Do you have doubts about holding on to your job? Do you worry over loss of money, or over the lack of money you need? Does the dread of illness or of a nervous breakdown or of insanity haunt you? Are broken friendships, repressed love affairs robbing you of health? Then here’s what you need to do!
Never in the history of the world have people enjoyed so many labor-saving devices, so much leisure, such benefits from public sanitation. Yet, strange to say, the fear of nervous disorders, heart disease, cancer and insanity is robbing millions of health and happiness.
People everywhere are under needless mental strain. Business pressure and family troubles worry millions. We don’t know how to relax. Why is there such anxiety, such nervous strain? Why are we failing to master our fears and worries?
This is not alone the age of weapons of mass destruction, but the age of mismanaged minds! Uncontrolled, undirected minds are ruining the lives of countless thousands. Millions more are rendered miserable and unproductive because their minds have been enslaved to fears, needless, unreasoned fears!
Needless fears rob us of contentment, warp our personality, and poison both mind and body. Fear is an emotion, an emotion directed toward the self. Have you ever noticed that those who suffer most from fear and worry are “wrapped up” in themselves? I’m afraid of this, “and I’m worried about that,” is the way they talk.
This, then is a selfish age! And the more we become concerned with ourselves, the more afraid we become that the self will get hurt. We become fearful of what might happen to the self. Our misdirected minds coddle and pamper the self.
In many instances this uncontrolled emotion of fear leads to grave consequences, to real desperation. There is the fear that “something is wrong with the brain” – that a nervous breakdown is impending, that even insanity might result. In other instances this uncontrolled emotion results in feelings of inferiority, in mental inadequacy, in sexual impotency. One fear leads to another until our mental outlook and our physical health is permanently impaired! But there is a way to correct this problem. There is a way to conquer fear!
For millenniums the problem of fear has confronted and perplexed our greatest thinkers. Philosophers have found no satisfactory solution, or their lives wouldn’t have been so often frustrated! Psychologists have spawned the idea of auto-suggestion as the solution to overcoming fears. Those who have tried this method still find themselves spiritually devoid of happiness. For auto-suggestion is a clever way of saying self-deception! And deception never solved anything.
Others have tried sedatives to relieve their nervous fears. Countless pills to calm nerves and keep people happy have been sold by druggists and doctors. But fears and worries and mental and physical illnesses still continue! For us to reach the solution, we must recognize there are two fundamental types of fears: 1) helpful fears and 2) harmful fears.
Without normal, helpful fears none of us would be alive today! Proper fear is merely the drive for self-protection. Without this fear we would not exercise proper caution against injury. It is the kind of fear we need! But notice! – when the mind is not properly managed, the natural fear of self-protection is turned into unnatural fear for the protection of self.
The control of the drive or emotion of fear is a learned process; it is a matter of education. We first need to learn what proper fear is. Then we need to exercise proper control over it. But we must also avoid misdirected and harmful fears.
Proper fear is wisdom. It is also knowledge. Suppose, for a moment, that we are confronted with a real danger. It is only natural that we should be fearful. But let’s master our fears. Fear tells us something is wrong. It warns us that we must calmly and carefully face our danger. We must get busy and take action. Action solves the danger! But simply worrying about it and being afraid that the worst will happen won’t help us.
People who are chronic worriers, who have countless fears, are usually procrastinators and indecisive. They are afraid to take action. Their fears become their master. They become slaves to their fears.
The time to learn to master our fears is when we are young, yet the proper direction of the mind in these formative years is not being taught in either the home or in the school! But it is never too late to learn. Life is too important for us to remain in ignorance, no matter how old we are. Let’s learn to distinguish between helpful and harmful fears.
Sometimes our fears are insignificant or even laughable, to the other person. Here are some of the petty fears that plague people: fear of an expanse of water, fear of air travel, fear of silence, darkness, and shadows in the moonlight, fear of the telephone, telegrams, and mice. These fears usually are the result of past experiences which we have either consciously or subconsciously allowed to haunt us.
Usually far worse are the common phobias which afflict people abnormally. Fear of the sight of blood, fear of animals, fear of being alone, fear of an unattractive figure, fear of being afraid, and the fear of failure. To this list we might add the fear of everything, a characteristic of the person who runs away from life!
Sometimes, however, we bring fears and worries on ourselves. Job wrote: “For the thing which I did fear is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of hath overtaken me” (Job 3:25). Many men and women have become failures simply by yielding to the uncontrolled fear of failure. Especially has this been true since two world wars and a catastrophic depression. This fear has led to the fear of lack of security. Notice how one anxiety breeds another. These fears are all characteristic of a lack of knowledge and lack of wisdom.
