Monsters Within Series: The changing of seasons to Autumn often means the beginning of cooler weather (well, it does for most places except for here in San Diego). We see the fast pace of summer activities shift into a rhythm of routine before hitting the hum of holiday events - starting with Thanksgiving. While this time of year should bring joy, festivities, and plenty of time with friends and family, for some it can trigger anxiety and depression. As a culture, the holidays bombard you with images of healthy families and an excess of socializing. When you have suffered a loss or are feeling disconnected, this season can feel all the more isolating. With longer nights and shorter days, its no wonder that depression, fear and anxiety peak during winter. Having personally experienced depression and watched close family and friends suffer with the same along with anxiety, I wanted to proactively set the stage as we go through this season. My desire is that we engage and enjoy the remaining events and festivities of the year as much as possible. I want to preface the next couple of posts by saying that what I share here is to address the spiritual and emotional roots of depression. There are some that may have a chemical imbalance and soliciting medical treatments may be a necessity. I am not downplaying this factor but rather, in such a heavily medicated world, I want to focus on two components that I find help most with recovery. This month we will explore the following questions to kickstart your own revelation:
What does God have to say on fear, anxiety and depression?
How does the enemy use these to leverage against us?
How do I gain and maintain lasting victory over these monsters within?
If you suffer with any or all of these, my prayer is that through the course of this month, you will realize you are not alone. There is lasting FREEDOM for you. HOPE for the future can and will return in Jesus’ name!
One of the most insidious and paralyzing emotions we have is fear. Nothing can stop us in our tracks more than deeply-rooted fears. The enemy knows this and plays on our fears to get us so distracted we end up frozen in our tracks. This is just a part of the “Flight or Fight” response. A phrase that describes the two responses we have when we face life-threatening situations. Yes, many of us have faced situations like this, likely in a car accident or a traumatic event, but unlike other areas of the world immersed in corruption and violence, the frequency of these life threatening events are rather rare.
However, fear can creep in other areas of our lives as well. Roughly 19.2 million American adults (18 and up) have a specific phobia or extreme fear; this statistic makes up 8.7% of the population. These fears are of everyday things and events. The top 10 being:
- Going to the dentist
- Flying (25 million people)
- The dark
- Other people a.k.a. social phobia (15 million)
- Claustrophobia (confined spaces)/ Agorophobia (1.8 million suffer from fear of spaces where escape may be difficult- i.e. an elevator)
- Public Speaking
Basically, fear is so potent it can get you to modify your behavior to avoid these things or situations at any cost. In other words, fear is controlling. It is a form of bondage causing you to limit or freeze your typical movements and choices altogether.
I have dealt with my fair share of fears; some rational, but mostly my most potent fears have stemmed from thoughts of the “what if's.” When examined, these thoughts are irrational. When I was young I remember having two of my friends have their dads pass away from a heart attack within a year of each other. This was around the same time my Dad found out he was going to have surgery. I was stricken with fear that I would lose my dad. I found it hard any time I had to leave his side. Those moments were crippling and traumatizing.
Staying in fear is a choice. People overcome phobias by actually facing with the very thing they fear rather than avoiding it at all cost. We must fight the desire to remain frozen and refuse to perpetuate and feed the fear. Instead, when we stop avoiding our fears and instead turn to look fear in the face, we exercise our authority over it.
In the Bible, God says “For I have not given you a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Fear is not from God, leaving only one other option, the devil. When we remain in fear, we give the enemy access to part of our heart. For it says in 1 John 4:18:
[mk_blockquote style="line-style" font_family="none" text_size="16" align="center"]There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.[/mk_blockquote]
Fear is tormenting. God, who is love, does not torment. In fact, fear and love cannot co-habitate, as revealed in that verse. This means that when we feel fear, and we will, we are faced with the choice to let it either reside in our heart and give ground to the enemy OR we choose to allow God’s overriding love take up residence in that area of our lives. Choosing God's love is surrender. It requires trust.
Hear me clearly, I am not downplaying the potency and reality of deeply-seeded fears. I know how intense and genuinely paralyzing they can be. My heart is not to condemn you for feeling fear, but to let you know you are not alone. We all experience it but God is always present in those moments. He's beside you, protecting you, and waiting for you to shift your focus from that fear back to Him.
I challenge you today to make a commitment the next time you find yourself in a moment of fear (big or small) to lift your focus off of your situation and onto God. Are you willing to give up the desire to avoid and freeze (being led by fear) and instead choose to walk into the unfailing love of God? One thing I can promise you is there will be plenty of opportunity to try this. In those moments of fear, when every part of you wants to remain frozen, picture your life carried in the all-powerful hands of Jesus. It is in His presence you will be led out of the trap of fear into healing and a life marked by the richness of joy in Him. For it is the joy of the Lord that brings strength! Stick it to fear and choose to move forward. You will find in time that the grip of fear will lessen. All it takes is a little faith.