The irrationality of fear first gripped me when I was young.
I was in first grade…and the thought of school terrified me.
But that’s normal, right? Its culturally common for kids to hate school and who, at some point, hasn’t ever seen a young child screaming bloody murder when getting dropped off to their first day of school?
Then came middle school, where at age 12, I was so distraught with anxiety, that I walked in one night to tell my Mom I no longer wanted to live. I told her I had been having thoughts of ending my life with my Dad’s shotgun.
Please take a moment to absorb the weight of this circumstance. Something as serious as suicide is a brutal thought for a 12 year old, I’ll admit.
I come from a line of folks who have struggled with depression.
My mom dealt with it and her mom dealt with it so much so, that she took her own life when my mother was 12.
When I admit to people that I was once depressed, they look at me as if to say, “No way. Not you.”
It takes a lot to bring me down, but to think I was once so deeply depressed that I wished to no longer live...well, its almost surreal.
Still, when I close my eyes, I can remember what it felt like. I still recall intense bouts of crying through my youth, often for no good reason, except that I felt hopeless. Back then, I couldn’t tell you why. My heart and my head were so full of sorrow. It was no way to live.
From that day to this, I strongly empathize with people who deal with anxiety and depression. I would go as far to say that every couple of years, those same feelings try to smother me once again.
Even now, I could possibly, maybe rationalize why I felt the way I did, though I doubt I could fully explain it.
There is a kind of fear that is natural. Some fear is good.
You’re in the woods. You see a bear. You’re brain says, “Run fool or you’re going to die.”
This kind of thing could save your life.
Or perhaps you’re competing in an athletic event and there’s this big moment where you’re skill is tested and you have to perform. Athletes know there’s a kind of surge that comes at you in this type of moment. Suddenly, your body’s adrenaline kicks in, offering you an extra boost of effort and confidence to step your game up and deliver.
But there’s a dark side to fear, as well.
I see it a lot…in family…in friends.
I see it, because I know it. I know it because my heart bears an overwhelming amount of battle scars from having wrestled with anxiety.
Perhaps the question you’re asking yourself now is, “How do I overcome it?” But before I tell you how, let’s talk about the culprit. Let’s talk about fear.
The following is an excerpt taken from Batman Begins:
Carmine Falcone: No gun? I'm insulted! You could have just sent a thank-you note.
Bruce Wayne: I didn't come here to thank you. I came here to show you that not everyone in Gotham's afraid of you.
Carmine Falcone: Only those who know me, kid. Look around you: you'll see two councilmen, a union official, a couple off-duty cops, and a judge. [points a gun at Bruce]
Carmine Falcone: Now, I wouldn't have a second's hesitation of blowing your head off right here and right now in front of 'em. Now, that's power you can't buy! That's the power of fear.
Bruce Wayne: I'm not afraid of you.
Carmine Falcone: Because you think you got nothing to lose. But you haven't thought it through. You haven't thought about your lady-friend down at the D.A.'s office. You haven't thought about your old butler. Bang!
[Falcone pulls the trigger, but the hammer falls on an empty chamber with a click; he puts the gun away]
Carmine Falcone: People from your world have so *much* to lose. Now, you think because your mommy and your daddy got shot, you know about the ugly side of life, but you don't. You've never tasted desperate. You're, uh, you're Bruce Wayne, the Prince of Gotham; you'd have to go a thousand miles to meet someone who didn't know your name. So, don't-don't come down here with your anger, trying to prove something to yourself. This is a world you'll never understand. And you always fear what you don't understand. Alright.
[Falcone gives his bodyguards a signal to remove Bruce.]
It’s true, we often fear what we don’t understand. But when we’re willing to make efforts to understand the nature of what plagues us, and ourselves, we become self-aware.
In order to defeat fear, you have to know what you’re dealing with.
1.) Know Your Enemy and His Tactics
Fear can be paralyzing.
But have you ever noticed that its almost always unreasonable.
Most of the time, our fear is completely irrational, not because we’re in danger, rather we’re being held hostage by the "potential" danger that exists…wherever it may be.
Behind the proposed danger, is an onslaught of “what if” scenarios, the likelihood of which will NEVER happen. Often, these ideas are a consequence of past experiences or future expectations. These ideas are predicated upon what once happened or what possibly could happen, but aren’t happening, right now.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow hasn’t even happened, yet. So, why should you spend all of your time now, worried for what can’t control?
