Confronting Fear

Back by popular demand this month we get my fiance Alex Greenberg as the guest writer.  What he writes about here is the fruit of having faced fears and depression head on and refusing to let them win.  His words carry weight because these are not just good ideas, but because he has put them to practice and gained victory in this area of his life. Now open up your heart and get ready to shift your view on fear and depression.

[mk_dropcaps style="fancy-style"]I[/mk_dropcaps] hope you don't think anything less of me, but I'm kind of afraid of spiders. Laugh all you want, but those tiny 8-legged, multi-eyed, poisonous, web-shooting killing machines freak me out.  I'd rather go toe to toe with an angry bear - because then at least I can size him up and know what I'm up against.  But a spider is unpredictable, unstable.  Who knows where they're hiding, what they're thinking or what could cause them to snap?  So I choose to avoid possible confrontation with them altogether.

Isn't that the reasonable thing to do with our fears?  While the extent of our fears may be a little excessive and irrational sometimes, at their core aren't they there to protect us from impending dangers?  Common fears of animals tend to center around those that can do us harm.  Fear of heights is reasonable because gravity isn't the most forgiving force.  Claustrophobia makes sense because closed spaces have a limited oxygen supply and suffocation isn't on my bucket list.  Even public speaking - standing and sweating under bright lights in front of that sea of faces, trying to remember what you were going to say.  Might as well avoid the stress and embarrassment and just let those natural extroverts handle it.

We all know fear, and we all know the fears that uniquely plague us.  Those external fears are easy to admit.  But let's talk a bit about those internal fears that don't get a lot of attention.  After all, I don't come across deadly spiders every day (thank God!), and I'm not always climbing ladders or looking down from the roof of skyscrapers.  But I do share this planet with over 7 billion people, so a fear of rejection may be a little more relevant.  And I do have goals of things I'd like to accomplish, so fear of failure is around every corner.  Add in the fact that our universe is in a pattern of exponentially increasing chaos (science actually has an equation for this), and a fear of things going wrong seems like a pretty smart way to protect me and my loved ones (I mean, it's science).

I know those fears.  And I've got plenty of evidence to back them.  Growing up I faced rejection from friends multiple times.  In elementary school, middle school and high school I had friends decide they didn't want me around anymore and I was left all alone.  So by the time I got to college, I had a fear of rejection that made it very hard to trust people and make new friends.  As a result, I spent many weekends alone.

Then there's the constant push to be successful in all I do.  Media promotes perfection, society attacks failure, even my parents did it unintentionally to encourage me to be the best I can be.  But whatever the cause, any time I didn't achieve success (which was often), I felt like a letdown.  I developed a fear of failure and decided to only take risks with guaranteed results for success, which created a comfort to settling on many important decisions (jobs, relationships, etc), and a lack of growth and expansion into new and exciting areas.

As for fearing the worst, well that just comes from living in a world where pain and upsets exist.  It's a fact of life, and my life has been filled with plenty of proof points.  It didn't take long before I had a standing expectation that certain things would go wrong.  I would start to get bitter about things before they even happened, just based on the assumption they wouldn't go my way.  Forget that I was wrong half the time and things often went as I would have hoped they did.  But by then I was already too mired in negativity that I couldn’t even celebrate the good result.

Over the course of my life, I got good at using these fears as a protective mechanism.  If I'm afraid of rejection, what I'm saying is that I actually desire acceptance but expect to not be accepted.  So I use the fear to justify not pursuing it because I didn't want the heartache.  If I'm afraid of failure, I'm actually looking for success but want to make sure I reach it the first time.  So I use the fear to justify not taking risks and stretching myself, even if it meant the success I achieved was far less than what I really wanted to experience.  If I'm afraid of bad things happening, it's because I want good things to happen.  So I use the fear to justify being a victim to things not going my way - and instead of knowing what to do if the good happened, I spent my effort hoping for the worst so my preparation didn't go to waste.

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]So where did all this “preparation” justified by fear leave me?[/mk_blockquote]

My reaction to these fears began to dominate my words, my thoughts, and my actions.  And once my reality was consumed with those things, life lost its luster.  Hope dissipated.  Goals become boring.  Accomplishments seemed unfulfilling.  Self-esteem diminished.  Isolation followed.  Then depression set in.  I was depressed and unhappy, and because I thought I was being safe, reasonable, and  wise in a broken world.  And why not?  The concept of hope was just a fluffy dream outside of reality.  Sure I wanted more, but so what?  Life's not fair.

Yet there was always that part of me that wanted something more.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shut it up.  And then I encountered Jesus.  I learned who I was, and what I was made for.  My purpose got renewed, my hope got renewed, and my life got renewed.  See, that desire inside of you for something more, that tells you that fear and depression shouldn't have to be there, it's telling the truth.  It's no accident you feel that way, it's actually a part of the way you were designed - proof that God created you:

Romans 5:3-5 NLT

[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.[/mk_blockquote]

It wasn't easy for me, but I pulled that thread with God.  I let Him show me that life can be all we desire it to be; I let Him renew my hope and my identity.  But most importantly, I let Him prove my fears wrong and break my depression.  I found that I'm already accepted by Him, and instead of acting afraid of people I acted as if they were accepted too, and suddenly rejection and isolation stopped happening.  I learned that no matter how much I fail, God still loves me.  So I stopped being afraid to fail, and suddenly I started taking risks and seeing successes in my life like never before.  I saw that while yes the world is broken, God has a plan to restore it, and that He is with me and for me.  So I started believing and preparing for the best, and when good things happened, I was finally ready to celebrate them and have joy.  And once those fears were removed, the results of my life changed.  The things that caused depression were now gone, and those desires of my heart that cried out without relenting are now visible in my life, and always growing.

So what about you?  God says you were made for more.  I tend to agree with Him.  The question is, are you willing to revisit your fears with Him in order to break the pattern of depression in your life and experience the things you've always wanted?  I'm not saying it's an easy process, but I am saying it's a proven process.  The same God who put those desires in your heart is the same one who will help you overcome your fears, restore your hope, and fulfill your desires.  If you're not sure where to start, find someone who already has.  If you're bold enough, ask God which fears occupy your world and are the root of your depression.  The choice is yours, but I can promise you this: you will be accepted, you will succeed, and the best will come to pass.  Don't let depression conceal itself as protection, and don't let fear dictate your life any longer.  I’m fighting the good fight, and I'll never look back

Alex Greenberg