So what do you do?

We are now on week 4 of our series on overcoming fear with just two weeks left. My goal is to help you tangibly see how pursuing God with everything you have can help you to not only overcome your fears but ultimately live the life that Jesus promises in John 10:10.  We have talked about overcoming fear with peace, with surrender, and with pursuing Him through His word. This week we are going to move a little out of our comfort zones and talk about fighting.

When I was in the 11th grade I was asked to walk home with a girl who hadn’t been particularly nice to me in the past. That day she was scared for her life because apparently she gave some “looks” to the “mean” girls in gym class. When I say mean, what I am getting at is, these are not the girls that you want to pick a fight with unless you are prepared to actually use your fists. She had made them pretty mad that day and they caught her at a time where she was pretty vulnerable. All her friends were off doing other things, and she still needed to walk home. I was the innocent victim she asked to keep her company.

I have to chalk that up to one of the scariest times in my life. I think the hair stood up on my neck nearly the entire walk home, because as we walked the group of “mean” girls walked only feet behind us, taunting her and reminding me to mind my own business. We went a few more blocks and the intensity of their mocking increased. She started to tell them to leave her alone, but her words only spurred them on more.  Before I knew it they were on top of her attacking her and she was trying to fight her way out. A neighbor came out of a nearby house and scared the girls off. I know she felt scared, hurt and ashamed. It was the first time I had ever seen a fight like that and I glad to say it was my last. I will never forget that day.

Our enemy is much the same as those “mean” girls. The Bible says that “the devil schemes”(6:11b). The definition of schemes is a large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect. That means the enemy is devising this incredibly divisive plan using every tactic he knows how to in order to essentially tear you away from God. Fear is just one of his many tools to do that. How do I know that…read Ephesians 6:12-17:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

One of the enemy’s tactics is fear. Fear against anything you will come up against. If it were not, why would Paul urge you to become like a warrior and put on the full armor of God? He knew that equipping you with the tools you need would help you guard against your enemy so that you can stand firm against his schemes. Essentially, you are going to have to learn how to fight. And fight well.

When I got serious about the calling God had on my life, I realized I was going to have to go to battle with all my fears. Which included things like: the fear of telling others about this crazy vision I had, and the fear that they may think I am ridiculous and disapprove. The fear that I could be wrong, or that I would look like a fool. And the worse fear of all, the fear of failure. Oh the enemy knew me and my patterns well.  He knew that I longed for peoples’ approval and people not agreeing with me would slowly defeat me so the first few times I shared the vision that is exactly what happened.

They said stuff like:
“Great vision, Dawn…good luck” or
“That may happen but not by a woman, not in this town” or
“That could never happen here”

I felt defeated, confused, and ashamed. It wasn’t until I got into the Word of God and realized all I was feeling was not from God, but rather from the Devil himself. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

So with my armor on, and with all the faith I could muster up I put one foot in front of the other and started to pursue the vision God placed on my heart. That vision was to unify our community by loving the poor into life transformation. I had to conquer my fears one at a time. First I shared with one person. Then that one person, had me share it with a few more. Then I was to share it with a few more. Almost every time I shared I had to either fight back or wipe away the tears…that was how scared I was. Next, I acquired a few board members. Then we took steps to seek to become incorporated through the state of Alabama for “The Link of Cullman County, Inc.” Before I knew it I was fundraising and then getting to attend a Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in Chicago. I was going to be trained on becoming a Christian Community Developer.

The more I watched my Father in Heaven do miraculous things, the bolder I got. The bolder I got, the more I wanted to kick fear in the tail and keep on going. My mantra became “I’d rather stand before man and be deemed a fool for believing God, than stand before God and be deemed a fool before Him.” Yes I was scared, but I did it anyway. Yes, at times it felt like crazy radical faith, but I did it anyway. It didn’t always happen quickly and I learned patience along the way. But the more I believed in Him the more I got to see Him do miraculous things. (One day I may do a post on the miracles He has performed and is still performing.)

So here is what I have to say to you today. If you truly want to overcome your fears you are going to have to learn how to fight like you mean it. The only way to fight like you mean it is to put your armor on and then do whatever it is that gives you fear. I do encourage you to start small. For instance, if you are deathly afraid to speak in front of people…you can start by seeking God for all the strength and courage you need, then you can put on your armor and you begin by speaking in front of some folks at work for the first time. No matter how it turns out…you praise Him. Then maybe the next time you are asked to speak, you say yes…even though it scares you to death. Then you praise Him for the opportunity to gain more freedom. And you do the same steps…. pray, put on the armor of God, and do that thing.

