Did you read about the woman who cured cancer? Totally wiped it off the map? Removed that horrible disease from existence? Wait. No. None of us have read about the cure for cancer because it hasn’t happened yet. And I wonder if fears are to blame.
What if our “cancer curer” grew up with an ant farm by her bed, Bill Nye the Science Guy backpack, excelled in all of her high school science classes, and encouraged her graduating class to “dream big” in her valedictorian speech, but…
Macy went to college. On a path to med school, she loaded up her schedule with all the tough stuff to get it out of the way. Her first year was difficult but went great, and she began to believe what others had said about her “destiny with greatness.” And then Macy had that one professor. He felt this young generation was soft. They needed to be “put in their place” as he had been. He began to chip away at her confidence, she tanked a big exam, and she began to let the fear grow larger than her dream. She believed what fear told her, and she narrowed her vision for what could be done. She downshifted her education to a less challenging field. Macy didn’t cure cancer. And she never will. Fear won.
How is fear limiting you?
That’s a heavy question. But like most big, hefty ideas, if we break it down, we can deal with it. We break the “heavy” into smaller, lighter pieces in five main areas where fears might trip you up. Starting with:
1. Letting your thoughts run wild feeds your fears.
Similar to our medical student, we are going to begin this exercise with a big one—your thoughts. If your thoughts run wild like a toddler on powdered donuts, it’s time to reign them in.
Some people refer to it as your “thought life,” which is a good visual as those thoughts can take on a life and storyline of their own. Our thoughts can stomp through our minds like kids inside in muddy boots, making a mess of things. Or they can be brought under control.
Our Creator and the science of His creation point to the power of choosing to think positively. Countless studies show the effects of positive thinking. Mayo Clinic reports a longer life span, lower rates of depression, increased resistance to the common cold, better cardiovascular health, and a host of other pluses from managing your thoughts.
Most fear is perceived. What you think, you believe.
We choose to focus on the bad that could happen, and we personalize a bad event, i.e., oh, that friend canceled lunch because she’s mad at me versus she isn’t feeling the best, or we “polarize” circumstances tossing life’s many events into all good or all bad categories. When life is truly a casserole of both good and bad.
The Apostle Paul implores us to take every thought captive. He isn’t shaming us for having the fearful thought. Our Creator knew that we would struggle with our powerful minds. That’s why the Word urges us to be victorious and fight the fight to win the battle of our minds.
What can you do? Start with an awareness of what you’re saying to yourself. Start a note in your phone, jot down some stickie notes—but begin to capture the good, the bad, and the ugly to get a true assessment of what you’re convincing yourself each day. And remind yourself where to take those captive thoughts. To the One True God.
2. Trying to control the future.
How many things are you worrying about that may never happen?
Looking back at your past, how many countless times did you worry about something that never came to pass? If it didn’t help then, and truly was a waste of your mental energy, vow to make this day and the next different.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-27
Are we urged not to worry about the future because the future doesn’t matter?
Doesn’t God know that the world is a scary place with lots of moving parts? Hopes and dreams and…fears.
God wants us to be assured that He has our future in His hands.
And, yes, not all of it will be easy, but it will all be ordained by Him.
The day I was told I had cancer was awful. It felt like the earth gave way underneath me. I had a big job, two growing boys, a husband who liked to go places, do things. There was no plan for cancer in my life. This was scary. I began to worry about my future.
Add death to your worry list, and you can feel pretty justified in worrying. And, yet, does that make sense for me? Would it help?
Worry doesn’t change anything.
Even if I had worried about getting cancer years before, it wouldn’t have stopped God’s plan for my life. The plan which is perfect.
What can you do? Stop for a minute and jot down what you’re worrying about. What do you fear about the future?
Can you control all of the parts that need to come together perfectly for your future to be absent from pain and scary bits? No. Let’s lay aside our attempts and wasted mental energy to do so.
3. Tolerating unhealthy relationships.
If God were the only One speaking into our lives, we would experience calm. But He made us to live in community, so we happily find ourselves in relationship with others.
