Thankful: Freedom from Fear

What are you thankful for?

I was asked this question at a caregroup meeting earlier this week.  I wasn’t pressuring myself to come up with some amazing answer, but I couldn’t help but notice that I wasn’t feeling terribly “inspired.”  Going over the list of usuals in my head, I remembered the opportunity to take college classes this Fall, and picked that off my list.  Now, believe me, I am genuinely grateful for God’s provision in that.  Extremely grateful.  But still, I was simply picking an answer for the sake of having an answer.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it may be a simple question, but it’s difficult to answer on the spot, so it’s absolutely normal for anyone’s answers to be “picked out”)  After having a simple discussion about what we were thankful for, we were given the opportunity to pray together – to pray with thanksgiving, or whatever God put on our hearts.  My caregroup leader and my dear friend with whom I gathered both thanked God for his kindness and provision in their lives.  I had forgotten how refreshing it is to the soul to take time to focus on giving thanks in prayer.  When it came time for me to pray, something unexpected happened, completely unlike picking things from the “Thankful” list.  Something dawned on me, and I don’t know why it hadn’t before, but when it did, I was filled with awe and thankfulness.  I couldn’t stop thanking God for setting me free from fear.

To give some background – for the past couple of years, I had a rather dominating, on-and-off (but mostly on) struggle with fear.  Partly fear of man – ridiculous fear and concern over others’ opinions of me, which commonly holds me back from fully enjoying and living simple, wonderful little parts of life.  Primarily, though, relentless fear and anxiety over my spiritual state – more specifically, fear of wandering away from God and into outlandish sin.  This specific form of fear began with my mistake of continually listening to and believing the lies and condemnation of the devil, forgetting to line things up with the truth of God’s word, and it wasn’t long before what seemed like a simple little mistake led to fear and anxiety dominating my life – first distracting me emotionally, mentally and spiritually, leaving me in a constant state of turmoil, and then, as of this past summer, affecting me physically – usually in more minor ways, like struggling with breathing deeply; always having some degree of heaviness in my chest, but the worst happened one night when I allowed myself to be so overcome by fear and stress that I eventually found myself in the middle of a panic attack.  Tears, sweating, a constantly racing heart, and nausea kept me awake nearly the whole night;  altogether, I only got a few broken hours of sleep.  When the morning came, I was horrified; not merely at the night I had, but at my every-day life that caused it.  I felt like I didn’t recognize myself  – like I had forgotten who I was.  I knew God had far greater plans for me than to live under a rock of imaginary shame.  I immediately went to talk to my amazing mom (for whom I am beyond thankful), who listened to me, preached the truth of the gospel and grace to me, prayed for me, and comforted me.  That morning began the slow walk away from a life dominated by fear.  Though the usual emotional and physical side effects still hung around, the extremity slowly lessened over time.

Back to the beginning – what dawned on me at that moment during the prayer time was the fact that God had mercifully freed me from the dominating horrors of fear.  I suppose, because the “healing” from where I was this summer was such a slow process, I never really noticed just how different my life looks now.  I never had more than a fleeting thought – “I guess the fear isn’t really there now.”  But when I prayed, giving thanks to God that moment at caregroup, that was what shocked me – THE FEAR ISN’T THERE.  It is still a very minor struggle and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come and go in stronger and weaker ways over the years, but when I prayed, I was completely blown away by the realization of what God had done over the past few months.  I’m sleeping again.  I’m breathing again.  I’m living again.  I couldn’t help but shed a few happy tears as I thanked God for his kindness and faithfulness in freeing me.

Through this time, I have learned so much of God’s kindness and grace.  I’ve also learned a lot about fear… as negative as that sounds, it’s been extremely helpful.  Fear is such a deceptive thing.  It’s so subtle and difficult to catch, and if I continually leave it unattended, it cleverly sneaks into my heart and slowly builds up its layers of domination, until I’m getting up from a painful, sleep-deprived night and wondering how in the world I got there.  One of my new favorite musicians, Jason Gray, recently released a brilliant song that says a LOT about the ways of fear.  “Fear will take the best of us, then come back for the rest of us, its rabid hunger never satisfied; It’s closer than a brother, and more jealous than a lover, who holds you while it swallows you alive; Let down your guard, and it will steal your heart… there’s no thief like fear.  That’s it.  Fear is a thief; tricking, blinding, stealing joy and life, and I’ve had enough of it.  You know why?

“…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

That is absolutely wonderful news for a fearful person like me.  Fear is not my master.  Christ is.  He set me free, not so I could continue to live like a slave to fear, but so I could truly be FREE.

“I am free, I am free; Oh my God has rescued me; From these chains, I am released, for my God has set me free…”

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart and God’s faithful care for you in your struggles. I love you!

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