Question: I was hurt in the past when some relationships went bad, and now I’m afraid of starting new relationships. When I attend church, I keep to myself. Even at work, I don’t talk much with people. I know that’s not right. How can I honor God and point others to Him without building relationships? But I feel caged by my fear. What should I do?
Answer: Fear is a powerful enemy. It feeds on itself and grows so that you feel controlled by it. But God’s love is more powerful than fear. Let’s look to His Word for some guidance on how to defeat this foe.
Philippians 4:6-9 presents some tips for feeling peace instead of fear. See if you can identify three keys that will unlock your prison:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
These verses encourage you to pray the right prayers, think the right thoughts, and do the right deeds.
First, whenever you feel anxious, pray. One of the best types of prayer when you don’t know what to say is reading and praying through Scripture. The Psalms are a great model for our own worship and prayer. King David lived with all kinds of fear from real dangers. He learned to pour out his heart to God until he was able to rest in a confident, joyous peace. Read through the Psalms on a consistent basis—maybe one each day—and then respond honestly to God about what you read. You’ll soon start to feel the benefit. You may also want to keep a notebook in which you record your responses in the form of prayers.
Second, be vigilant over your thought life. Work on memorizing Scripture. Choose verses that minister to you while you’re reading your Bible. When you find your mind racing with anxious thoughts, review those Scriptures that cool and soothe your troubled mind.
Another key to controlling your thought life is to control what goes into your mind. Negative thoughts feed the emotion of fear, giving it power. You can convince yourself that something bad will happen by thinking it will—and then, it’s more likely to happen! Identify your negative, self-limiting thoughts and stop them before they enter your heart. Guard against negative thoughts like these:
Comparison: “I’m not as likable as that person.”
All-or-Nothing: “If I can’t have a close friend, then I just won’t have any friends.”
Exaggeration: “That experience completely devastated me. I will never recover.”
Catastrophe: “If I go to that social event, it will be a disaster.”
Self-Limitation: “I can’t . . .”
Replace these negative thoughts with truths from Scripture. Imagine how your thoughts might change when you introduce Christ into your thinking:
Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.(2 Corinthians 3:4-5)
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
As you focus more on what Christ has done in you and can do through you, you will limit yourself less and focus less of your thoughts on yourself.
The third key to a peaceful mind is that you must do the right deeds. Build a disciplined, godly, active lifestyle. Join a small-group Bible study where others can pray for you and hold you accountable regarding how you handle your fears.
You know that your fears are not from God’s Holy Spirit, because “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Your fears come from within you, and they may be exaggerated by the influence of our enemy Satan and his hosts. You can deal a staggering blow to him by building your confidence though prayers, thoughts, and deeds that reflect your growing godliness.
Remember Jesus’s words in John 14:27: “My peace I give to you. . . . Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” He is always with us, and nothing can separate us from His love and care (Romans 8:38-39).
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