Its moments like these that those dark thoughts take root. Fear creeps in, doing its best to offset your life balance, taking you down hypothetical pathways that, in real life, lead to nowhere. The end result, is just a figment you’ve imagined in your own head. In real time, not much has changed. No one is miserable but you, as you contend with the pressing anxiety that seems to sit on your chest; a constant weight upon your heart and head.
This is the irrationality of fear. Its potential dread, dressed up bedsheets; an illusion disguised to look like Michael Myers, that then chases you through the hallways of your own mind.
There is a real enemy. His name is Lucifer. He is a fallen foe and former bearer of light (his name mean’s “Light Bearer”) who would love nothing more than for fearing folks to dress him up in a manner more menacing than he really is.
In the words of A.W. Pink,
“Unlike the Holy Spirit, the devil has no creative power. He can impart no new nature, but only avail himself of what is already there for him to work on.”
The devil is an grand illusionists, whose primary aim is to misguide us by making things appear as though they are not. He only has the power to manipulate what God has already made. He may appear “like a roaring lion,” but much like a shadow on the wall, there is no actual danger, only deception and the appearance thereof.
Expose the shadow for who and what it really is and you’re one step closer to winning the fight.
2.) Know the Weapons of Your Arsenal and How to Use Them
This is not a fight with sabers and bullets, its a battlefield of the mind.
As a young man, desperate for help, I went diving into my Bible often. The words I found in scripture were my safe haven. They reminded me that having sorrow was normal and to be overwhelmed was not an uncommon emotion.
I was even reminded that Christ himself, was a man acquainted with grief and sorrow.
I took solace knowing that Christ could identify with where I was. He knew what it was like to feel as I did.
Here was God in the flesh, identifying with my humanity.
Jesus is and was one of us. He’s on your side. He’s well aware of what its like to feel the way you do.
Greater than any amount of grief, is the grace He empowers us with to walk through hard moments of life.
Grace is unique…and since its cannot be earned, you have to accept it; not just in the trying moments, but everyday for the rest of your life.
The world is a street fight, meaning…its entirely unfair. The grace of God is the single greatest weapon in your arsenal. You have to accept, that there’s no amount of self-help, self-fixing, self-sufficiency that will see you through this. You have to lean upon His grace as though it were a permanent fixture of your spiritual being. His grace is what you are not…and with it comes His love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and so much more. God offers it freely. Your place, is simply to accept it and to live by it.
Clothed in grace, you’ll find the means to absorb the challenges of life and not let them overwhelm you.
If grace be the gift of God, then love is His nature. Love is not a facet of His character, its actually who He is. Furthermore, His complete love dispels all traces of fear. The presence of His infallible love reduces fear to nothing.
As God’s love invades our lives, so does the ability to reason, not by our own school of thought, but with the mind of Christ. He instills within us a safe-thinking mind by which we can apply the word and the ways of God to make sound, balanced choices for our lives.
The Bible compels us to think as God does and to see matters the way He sees them. Learn to be led and to cultivate a passion discovering His mind in the company of His word.
Now, you’ve got some serious weaponry and you’re nearly there.
3.) Find Fellow Warriors
Perhaps the very worst thing you could do in dealing with depression is to spend all of your time alone.
Isolation is where your battle is destined to fail. You’re no better than the support system surrounding you.
If not for the people around me, I would have never survived the bouts of depression I faced in my youth. In earnest, I dealt with similar emotions in college, most of which came by subjecting myself to pornography. [For more on that story, read here.]
But if you’ve read this far, then you have to know the value of insulating your heart with people who build stability, encouragement, and hope in your life.
Isolation breeds hopelessness and desperation.
Community builds a safety net around the volatility and timidity you’re experiencing. Find the people who make you laugh and it will be sunlight for your soul.
So laugh. Explore the joy of being ridiculous.
Sorrow has made so many of us so serious, myself included, that I now find myself looking for fun as often as I can.
Why? Because moments spent in the company of good, godly people will lift you up.
The memories made among those you love or who love you, are priceless. They build a bridge through this funk that is far superior than the sad wounds of an anxious you.
Think you can handle having fun? Good.
Now, you’re armed and ready for the fight.
Let these words remind, that though trying times may come, choosing life is precisely what God has intended for you.
I was once a sad, lonely, depressed kid with no hope for tomorrow. Then reason came riding on a white horse and what was once fear for the world and the devil, was overcome by God's grace and reverence for Him. My fear of the unnatural was undone by a love that is supernatural.
You can’t do this alone, but we can do this together.
Let’s bury the burden of depression.
You’ve got Christ in your corner. It’s time to come out swinging.
Do you know someone who is dealing with depression or could benefit from reading this article?
Would you take just a moment to share it with them please?