Some relationships we find ourselves in without choice, like our family of origin. While other relationships we choose. How well are you choosing others when it comes to feeding fear or fending off fear?
Do you go looking for drama in your life? Does that adrenaline make you feel more alive? Do you seek out those who will dial up the worry with you?
Or do you see that some relationships rob you of your peace?
They love to worry about what might happen. The sky might fall.
Or is it possible that you are the masked “thief of peace” in others’ lives? You feel better when others will worry along with you.
You can find a better way. Even in our family of origin, there are healthy ways to address our fears. And be a source of calm for others.
But the lack of fear doesn’t mean faking it. Stuffing your fears is not what you’re called to do. “Take every thought captive” does not sound passive to me! Confronting fear in our relationships is a positive, peaceful, act of love.
What to do? Take some time and jot down those friends and family in your life or even those “friends” you follow on social media. Are there relationships that lack healthy boundaries? Do you need to guard your tongue and not sow worry into others’ lives?
Look at your ability to limit fear in your life in light of your relationships.
4. Listening to distant voices.
Who do you allow to speak into your life? Let’s jot down a list:
My pastor, spouse, mother-in-law, God, gal-who-has-it-all (or so it seems) on social media, some news anchor, a headline written just to freak people out, an old “mental tape” from an ex or a mean-spirited teacher? The list started off good, but it went downhill fast. Some of those folks don’t sound like good people to allow to whisper in our ear.
You and I may have met on social media. Sometimes that’s through a blog like this or a video or a word of encouragement on Instagram or Pinterest. I have met lovely people on the internet. But we need to be smart about who we are listening to.
Our parents used to drink in the evening news. Once a day. Maybe they picked up a newspaper in the morning, but the headlines certainly didn’t follow them around in their pocket. If you are struggling with fear, the internet may be the worst place for you if you’re not careful. But if you choose wisely, so much good is there for your soul.
Try this: begin to notice the time of day when fear creeps in. That time when the nag and the worry turn up the volume. Is it after watching the news? Do you get local police notifications that create panic for situations you can’t change? Monitor weather alerts that always seem to be about something bad—you won’t get an “It’s sunny and lovely” alert. How about after a “veg out” session on social media? You worry you’re not thin enough. Your house looks nothing like that one. Why are their kids always smiling and happy? They took another trip?!
Begin to identify the external sources that dump fear on you. And start to eliminate them.
This is your permission slip to Unfollow. Turn off. And walk away in love.
5. Not talking to God about your fears.
How is your prayer life right now? Not last year–now. No one is grading you. There are no A’s or C-‘s or F’s when it comes to prayer. But you need to know.
Prayer is your opportunity to connect, deeper, with the One who made you–and loves you even more than your mom or that favorite aunt. Our Father in Heaven doesn’t get bored and need someone to talk to; he knows He can offer us something we can find nowhere else. Nowhere. He is the God of Peace.
If my prayer life shrinks, my fear usually grows.
Or if my prayers sound like a laundry list of things God needs to do to make everything just the way I want…am I connecting with God…or just swimming in my fear while He listens?
He is not judging me. But am I plugged into the Power source that really could help me “keep calm and carry on”?
For you to do: Take an honest look at your prayer life. What needs to change for you to connect with the God of All Comfort? Would a daily devotional help? There are great ones on your phone or in print. How about a prayer journal for you and only you? You don’t have to share it with anyone, but God. Need some accountability? Maybe a coach could help set your feet on a more solid path.
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
What if that brilliant girl went on to cure cancer? If fear had no hold on her. The limitations of fear were acknowledged, but set where they belong. At the feet of Someone who can do something about them? What if she’d been free to do all that God had in store for her?
What about you?
This blog is based on the FEAR section of my Divine Drift Assessment. A free, 48-question assessment to determine areas of focus where you can experience more freedom and peace. I encourage you to take this assessment and celebrate those parts of the journey where you’re floating along and find ways to address those areas where the wind and waves are tossing you ever higher. I’m here for you.