by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.
“Trick or treating”on Halloween became one of my earliest lessons in facing down fear.
Although I was very comfortable and even boisterous in familiar surroundings, when confronted by what was new and different, unusual and uncertain, I was shy, anxious and intimidated. It was amazing, actually, how my fear in such moments could completely change my disposition and behavior.
Some say that fearful feelings are not always a bad thing, as they do cause us to pause and check for safety, which is a good thing. But being afraid doesn’t always mean we’re in danger. More often, fear is a debilitating and life-limiting emotion that creates much anguish, and generally all for naught.
Going “trick or treating” hand in hand with my mother provided me a sense of security and protection as we approached neighbors my mom knew and I didn’t. I loved candy, so the thought of filling my bag with candy was an incentive to go forward, even in doing that which I was most uncomfortable in doing.
Moving forward, walking the line between scary and safe, helped me to know that fear can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to stop my progress. My confidence was strengthened by my actions, and I learned a lesson in facing down fear — that fear is often baseless and has no other reality other than my attention to it.
Henry Ford once said, “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” Indeed, many people don’t live their dreams because they are too busy living their fears.
I had many more opportunities in my childhood to face down fear. At one time, sleeping in a dark room was scary to me because I was frightened by strange shapes and sounds in the night. I was paralyzed in my bed by fear, and I could not sleep without a light on or my mom sleeping with me. It didn’t matter that what I feared was illusion, nothing more than a feeling existing only in my imagination. Fear had become a bad nighttime habit that seemed impossible to break. I knew that I didn’t need to be afraid, and I longed to conquer the crippling feeling.
The more I learned about God, the more I believed He was always with me, loving me and caring for me. I began to get a comforting sense of His presence, just like I did when “trick or treating” with my mom, with my hand secure in hers. This knowledge increased my courage to face the fear of darkness.
Reading how Moses responded when God told him to throw down his rod and it became a serpent was also helpful. The Bible says that at first Moses ran from the serpent. God then directed Moses to grab the serpent by the tail, and when he obediently did so, it again became his rod (Exodus 4:2-4). It was an interesting direction that God gave to Moses, since generally speaking, grabbing a snake by its tail is the most dangerous way to do so. Moses’ obedience to God’s direction was grounded in his trust and confidence in God, so he didn’t question the wisdom of the instruction. Boldly grabbing the serpent by its tail resulted in the “false evidence” disappearing.
I’m reminded of what is known by many as an acronym for fear — false evidence appearing real. Moses’ example along with this acronym was the impetus needed as I prayed and spiritually reasoned, enabling me to grab my fear of the dark by its tail. Reassured with the knowledge that God was with me, each time I thought I heard or saw something, I simply turned off the horror show in my mind that was feeding the fear and got out of bed to prove there was indeed nothing to be afraid of. And soon enough, I was able to sleep peacefully alone — and without a light.
I once read an analogy that compared fear to a projector. If you step back with your fear projector, the images being projected get bigger until they become a formidable image. But if you move forward with your fear projector, the images become tiny and shrink into nothingness.
Confronting and challenging our fear will weaken its hold on us, and fear will soon diminish until it disappears. Knowledge of the facts — both spiritual and physical — dispels illusions and the dark imaginings of the mind.
Being afraid is not a natural, normal or God-ordained feeling. God certainly does not want his beloved children to be tormented. He surely gives us the qualities and abilities we need to be well, happy, successful and productive. “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God is giving us all we need to face down and conquer any fear and prove it powerless in our life. But there is never a fear we must face alone. He is always with us, helping us to do whatever we need to do. With our hand securely held by His, we are safe, secure and protected.