Can you see me giving you a virtual fist pump? I am! I promise you defeating your fears becomes invigorating. Why? It’s taking steps forward towards freedom. You are starting to live what Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came to give life, a life that is full.”

Most of us don’t realize the chains we bear, until we are broken free of them. Choose today to start walking in the freedom that Jesus came to give you. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”(Gal 5:1)

This week I have a challenge for you, I want you to pray the armor of God on every day (Ephesians 6:13-17) and then I want you to come back here and tell me how it went. Did you feel more powerful? Did you defeat any of your fears? Let’s champion each other on in this battle against our enemy to scheme against us. He does not have the last word in this, the Bible tells us that we are over-comers and so as such we will live.

6 Ways You Can Overcome Fear with Peace

“You could bleed out.”

Those words rung in my ears as I sat in my ENT doctor’s office.  It was February of 2011. My doctor  was telling me how the carotid body tumor in my neck needed to be removed and the reality of it’s removal could be, well…death.

About 7 months before that my husband and I, with our 10 month old son in tow,  moved from Hamilton, OH to his hometown of Cullman, AL to start a local church…or so we thought. It didn’t take long for us to realize, God had other plans. In fact, the church launched in August and by November we had decided to shut it down in order to seek God for what His plan was…we had decided we must have missed that along the way, because what we thought would be a successful ministry opportunity turned into a closed door. I had blogged about our experience, and you can read more about that here.

This moment in the doctor’s office was pivotal for me. You see up until this point I would not have consider myself a very anxious person. I didn’t think I had a lot of fear and for the most part, would have been willing to try new things…well, most new things.

But at this moment, of seeing the prospect of death, well, this was a game changer. From this point forward, nothing in my life was the same.

And from it you are going to learn what I did, 6 ways to overcome fear with peace, that you can use moment by moment, as you struggle through the very thing  you fear the most, even death.

But before we go there, let’s travel back in time a bit to early 2011 where  God was clarifying a vision for what I thought was for Chris to follow through on to help unify our community by bringing together local non-profits in order to meet needs in our community. I felt with everything in me God had given us that vision and I was convinced that Chris was the one who was supposed to carry it out. He was from Cullman, he knows people, he could lead a ministry like that.

And I was convinced I was the very last person on earth that could lead that vision. I wasn’t from Cullman. I am a Yankee, in a southern town, and at that time knew no one. I am also a woman, in a very conservative place where most leadership positions are held by men. Did I mention I am also a Yankee. I am the last person to be leading a ministry to meet the needs of the poor in a way that brings unity to a community that I did no grow up in.

But, God had another plan. Those words, “You could bleed out”  were the first of what started me on a path of learning about fear.

Fear like I have never felt before.

Fear that paralyzed me and gave me terrors in the night.

Never in my life did I ever experience the feelings of fear that I had days and weeks after those words were spoken over my life.

Over the next months we traveled from doctor to doctor praying we could find the one who could conduct the surgery on my tumor . And while we prayed and sought him for direction, I started to gain perspective. I started to hear Him through my scripture readings and found Phillipians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving bring your requests to God. And the God of peace will guard your heart in Christ Jesus.”

Those words were like salve on my anxious mind and were used many nights to usher me to sleep.

Because the reality is my life had to keep going on, regardless of the fear.

It was April  when we finally located an ENT with more experience with my very rare tumor than any other doctor and it would be months before the surgery was scheduled. So I do what any person who wants to remain in control of their life does, I went on doing my day job and pursuing what I thought God had for me as a calling. At that point I believed with everything in me I was called to write and speak to women.

In May of that year, I went to a Christian Writer’s Conference in Colorado (talk about getting over fears) where I was mildly successful in engaging a possible agent in a book idea I had pitched and making some great connections with publishers and editors in the Christian Writing Market. This was HUGE for me as God was redeeming a story that was laden with death words like “you’ll never be a writer” from a college professor and “you might as well forget about writing professionally, no one would ever publish what you write” from the same man. God had already been re-writing that story for me and the Writer’s Conference was just  another way He was taking what the enemy meant for harm (remember kill, steal, destroy from last week) and offering me a life of abundance.

So I truly thought…this was my calling. This is what God is going to have me do…and that other vision…well that was for Chris.