There is a direct mind-body relationship in every individual. We must direct and coordinate both mind and body before we can really achieve happiness and conquer our fears. Solomon understood this problem when he wrote: “A tranquil heart is the life of the flesh; but envy is the rottenness of the bones” (Prov. 14:30). And again, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith” (Prov. 15:17).
There is a direct connection of digestion and health with the mind. When the mind is fearful, it sends out messages to the various glands and organs to be prepared for danger. The organs fill the bloodstream with materials to enable us to act to meet the danger. When we procrastinate or are indecisive, our body becomes filled with unused material. Our glands are needlessly drained. Constant self-induced fears soon cause the glands to function abnormally. Our whole body suffers, and with it the personality and even the mind.
Unconquered fears are the cause of a major portion of diseases. Of course, proper food habits, proper exercise and elimination also play a part in over-all health, both mental and physical.
When our bodies have been filled up with toxins that should have been used up in action to meet real dangers, we find ourselves “nervous” and “upset.” Nerves are not wrong. We need them to live. It is what we have done to our nerves that are the problem. WE have frayed them through overuse arising from uncontrolled fears and worries. We have turned the nerve mechanism created for self-protection into a weapon for self-destruction.
When once we have created physical disorder in our body, the imagination begins to play tricks on us. Our imagination should be utilized to create new and better ideas. It is an instrument for progress. Instead, we let our imagination frighten us with new and added fears. We imagine we are suffering from indigestion, then ulcers, then cancer, and finally death, the greatest fear of all!
Horrifying dreams begin to afflict us. Most dreams come from an overworked mind. Daily problems weigh us down as we seek rest at night. We don’t know how to relax. Solomon said: “Fro a dream comes through a multitude of business” (Ecc. 5:3).
Once we recognize these unfounded fears which we need to battle, we must find the right way to conquer them. Psychological self-deception won’t help. It doesn’t really do any good to tell ourselves that death is not really an enemy but is a good friend. Such auto-suggestion doesn’t change the fact that death is a mortal enemy. The way to solve this fear, and to solve every unnecessary fear, is to recognize what it really is.
Paul tells us death is an enemy (I Corth 15:26).But Jesus Christ has made a way to escape its eternal consequences. “Our Saviour Christ Jesus nullified death and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel.” For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and sobering” (II Tim. 1:10, 7)
But how do we lose the dread of death, and of all the other fears and worries that haunt us? Remember the first lesson we learned is that we need to recognize that distinction between helpful and harmful, uncontrolled fears. Fear may be either right or wrong depending upon our direction of this emotion. Proper fear stems from the drive for self-preservation. It is a signal of danger, a signal that we need to take action.
Proper fear is in two forms. One is natural fear of physical danger, the warning that we need to protect this life. The other is spiritual fear for our eternal protection. This fear almost no one recognizes. Yet, without it we will never be able to conquer uncontrolled fear.
This spiritual fear is called the fear of the Lord or the fear of God. Like every other fear, it, too, has been misguided until it has become the fear of the devil!
The natural emotion of physical fear warns us of physical hazards. This is a learned fear. The spiritual fear of God warns us of eternal dangers. It, too, is a learned fear. We have to learn about the power and authority of God. We learn that God gives life and also takes life. That is why Jesus said: “Fear Him” (Luke 12:5).
This present age has lost this healthy respect for God. Notice the example of Noah: “By faith Noah, warned concerning the things not seen as yet, with godly fear prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7). Noah feared the power of God. That was a right fear, a proper spiritual fear. But Noah controlled his fear of God. He didn’t let his fear worry and frustrate him. Noah acted on his fear. He did something about it!
The great importance of the fear of God has been woefully misunderstood. Let’s understand its full significance. “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil” (Prov. 16:6).This fear warns us that God will punish us if we harm ourselves by doing evil.
When we do evil we harm ourselves. To teach us not to do evil, God sometimes has to punish us. That is how the fear of God leads us away from the danger of evil, both physical and spiritual danger. “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom” (Prov. 15:33).
When we fear God, we respect what He says. What He says has been recorded in His Word, the Bible. In the Bible is the wisdom of God. Its instruction tells us right from wrong. It defines for us the pitfalls of sin. It warns us of the dangers of evil which robs us of happiness and prosperity and eternal life. “The fear of the Lord tendeth to life; and he that hath it shall abide satisfied, he shall not be visited with evil” (Prov. 19:23).
The need for the fear of the Lord is a New Testament teaching, Peter said: “Fear God” (I Peter 2:17).It is repeated again in Rev. 14:7: “Fear God.” The early Church of God had peace when “walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31).
How will the proper reaction to the fear of God rid us of all the needless mental suffering we impose on ourselves? How will the fear of God teach us to manage and direct our minds until we master every nervous fear? John wrote: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18).
