Fear is a powerful emotion that can steal hope, dissipate energy, trigger depression, and undermine confidence. It’s also a culprit I know too well. In fact, last December I was battling a fear that almost pushed me into a vortex of depression.
While fear can serve a legitimate purpose, like prompting us to get out of a house that’s on fire, it can also poison us. According to current research, and it’s exciting, thoughts are electrical impulses, chemicals and neurons. They look like a tree with branches. As the thoughts grow they produce additional branches that grow and link together and get stronger. As we change our thoughts, branches go away and new ones are formed (check out Who Switched off My Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf). Negative thoughts–the kind that often fuel your fear–release toxins into your body that literally steal your health and joy. No wonder Solomon told us to, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Those words are true … literally.
Last December I stood face to face with a problem I couldn’t solve. For days and weeks I obsessed trying to find a solution. The more I obsessed the more fear grew and nudged me toward depression. When I finally figured out I couldn’t solve the problem, I obsessed over how bad things would get.
If I showed you the pages I wrote in my journal at that time you’d think someone else had written them. Fear had given birth to pessimism and despair. At that point I entered Gethsemane with Jesus because it was there he battled fear. Instead of obsessing over what would happen, he asked God to remove the cup of his impending suffering but then embraced the will of his father. He embraced his worst fear if it was part of his Father’s plan (Matthew 26:36-46).
I’m skilled at asking God to remove what I fear and parroting Jesus’s prayer, “Not my will but yours.” In the past when I uttered his prayer, I sensed it was a scheme to trick God into giving me what I wanted. If I prayed like Jesus then maybe God would remove the cup of my impending suffering. In this instance, I did something different. I imagined every loss and as sincerely as possible told God if it was his will, I would embrace it. And I meant it.
A few nights later, while praying, I had a vision–whether it came from my imagination or from God–I don’t know for sure. But I believe it was from God because it has delivered me and others from fear. I suspect it will also deliver you if you’ll put it into practice.
In the vision I was a charioteer holding the reins to over twenty horses. All of the horses on the left of the chariot were black, wild, and crazy. When they looked my way their mouths foamed and their eyes had an insane glassy look. The horses to the right were white and powerful. I knew the crazy horses were my negative emotions and the toxic thoughts that fed them. Those to my right were the fruit of the spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control–and my positive personality traits along with my greatest dreams.
As the horses pulled me across the field, the black horse on the left of the others began to grow. Suddenly he pulled the others to the left. Instantly, and without a thought of resistance, I allowed all of the horses, along with the chariot, to follow the horse I knew was named FEAR.
That’s when I realized Jesus stood to my right. He was my co-charioteer. As I blindly followed fear he wrapped his hands over mine and said, “You control the horses, they don’t control you. Pull it back. Get it under control.” I knew I couldn’t. That’s when he tightened his grip, infused me with stunning power and enabled me to gain control and direct the chariot in the direction I wanted it to go.
As I continued praying, I realized my emotions are not me. They are a part of me. The only power fear has in my life is the power I give it. The same is true of emotions like anxiety, anger, jealousy, lust, discontentment, self-pity, regret and a host of other horses that that are hooked to my chariot.
When I allow fear to run off without keeping it in check, all of me–the best of me along with my dreams–follows where it leads.
In the power of Christ, you can take control of your emotions and experience the abundant life he promised in John 10:10. Next week, in “Fear Buster 2,” I’ll share with you a spiritual exercise that has changed my life and could change yours too.