When I’m afraid, I freeze. This isn’t just fear about my safety, either. When I’m worried I might say or do the wrong thing, or I don’t know what to do next, I just stand still and wait, unsure how to proceed.
I think this is a fairly common response, which is reassuring–but not very helpful. In his book Chasing David, I really appreciated how Rene Schlaepfer used David’s response to Goliath as an example for how we should approach fear. As a bonus, it’s a related mnemonic device: FEAR.
F: Find out the Facts
In 1 Samuel 17, David sees Goliath challenge the Israelites to send a champion to face him, and David responds by asking about the reward. Rene writes, “Instead of obsessing on the problem, he immediately begins breaking it down, analyzing it, studying the benefits of beating it” (page 63).
He goes on to point out that good information breeds confidence. I know we can never know everything about everything, especially in our information-inundated world, but when you take the time to learn more about the problem and get advice on its solutions, you can make a more informed decision.
I like what Rene wrote about this on page 64:
Don’t build mental monsters out of fear and worry. Is your giant overcoming anxiety? Get the facts. There are so many great resources out there. Is it an illness? Get the facts. Educate yourself. Is it raising teens? Good luck. No, I mean, get facts. Ask advice. Read books.
I try to remember to ask God for wisdom and insight, too. I feel so overwhelmed with information that sometimes I don’t know where to even start. But I have found when I’ve asked God for direction and guidance, he’s led me to the information and advice I’ve needed.
E: Eliminate Defeatist Thinking
In a classic Empire Strikes Back scene, Luke’s X-wing fighter sinks into the swamp on Dagobah. Yoda tells him to use the force to lift it out and he starts to, only to have it fall back into the swamp. Luke says it’s too big, complaining that Yoda wants the impossible. Yoda responds by using the force to lift it out of the swamp and hover it over to where they’re standing.
Luke exclaims, “I don’t, I don’t believe it!”
Yoda responds, “That is why you failed.”
Luke didn’t believe he could lift the X-wing from the start. He went into the task with defeatist thinking, which is why he failed.
Rene addressed this as the second step in addressing fear; eliminate this type of thinking.
I appreciated that he called out the difference between thinking and feeling, too.
Notice I didn’t write, “eliminate negative feelings.” Your feelings are largely out of your control. But you can control what you think about. This takes discipline. It may mean limiting your exposure to certain media or even certain friends. Because defeatism is contagious (page 64).
This reminded me of what I wrote in my post about Sowing Better Seeds.
You may not be able to control how you feel, but you can control your reaction. Last year my husband and I went to a church planting assessment, during which they talked about the connection between feelings, attitude, and behavior.
As the visual above shows:
- Attitude affects behavior and feelings.
- Feelings affect behavior and attitude.
- Behavior affects feelings and attitude.
So if you feel a certain way and want to choose to sow different seeds, change what you can control: your behavior and attitude.
Rene pointed out that David was confronted with this defeatist attitude from his brother (1 Samuel 17:28) and King Saul (1 Samuel 17:33), but he persisted by turning away and remembering what God had already done in his life.
David knows that the key to trusting God with your future is remembering how God has worked in your past. You can’t see the future. That’s what drives you crazy sometimes. But you can see the past. So think of the ways God answered prayer, gave you peace, performed a miracle in your life (page 66).
A: Affirm Your Source of Strength
This is the difference between our culture’s approach of the power of positive thinking and the Bible’s approach of trusting in God. It’s not a matter of me creating a vision board, pulling myself up by my bootstraps, and thinking positive thoughts. It’s about turning to God in my moments of weakness and relying on His strength and power.
I was reminded of this just the other day. I was tired from being in an all-day training at work, hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, and have really been struggling with my three-year-old’s behavior in general. As I was making dinner, he was turning the water on and off, pulling things out of cupboards, playing with things in the kitchen that made all kinds of messes. I completely lost it when he pulled a clean plastic plate out of the dishwasher and put it on the cutting board I’d just chopped raw chicken on. He has no concept of why that’s a problem, but I completely lost it. I felt like screaming and throwing things, but instead I removed him from the kitchen, went to my room and locked the door so he couldn’t follow me in. Then I took a few deep breaths and asked God for help, strength, energy, and the ability to extend grace and mercy to all three children. After that I was still really tired and wanted to be done for the day, but I was able to get through dinner and bedtime without completely losing it on any of them, and even had a few nice moments of connection with them. It definitely wasn’t on my power!
This is something Rene talked about in this section of his book, too. That instead of relying on our own strength, we rely on God. We remember our identity in him, and that we’re chosen. I may not always feel like the best mom in the world, but God chose me to be the mom for my three kids. When I don’t have the strength, I think it helps to turn towards God.
This is something to remember when we’re not just tired, too. But when we’re worried or scared, we can rely on God as our source of strength. When David is about to fight Goliath, his confidence is deeply rooted in God. He knows he’s chosen and that God has a plan.
Rene also shared that it helped him to meditate on scripture when he was going through anxiety. Some verses that especially helped him were Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 43:1-2, John 15:16, and 1 Peter 2:9. All of them repeat similar phrases:
- I am with you.
- I have chosen you.
- I will strengthen you.
R: Run to Battle
I know when I feel worried, anxious, or afraid, I have a tendency to stay still and hope everything resolves itself. But I like the picture Rene painted of running to battle on page 69.
You can get paralysis by analysis. At some point you just need to act. Like David did. Someone once said, action breeds courage. Tennyson wrote, “I just lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair.” I love that!
So once you’ve found out the facts, eliminated defeatist thinking, and affirmed your source of strength, do something! It may not be perfect, but it’s something. It may still be scary, but taking the first step with God’s strength behind you will help you break out of that paralyzing fear.