Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast Episode 014 Fear
Welcome to the Terri Hitt – Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast
Episode #014 – Fear
Thank you for entrusting and investing your precious time with me to grow in Jesus together. I am blessed to be back with you today to discuss more ways to live with eternal perspective.
Last week on the podcast we discussed change. As we know, change and fear often walk hand-in-hand, both easily causing distress, confusion, and depression. As I record this podcast, life is still not back to normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing orders. Fear is one of the emotions that has visited the hearts and minds of many right now as they live with uncertainty; and may reside with others as they watch a loved one battle illness, endure it themselves, or work on the front lines as a doctor or nurse, emergency personnel, or any type of essential worker. Some, like my family, have lost the ability to go to work and earn a living during this time. If one does not keep their eyes directed at Christ alone, fear could overtake all other emotions, placing joy and peace in a stronghold.
Unfortunately, my youngest child has catalogued a history of fearful situations. Adopted at 9 years old, she was definitely not accustomed to being cherished in a family. Much of her life to that point had been spent alone. While bravely traveling over 7,000 miles and transferring to fly on three separate flights for a total travel experience lasting about 26 hours, she battled fear. I doubt that she even knew planes existed before having to strap herself into one with strangers who looked and smelled differently, ate foods she had never seen or tasted, and spoke a language she had never heard. During the long journey home, her eardrums burst and both ears bled, yet she never made a sound. Accustomed to no one caring, it was easier to remain uncomforted, exiled by a pattern of prior neglect and fear. Angst is often more comfortable than facing the terrors of change.
As we were virtual strangers when we adopted her, she had no idea what would happen after arrival at our destination. Although we used a translator to prepare her, she barely knew the language in her home country, and had limited exposure to people during her lifetime, so I’m not sure exactly how much she understood. Considering the adrenaline of fear and uncertainty that had to be present, even if she had perfectly understood, how much could she really deeply comprehend and trust?
Now, four years later, I relish moments in which she uncovers secrets of her past. Hearing how she lived before we ever knew she existed is a balm to empty places in my mother’s heart. I deeply treasure her trust and the relationship we have now, and wish we had been able to bring her into our family much, much sooner. When she shares her perspective of the family photo album we sent her before traveling to meet her, or of our first meeting, or the thoughts she experienced after arriving in the United States, I am saddened, yet respectful of the stoic personality I remember persevering through every change thrown at her in those days following her departure from anything she had ever experienced or known. Although her life was difficult, it was still all she knew, and to hear her speak of the extreme fear she felt is hard, yet I’m so thankful that she is able to tell us now.
The early days with our precious girl are imprinted in my memory and recollected as easily as if they happened moments ago. The very first night alone with us, she pretended to be fine until darkness enveloped the day and it was time for bed. I cannot forget the desolate wails of great pain, anxiety, and sorrow. Yearning for comfort, yet fearful of receiving mine, she released pitiful cries as she kicked her legs in a weak attempt at forcefulness that was still miraculously tinged with hope. I quickly learned that she didn’t want me to touch her, yet didn’t want me to leave her alone.
Fear caused her to react with survival instincts formed by the mind of a small, helpless girl who had endured pain, neglect, and hardships, but fortunately, by the grace of God, also carried a seed of hopeful endurance that life might change.
Living with fear and anxiety drains the mind and emotions, disrupting the joy we were created to experience.
Growing up, I didn’t know Jesus. I knew He was God’s Son, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. How I wish I had. Instead, fear resided in my life. I lived in the perfect environment for Satan to step in and work his will into the lives of my family. I remember having and going to slumber parties and partaking in trances and seances, and playing with Quija boards and Magic Eight Balls. We relayed scary stories and invited the supernatural into our life. It wasn’t a habit I practiced daily, yet the exposure at the parties was enough to invite Satan in and allow terror to touch our mind in ways never intended by God.
The more we delved into activities built on fear, the more the emotion controlled us. But, not knowing Jesus, we didn’t know how to break the cycle. We didn’t understand what we were inviting into our lives. It is easy to follow trends, morals, and expectations of this world without giving them a second thought until we realize we have walked in the opposite direction of Jesus and we are left standing in fear.
