Dealing with abnormal fear and anxiety
"God, He is faithful
Faithful to us
Through troubled waters
He won't abandon
The Lord, God is with us"
- Fear Not - Chris Tomlin
There have been quite a few references made in the Bible about Christians and fear. They are encouraged to put fear aside and exercise trust in God. However, the reality is that many are still struggling with this debilitating emotion, and are still locked into its paralysing effect. This emotion has even hampered ministry and outreach for churches as some believers are daunted by the violence taking place around them, and are now refraining from going into some hotspots to minister.
President of the May Pen Minister's Fraternal, Rev Garry Knowles, in weighing in on the issue, said fear is really a form of anxiety.
"According to Gary Collins, renowned clinical psychologist, fear, like phobias, panic and stress are forms of anxieties. An inner feeling of apprehension, uneasiness, worry, and/or dread that is accompanied by a heightened physical arousal," Knowles informed.
In dealing with fear, he said it is important for that person to trust in God, as the conviction that God is in control can bring great peace of mind, even when others are inclined to be anxious.
The person who learns to walk in daily contact with God come to agree with the fact that even though they are uncertain of many things, God is still in control of the future.
Knowles said they should also develop a "coping mechanism" which addresses the causes of anxiety when and before they arise, and this will prevent the development of anxiety.
Fear will always arise, and it is for that reason, Knowles said, if left unaddressed, can control a person's life. The solution, he said, is to deal with it by admitting fear when it rears its head.
"Talking it over with someone else, like a friend, prayer partner, or a spouse on a regular basis, if necessary," he said, are some of the ways unnatural fears can be addressed.
Referring to the Bible, Knowles said it identifies fear in two ways - as a health concern and as fret and worry.
"Paul, in scripture, said that he was not anxious about being beaten, cold, hungry or in danger, but he experienced anxiety about the welfare of the churches. This sincere care for others is healthy and connects us with other individuals. Jesus taught that we should not worry about the future or about life's basic needs, we have a heavenly Father who knows what we need and will provide," he said.
According to Knowles, anxiety and fretting comes when we turn from God, shift our burdens of life on to ourselves, and show by our attitudes and actions that we alone are taking responsibility for handling problems.
"Instead of acknowledging God's sovereignty and power, or determining to live for Him and make His kingdom our primary concern, many Christians slip into sinful self-reliance and preoccupation with their own life pressures. There is nothing wrong in facing our anxieties honestly. However, to ignore danger is foolish and wrong. Christians can move forward with confidence, especially if they commit their actions to God and seek His guidance," he notes. However, he said it is wrong and unhealthy to be immobilised by excessive fear.
In threatening, challenging or potentially dangerous situations, it is easy to panic, said Knowles, pointing out that it is better to ponder the circumstances and try to determine the best ways to cope.
"How one evaluates a situation depends largely on one's perspective or point of view. Past experiences and personality characteristics influence these perceptions. Some people see the bad in everything; others are more optimistic and inclined to look at the bright side of life. To help prevent anxiety, individuals can keep a realistic perspective that does not always make the immediate assumptions that the worst is likely to happen," he said.
Knowles said fear (anxiety) warns persons of danger and motivates them to take action.
He said when fear creates panic or immobilises individuals, the anxiety is harmful, but when it challenges to deal more effectively with the challenges of life, it can be helpful.
"Jesus in the sermon on the mount puts all of this into perspective when he spoke about worry. God knows about our needs and anxieties, Jesus said if we give him first priority in our lives, we can rest assured that our needs will be supplied and there will be no need to fear."