I have lived in some fear for most of my life. Even back to my elementary school days, I was chided by teachers and peers alike for “worrying too much.” I had severe OCD in my early teen years. Later, some of my anxiety sometimes turned into paranoia. Moreover, in my senior year of high school I was dubbed “most paranoid” by my graduating class.
But God has rescued me out of many of my fears. Yes, He is the same God that has said, “Do not fear” numerous times in the Bible.
I recovered from my severe OCD with medication and by slowly trying to reduce the time I spent on my nonsensical rituals. Now, many years later, I barely even remember what the rituals were! God used people and situations in my life to help me to combat the devil’s lies that not doing the rituals would bring me “bad luck”. (Yes, I actually believed that “bad luck” deal! ) God helped me realize that not doing the nonsensical rituals actually freed me to joy and to do what He wanted me to do with my life in the first place.
I also used to be so afraid what people would think of me if they found out that I was on the autistic spectrum and had other struggles. I tried to hide my struggles from the outside world even before I realized I was on the spectrum. I was taught by my parents, my culture, and the community around me to not tell anyone about my “dirty laundry.” I know they all meant well—as they did not want to further expose me to becoming prey to unscrupulous people who may have wanted to take advantage of my openness. However, I also felt alone and powerless to fight the battles that still raged on in my heart long after the visible symptoms of the struggles had passed. When the Spirit impressed upon my heart to write about my struggles, I expected people to judge and even reject me, but, at that point, I did not care. I knew God wanted to use me to bring hope to others struggling similarly. When I started writing about my struggles, something amazing happened! Not only did God use me in His amazing way, but I also found that most people found my newfound vulnerability refreshing. It opened up the way for them to share their own struggles, and find acceptance and camaraderie with those struggling similarly, including myself.
Sometimes, I would also be afraid of certain people themselves, as when an abuse survivor sees his or her abuser in close proximity to them after going “no contact” for a long time. This probably stems from an incident where a teacher growled at me and acted threateningly to me when I ran from him in fear. I still fear people when they yell at me because of this, but thankfully my fear abates within hours, if not only a couple days, of the yelling incident. God has infused the power of forgiveness and redemption to quell my fears of people yelling at or hurting me. He has taught me (and continues to teach me) the power of releasing bitterness and replacing it with mercy, compassion and grace.
When I was in school, I used to worry about what would happen the consecutive days, whether it was the fear that I would not pass a test or quiz, or if I was going to get in trouble for something that I may have said or done. Sometimes, I would lay awake for some time worrying about these and other such things. What I learned was that my worries and fears either never came to pass at all, or it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I still struggle with this sometimes, but one major way God has helped me with my fears is redirecting my focus from my circumstances and the “what-ifs” that I fear (like what if I don’t pass that test….or what if I get laid off or fired from my job? ) to His sovereignty and goodness. Now, I am learning how to say, “Even if I don’t pass the test, God will give me a second chance, for example….or even if I got laid off, God will provide me another job. Even if I get COVID-19, God will use my illness to glorify Himself and bring about good in my life) This has quelled my fears about COVID-19 significantly, and has helped me to trust God’s sovereignty and goodness in my life, no matter what will happen.
Almost everyone I know has at least one fear, even if they don’t readily acknowledge that fact. It’s normal, but when fear starts to paralyze your joy and freedom in life, then it needs to leave. With God’s help, you can conquer your fears and experience the joy and freedom He has for you.