I learned from a young age that fear can be induced. The actions and activities I participated in were certainly not in God’s will or desires for me. They definitely did not bring joy or contentment in my life, but filled me with lonely, fearful thoughts and emotions. I had absolutely no idea that what I was doing was forbidden or warned against. I ignorantly followed what others were doing, stepping blindly into the wicked and shadowed trap Satan laid to divert me from knowing Jesus and the fullness of His joy. The level of my participation was low, yet the effects are strong and lasting.
We are warned against such entertainment or recreational pastimes in many verses throughout the Bible. Leviticus 19:31 instructs, “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” Another verse warning against the dangers is given through Leviticus 20:6, which says, “I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people.”
The choices we make that steer us into fear are not always evident. Sometimes it is entertainment consisting of astrology, books, movies, television shows, or magazines. It could be specific art or fashion. As a follower of Jesus, our heart must be so full of Him that our mind easily recognizes what He would not want us to step near.
Deuteronomy 18:9-14 clearly warns, “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you. But you must be blameless before the LORD your God. The nations you are about to displace consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the LORD your God forbids you to do such things.”
Whether we innocently or deliberately step into questionable or forbidden practices, Satan is ready to lure us deeper. We must remain in God’s word to know His desires and commands if we truly wish to follow them and live with the fruits of the spirit He allows us to possess and experience when we are His. Instead of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we experience the opposite when we travel into areas Jesus has not approved.
Fear is an emotion caused by a perceived threat or danger which stimulates physiological and behavioral changes. I learned that when we walk outside the boundaries of what God desires for us, fear always catches us.
“Have I not commanded you! Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Everyday life carries so many unknowns. If we ruminate scenarios for any amount of time, we can undoubtedly find something to fear and worry about. Our mind can create numerous possibilities without a shred of truthful evidence. Before long, we actually believe the fabrications can or already did happen. Such a powerful tool, our mind can convince us of almost anything. We can also easily be persuaded that almost anything is possible or approved for us to do. Since our mind is so easily deceived, we must cling to God for guidance.
James 1:8 warns us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
We require God’s wisdom and direction. He never intended for us to experience fear in our life. God planned abundance, peace, and blessings tailor-made for each of us. As a believer, I know that fear does not come from our Heavenly Father. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So if fear begins to creep into my mind, I have conditioned myself to follow Psalm 56:3, which says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.”
We must learn to discern or reject fear and replace it with trust that comes from a deep relationship with God. Just like relationships we grow on earth, or muscles we train, the job is accomplished by a dedicated, intentional mindset and much effort. When fear is felt, is it due to something God is warning me to stay away from? Is it a past hurt or deep wound that needs healing? Is my fear a consequence, blessing, or residue?
After my oldest daughter died unexpectedly, I understood how deep grief takes our faith to a higher level if we cling to God through fear. Strengthening my belief that He is always present was a decision I had to make daily. My head knew that God is always present. I knew that if I did not feel Him, it would mean that I had turned away and I did not want that to happen. I consciously chose to remain with Him, abiding in His presence. I needed His comfort, trusted His promises, and resolved to cry out to Him.
My life memories are now cataloged as “Before Jaime” and “After Jaime”. Since it feels as though my heart separated at her death, it is natural that my mind began dividing time, as well. Before her death, I automatically believed in happy endings. Although I had endured difficulties in life, I trusted that God was in control, even during the years before I truly understood His sovereignty in my life. After Jaime died, I experienced the painful fact that anything could happen at any time. Death had claimed one of the immense loves of my life, my child. That meant my greatest fear had been realized. Destruction could strike again at any time, leaving me defenseless if it chose our family again. It would have been incredibly easy to allow fear to reign.
Any time one of my family members is late, I notice. As time continues to pass without them, I feel how easily fear can rise and threaten to overtake my peace. That is the moment I choose to keep my mind and trust fixed above. Psalm 23:4 beautifully speaks of God’s power over fear. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
My grief journey through deep loss made me feel that even my DNA changed. I am not the person I was before sorrow cloaked my heart. Although death claimed what I feared losing the most, I have also experienced the sweet truth of God’s promises and provision. Our loving Heavenly Father is all His word proclaims, yet miraculously even more. When we allow Him access, an incredibly intimate and personal relationship matures because He alone knows our deepest needs and as our Creator, is the only One who can fill our voids because He understands them so perfectly.
I lived the promise in Joshua 1:9 after the death of my daughter. The intimacy God gifted me during the time right before and after is absolute proof to me of His love and desire to nurture and minister to me directly. He does the same for each of His children. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” He simply desires our trust and calls us to rely on Him, rather than succumbing to fear.