But Chris had other thoughts.  When I  originally shared that vision for him in the early parts of 2010, his response was very realistic.  He knew this community better than I.

He said, “Dawn, as much as that is a great vision to unite the community by helping meet needs of the poor, that’s going to take a lot of collaboration on the parts of the churches and other organizations. They are very divided here. So the only way that something like that is going to happen is if something big blows through this town and shakes it up.”

We would never consider Chris a prophet…but it was literally only a few months later in April of 2011 that something DID blow through our town and shake it up. In fact, on April 27, 2011 we sat huddled in a basement of a friends house as a F4 Tornado tore up our town.  You can see video coverage of that tornado, here.

God shook up a lot that day. Our town. Our hearts. Our community served each other like never before.

It was beautiful.

Are you catching all of this. A tumor. Massive anxiety. A trip to a writer’s conference. A tornado. All before the surgery in June.

He was putting me in an uncomfortable  and vulnerable place, wrapped up in very uncomfortable experiences so I would have no choice but to trust Him and only Him. I had to surrender all my control and believe He knew what was best for me.

It was during this time that I learned what it meant to have peace that guards your heart.

A peace that surpasses all understanding.

A peace that speaks to you and says, “I am not finished with you yet.”

And you cling to it with everything that you have because you want it to be true. Because surgeries are scary. And no one knows when they go in, if they are coming back out.

Peace. It is what I clung to while I walked through during the scariest part of my life. So let me walk you through 6 ways you can overcoming fear and find this peace as well.

  1. Don’t be anxious about anything…yeah, like that is easy. I know this is the verse part of the verse, but really…I don’t think God thought we could do this on our own which is why He followed it up with “with thanksgiving, prayer and petition.”  I think these are the antidote to not being anxious to anything. However, you’ll soon see, these are wise words, encouraging words, and words we want to strive to live by.
  2. Give thanks to God – Who really wants to give thanks when they are dealing with anxiety and worry? I think sometimes I actually like being worried. It gives me something to think about. Something to talk to my friends and seek their opinion on. It can be a topic of conversation at lunch. But God has a completely different idea of what I am supposed to do with that worry and it does not include any of the things I just mentioned. Darn. Instead, he wants us to change our perspective.  The act of thanking is challenging but what He wants us to get our thoughts off of us on and on to Him. So what do we thank him for? We thank Him for Him being God. He’s in charge. He is in control.
  3. Pray and Petition, bring your requests – Again, this is taking the mindset off of us. Let’s face it. If we could fix the problem, figure out the issue, or in my case…remove and cure my own tumor, I would not be worrying. I need a God that is bigger than my stuff to run to when I get to the end of myself. I honestly believe He allows us to get here. To the end of ourselves… so we’ll pray, petition, and bring Him our requests. And when we do…that’s when the blessing happens.
  4. He is the God of Peace…Did you know this about our God? The bible says, He is the God of Peace. Not the God of Anxiousness. Not the God of Stress. Not the God of Worry or Ulcers or Nail Biting. But the God of Peace. So as you pray, keep this in mind. You are praying to the God who is Peace. Do you feel like you want to go back to  number 2 and thank Him?
  5. He surpasses all understanding – Say that to yourself again. Surpasses ALL understanding. Folks…hear me out on this. We are not God. We do not have the ability to think as He does. The word says, “His ways are above our ways, His thoughts above our thoughts.” We are human. He is our Creator. There are just some things we are not going to understand. And this may be the most important thing I share with you on this entire post…you ready for it.  When I surrendered ALL understanding to Him. When I finally said, “You know what God I am never going to get my head around all of this.” that is when the peace came. Flooding in like a river. It was sweet, it was rich, and it was what I needed more than anything else, except this…
  6. Guard your heart in Christ Jesus -Because that’s what peace does. It guards your heart so as you repeat this verse over and over to yourself moment by moment, day by day, week after week and still for me 5 years later…you start to realize that the worry and the anxiety, that’s all you. Giving thanks, prayer and petition and surrendering all understanding, that’s God. He is the guardian of our hearts. Oh, dear one, let Him guard your heart today, do not try to block Him by filling your day with worry and stress.

So that’s it. The 6 ways to overcome fear, all laid out clear as day in scripture for you and me. When I uncovered this secret, I learned what it took to overcome fear. And now you can too.

Now that you know the secret to overcoming fear with peace, which of these 6 ways to overcome fear do you think will be the hardest for you to do and how can you implement them in your daily life? Take a moment and then comment below. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!