The worries and mental torments steaming from fears occur when love has not been perfected. Love is doing what God commands: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).
The commandments of God define right and wrong. They tell us of the dangers of sin. Sin is the “transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). By obeying God we avoid the dangers of evil and we fill our minds and emotions with love. Love removes worries and torments. This is how we act upon the fear of God.
Now let us learn how to acquire perfect love. Here is what Peter says: “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love” (II Peter 1:5-7).The archaic word “charity,” found in the KJV should be rendered love.
Here are seven steps you need to follow to rid yourself of fear!
First, notice that you begin with faith. What is faith? “Without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them than diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). You can’t fear God without having faith that He exists and that He rewards us for what we do, whether good or evil.
Faith is not something you try to make yourself think you have when you don’t have it. Faith is the recognition that God exists and that it is fatal to fall into His hands unless you turn from your sins! This faith is acquired. It is learned by experience. You cannot hypnotize yourself into receiving faith.
Let’s follow the instruction of Peter throughout his seven-fold plan to conquer fear by filling the mind with love.
First, add virtue to your faith in the power of God. Virtuous means decent, chaste, modest, well-mannered. It is the opposite of coarseness and vulgarity. The first step is to remove the cause of self-condemnation, the secret sins that are often committed under the guise of extreme prudery!
We must let the Bible define decency, chastity, and good manners for us. Study the lives of men and women recorded within its pages. Recognize their mistakes. Don’t make the same mistakes. Remember, too, that the fear of God teaches us not to make up our minds as we wish to believe, but to believe and act upon what God says virtue is. It is neither self-righteousness nor coarseness. It is proper refinement.
Second, add knowledge to virtue. Knowledge refers to the learning of ideas and principles of conduct. We must continually increase in knowledge until we clean up our character!
Third, add temperance to knowledge. When we learn that God permits us to use things that we thought were forbidden, we must exercise the proper balance in handling any new freedom. We must be temperate. Temperance does not mean prohibition. Prohibition is abstention. Temperance is moderate use! Paul said: “Every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things” (I Cor. 9:25).Temperance means self-control. This is one of the most vital steps in controlling the mind and stilling fears. You need to exercise self-discipline over mind and body if you want to overcome fears.
Fourth, add patience to self-control. Patience is that broadness of mind by which you wait for the result to be achieved. Patience is the opposite of worry. One who is patient does not become frustrated because problems don’t always solve themselves immediately. Patience comes from exercising self-control under trial. “Tribulation works patience,” wrote Paul (Rom. 5:3). You can’t sit down and make yourself patient. You must work at it, under trial and test!
Fifth, add godliness to patience. Godliness means to be like God in character. God defines His character throughout the Bible. Many “religious” people pretend to have godliness, but “they deny the power thereof” (II Tim. 3:5). God is a powerful character, not a weakling. Godliness means strength of character; it sums up virtue, knowledge, patience, self-control. Too many try to imagine what God is like apart from reading the Bible. Little wonder that they deny His power!
Sixth, add brotherly kindness to godliness. It is often easier to act righteous than to be kind to a brother! James says of the human tongue: “Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after God’s likeness” (James 3:9).God is perfect. We need to be perfect. But our brothers have faults of the flesh. It is difficult to be kind, to be helpful, to be generous, to be stern only when necessary to fellow human beings.
In misguided zeal many impose their “kindnesses” on others. We must learn to exercise good judgment in being kind. On the other hand, many neglect kindnesses which they can never make up. This breeds sorrow and worry.
Seventh, add love as a climax to perfection. Jesus said: “Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).When you love your enemies this much, you won’t fear what they can do to you. Love, when perfected, casts out all fears! Jesus also said: “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Prefect love even removes the most terrible fear of all, the fear of death!
Notice how the Bible defines love in its fullness. “If I dole out all my goods, and if I give my body that I may glory, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Brotherly kindness without love profits nothing eternally! “Loves suffers long”- it is patient. “is kind” – it includes brotherly kindness; “love envies not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” it doesn’t exalt itself, it is virtuous, “is not unseemly, seeketh not its own” – love is directed away from the self, “is not provoked, taketh not account of evil” – it is patient and not resentful, “rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth in the truth” – it is godliness.
Love “covers all things” it covers every requirement, “believeth all things” – love is not gullible (which a misreading of this verse might imply), but it believes all things written in God’s Word, “hopeth all things” – it hopes for all the promises, which give us courage – “endureth all things.” Love rises above all conflicts, making it possible for us to rise above the sufferings and fears which engulf this age.
“Love never fails,” (I Cor. 13:3-8). This is how you can conquer your fears and worries! Ask God for help to carry out His seven-fold plan to attain real peace of mind. “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Luke 11:9).