Mark 5:36b says, “Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
In contrast, Satan is the source of all anxiety and strives to fill our mind with doubt and distress. He desires for the people of God to stand trapped in fear, paralyzed so that he can distract and divert us from the perfect healing God holds.
Satan gives bondage. God offers freedom. The devil understands that fear impacts physical and mental health, memory, brain processing and reactivity. Fear can crush relationships and dreams and demolish lives. Fear can even be induced by a perceived danger or threat, causing physiological, and ultimately behavioral changes such as fleeing, hiding, lying, fighting, and many other reactions that harm us, those around us, and keep us from resolving the root cause. Although powerful, fear is just an emotion.
God created us with great intentionality. Everything in our anatomy is inner-woven to connect multiple intricate bodily systems that our Heavenly Father fashioned for specific purposes, enabling us to operate as one incredible creation. We are each a uniquely individual person meant to connect with Him in every way. The complexity of our design is astounding! I believe there are actually about 52 distinctly different regions of the brain alone. Are you as amazed by this fact as I am?
Sometimes our fears are caused by traumatic events. Our brain has a specific area called the thalamus which is responsible for relaying sensory signals collected from the senses. In a nutshell explanation, information is received by the sensory cortex, which interprets data and organizes the material for dissemination to the amygdala, a section contributing to emotional processing and survival instincts, and sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which is basically a command center.
This area of the brain communicates with others concerning body functions that are natural – or not voluntary, such as breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, and so on. It triggers a “fight-or-flight” response which causes the body to respond with a burst of energy to perceived dangers. During emotional reactions, such as fear, the hippocampus region interacts to organize, store, and form these intense memories. This area is the most sensitive to stress, such as fear. Once those memories are formed, they leap to the surface of our mind and control our actions without us even realizing it.
We know that this fear is caused by negative thinking, or worries, that arise from anxiety connected to an idea or a suspicion of dread or apprehension, usually caused by memories stored from past experiences. Those innate fears have been formed by exposure or events, either real or imagined, such as abandonment, separation, neglect, mutilation, disapproval, shame, and so on.
Humans have an incredible ability to adapt our behavior through fear which can protect us. We also carry a natural capability for what I call “common sense” fears. If we see a wild lion coming at us, we are not going to stop and pet it. We are going to flee. These are learned fears, have been formed through conditioning and life experience. Some fears are good, but what I am concerned with in this podcast is fear that separates us from our Heavenly Father.
As I mentioned earlier, when brain pathways are excited, the brain will react immediately to signals from the amygdala, instead of proceeding with rational processing. Our highly complex bodily system has already processed signals to other areas, which are now releasing hormones that cause us to shut down or slow functions not needed for survival (such as our digestive system). Other operations are sharpened such as eyesight and the heart rate and blood flow to muscles in case we need to run faster. This is when the body increases the flow of hormones to the amygdala.
When in this overactive state, the brain perceives events as negative and will store them this way. Everything surrounding the danger is also recorded, such as time of day, weather, smells, sights, and sounds. Those stored details of a fearful event may carry us right back to the crisis as though we are experiencing it once again, although we have no conscious idea why a certain smell, sound, or sight, etc. caused us to react a certain way. Since our brain received a cataloged prompt of perceived danger, our body is triggered to flee the predictor of threat. God created our body this way for a variety of reasons, but definitely not to cause us harm.
I remember a time in my twenties when I experienced great discomfort while on a road trip with my parents. We had shared a weekend family reunion and while returning home, I suffered the effects of eating foods I am allergic to. As I lay doubled over in pain in the back seat of their car, listening to my parents talk, I experienced a flashback in my mind. I asked my mother if she ever rubbed my temples. Although it was an odd question to ask out of the blue, I had spent an enjoyable few days with my parents, surfacing memories with relatives, and as I now felt pain in her presence, the thought of my mother rubbing my temples floated to mind. She was surprised when I asked, but answered that when I was a baby, she had used the technique of rubbing my temples to calm me to go to sleep.
Our mind is incredibly powerful. The Bible tells us God created us in His image. We are intelligent creatures who are also creative, loving, humorous, (and many other adjectives) in ways that only mimic God. Imagine all of the bright and imaginative minds this world has held and understand that our qualities are merely shadows of His. It is no wonder that He lovingly formed our minds and bodies to be such highly structured creations. The devotion He has for us and the emotion with which He designed us is evident when we learn more about our intricate minds, bodies, and souls.
