Fear is one of those tricky emotions. It sneaks up subtly and can really seize us up- even cripple us if we let it.
And THAT friend is the golden nugget of this post: “If we let it.”
Up until last year, I was a person who, honestly, never really battled with fear. I have other struggles of course, but fear? Not so much.
Then, without warning in 2017 I got hit with a tidal wave of stress and worry resulting in a complete attack on my mind.
In early November, shooting pain through my chest convinced me I was having a heart attack. Scary doesn’t begin to describe it. Meg and I headed to the ER only to discover I was suffering from “severe anxiety.” Being someone who has never dealt with this, it was unnerving, to say the least. The serotonin levels in my brain had become completely depleted and it progressed so quickly that my body was in a constant state of “fight or flight.”
I couldn’t eat.
I couldn’t sleep.
I felt like I was fighting for my life.
How could this happen? I’ve never struggled with fear. And younger Chris? Fearless. I was the person who bungee jumped and was first in line for the fastest, steepest roller coasters and sky coasters in the country. How in the world did this happen to me?
One word… FEAR
It crept up slow and subtle, but over a period of months, I allowed myself to believe lies about my future. Ultimately, the cumulative effect of those lies led to fear, stress, worry, and anxiety.
A world I had never known personally.
When you get hit with something like this, you began to think that your life will never be the same. Fear starts to feed on more fear and before you know it it has a grip on you that won’t let go.
For the record, This is H-A-R-D to be this open and honest. I would much prefer helping others going through fear or pain. That’s what I do. I help other people deal with stressful life situations. I am a pastor, mentor, and friend that walks people through steps of healing.
I love it. I thrive on it. I am the person who helps broken people rediscover hope.
And yet, in this scenario, I was the broken person.
Without question, November was the most difficult month of my life. Yet in the same breath and with even more confidence, I can say that God met me there. He stepped right into the middle of the brokenness and pain and pulled me out.
And when your Heavenly Father steps into your circumstance, He orchestrates a freedom that could only be attributed to Him.
God did something completely new in me and my hope is that God will use my story to keep you from allowing fear of the future to cripple you. Fear doesn’t have to rule you.
Fear doesn’t have to make you live small.
I want to give you 3 keys to getting free from the fear of the future. They’re not rocket science and they are not a magic pill. They’re practical and they’re exactly what God used to set me free.
1. Stay in the present
Typically, our minds go into fear mode for one of two reasons: our past and our future. It could be something we did or said OR, something we wish we would’ve done or said.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda.
They don’t exist friends.
All we do when we live in the regret of the past is torture ourselves.
Every time your mind starts traveling down memory lane, reign in your thoughts and bring yourself back to the present. Same goes for the future. 90% of the things we worry about will never actually happen. 90%! When we constantly worry about our future, our family members, our health, our jobs, our lives, we give fear a huge foothold in our minds. Before you know it, anxiety, even depression, creep in and we go dark. When your mind starts to play out the “what if” scenarios of the future, calmly bring yourself back into the present.
2. Talk and write
Following my ER experience, I found myself in places I had never been. Actual, literal places. I was in a psychiatrist office for the first time. Actually, over the course of 1 month, I saw 3 different therapists a total of 9 times.
I got VERY good at talking.
Each of them played a role in my healing process. But, it was my Christian therapist who challenged me to get gut-level honest with myself and discoverhow I’d gotten to this point.
I wanted to blame everyone else, everything else; my stressful situations and the painful experiences I‘ve endured throughout my life. He wasn’t having it.
He looked me straight in the eye and said, “you are the one that is broken.”
And over the course of a month, I realized he was right. With Megan’s encouragement, (SIDE NOTE: so grateful for a godly wife who encouraged me constantly with scripture and prayer during the darkest moments.) I began journaling. Hours and hours of journaling; cleaning out my soul of all the junk I had allowed to accumulate. I uncovered junk like concealed pain I’d never dealt with, wrong choices I harbored guilt and shame over. I uncovered unforgiveness & bitterness I truly thought I’d dealt with. So much came to the surface once I gave it permission.
Through counseling and journaling, I was able to clean house in my soul.
“Cease striving and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 NASB
3. Give it to God
My first reaction when I was in that amount of physical and emotional pain? “Dear Dr. give me medicine.” I wanted something to make it stop, to make it better and to do it immediately thankyouverymuch. I’m ‘Merican after all.
While God definitely used medicine to help me and I am so grateful to live in a country that offers medicine to people in legitimate pain, God didn’t allow me to stop progressing in my healing journey once I took the medicine.
There were layers yet to tackle that medicine alone wouldn’t fix.
See, subconsciously I stopped believing God was going to come through for me. I loved Him, served Him, even spent time with Him. But I took everything into my own hands; the weight of life on my own shoulders.
10 days after I was in the Emergency Room, I was still in a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain. The fear was raging, and I was doing my best to “power through.”
It was November 14th, about 11:30 am. I was “cleaning” out my soul, journaling, surrendering things to God and in a moment, the Spirit of God met me. His presence caused a tangible shift in the atmosphere of my home.
In short, I had an encounter with God that will mark me forever; One of those moments in your life you can always go back to. In that room, He lifted a level of pain off of me. It was almost as if He was saying, “Even though you got yourself into this mess, I am going to pull you out. I am faithful and I will never leave you or forsake you. You’re my son and I will never abandon you in your pain.” His presence changes everything.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
As Christians, we sometimes think there must be a reason we’re going through pain.
We conclude God has either abandoned us or is angry at us.
But look at Jesus’ words in John 16:33.
In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]
Every person will walk through pain. None of us are exempt. The difference is, as a Christian, I get to have hope. You get to have hope. And that hope anchors us to this truth: God is with me even in my pain.
When fear begins to grip your mind, remember:
*come back to the present,
*talk through it with a wise person & journal it out
*give it to God.
You don’t have to battle alone. You were never meant to. Jesus already attained your victory on the cross. And now He welcomes you into the abundant life the cross enables you to live.
No matter what kind of pain you’ve faced, your life could never be small if you are found in Him.
Until next time,
This article originally appeared at NoSmallLife.com.