I believe that is part of the reason it is said that the word “fear” is recognized over 500 times in the Bible. Some of the verses warn us not to fall victim to fear, while others teach us to fear or reverence God and nothing else. Fear causes us to do things we shouldn’t and to neglect doing things we should. It changes who we are meant to be and can freeze us where we are emotionally when horrible events happen.
In this fallen world, God knows the pitfalls and trials we will suffer. He has done all He can to provide instructions in His Holy word, through the life Jesus modeled for us, and in the intimate ways He reaches out to us.
Our intricate, yet sensitive minds have been scarred by this broken world we reside in. Despite the fact that our complex memories have cataloged and stored experiences that can continue to haunt and harm us, God provided an escape. He always plans ahead and never forsakes us.
The way to battle the memories our mind has stored as dangers and that cause us to easily fall victim to fear, or to recognize areas in our life that we need to step away from to erase fear is by relying on the same basics that we use for all other areas of a joy-filled life.
Our Heavenly Father.
It is impossible to conquer fear or anxiety without a saving knowledge of, and deep relationship with Jesus and His word. Reading and studying the Bible is imperative. Without surrender to Jesus and reliance on the Holy word of God, we cannot recognize or learn the truth God desires to reveal to us. Without Him, we will not possess the keys to open our heart to transformation. The God who designed such a brilliant mind and body system also crafted each of us with a spirit yearning for deep relationship with Him.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
As we begin, grow, and mature our relationship with God through Jesus, we come to rely on Him, and also deepen our walk through prayer, His word, and our life experiences. God crafts each one of us in private ways that only He knows how to reach exactly where we need to grow and stretch through Him. He lovingly offers and allows opportunities to trust Him more deeply. We must allow Him to do the work of shifting and healing the pathways of our brain and heart, then lay new signals that allow us to react in ways that prove we acknowledge His ultimate devotion and love for us.
John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
As we experience God’s work in and through us, we trust more deeply and draw nearer to Him. Our conscious decision to trust Him over the reactions our body signals tell us will erase the fear and anxiety over time as we allow Him to shoulder the burdens we endure in this broken world. Sometimes therapy may be needed to assist us in ridding our minds of the effects of fear and anxiety from this broken world, but only strong Christian counsel, along with our minds and hearts focused on learning and growing in and through Him, will be effective in properly healing our minds and reactions.
Healing through the Lord is not a read the Bible and pray, then expect immediate change remedy. Rebuilding our mind and reactions will come from surrendering moment by moment to a Heavenly Father who is waiting to carry each of our burdens. Healing from fear or anxiety comes from consistently relying on and growing a relationship that transcends what this world is able to provide or heal. Each life is different, each journey unique. We have each lived through different experiences that will require specific prescriptions from the Lord. He desires that we invite Him into each area of our life and trust Him to shift us so that deep mind and soul healing can occur.
To begin a journey of healing from fear and anxiety, it is important to get enough rest, eat healthy foods, and stay hydrated. Exercise and time to relax and partake in activities we enjoy also relieves stress and supports a healthy mind and body. Making time to be in God’s word and study the meaning of scriptures and how they apply to our life is incredibly wise and must become a priority. Memorizing God’s word and/or meditating on scripture through study or scripture writing is also important. Prayer should be a regular habit, not just in times of stress or worry. Fear holds no power when God’s word is prayed to Him. Talking with God throughout each day, including Him as naturally as breathing, allows us to rely on Him to manage our emotions and reactions in healthy and honoring ways. Speaking the name of Jesus aloud also holds a powerful and calming effect.
Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.”
Nothing is too difficult for the Lord or too far for His merciful love to reach. Fear is no match for our omnipotent Heavenly Father, who cares about every aspect of our life.
Thank you so much for listening to the Live With Eternal Perspective podcast. God has impressed so much on my heart to share. Living with an eternal perspective affects absolutely everything in this life and for eternity, so we have a lot to discuss! I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you found value in this podcast, please subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. I also encourage you to leave a review. In order for others to be able to find this podcast, I will need the support of listeners who will invest a few minutes in subscribing and reviewing to lift Live With Eternal Perspective higher on the charts so that the platform shows it to everyone. I would also appreciate it if you would share this podcast with a friend. I want everyone to hear encouragement through Jesus and find new ways to Live With Eternal Perspective.