During a severe thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small son into bed. She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me tonight?” His mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep with Daddy.” A silence followed, and then the little boy said, “The big sissy!”
We all struggle with fear. There are over 530 classified phobias. www.phobialist.com
Many of them are well known but some you probably have never heard of. For instance: You may know about claustrophobia – the fear of being in a small place. But there is the fear of being in a small place with a dictator called Castrophobia. You may know about zoophobia, which is the fear of animals. But did you know there is a Barneyphobia – fear of purple animals? You may know about agoraphobia – fear of the open places. Not to be confused with Aggie-phobia fear of people who wear maroon!
There are specific phobias (fears), which are not shared by all.
It’s interesting to me that we have different fears. Different things frighten us all. Some of you have fought in combat but you’re not about to visit a dentist. Others of you climb mountains and cliffs but if somebody were to ask you to speak in front of 15 people you’d freeze in fear. Some of you men make tremendous business decisions every day but when things go creak in the night, you send you wife!
There are universal or deep level phobias we ALL experience.
A son asked his father, “Daddy, are you afraid of spiders?” No. “Are you afraid of thunder? of ghosts? of robbers” No. “Then I guess Mommy is the only thing you’re afraid of.”
Deep level fears are: Why do we die? What happens after death? Why are we here? Why is there evil?
All religions attempt to give answers to basic questions: From where did the world come? What is the meaning of human life? Why do people die and what happens afterward? Why is there evil? How should people behave?
Philosophers teach that this deep level fear has lead to the development of religion. German theologian Paul Tillich defines religion as “ultimate concern.”
These deep level fears are the source that all your other fears come out of. It’s the well. No matter how much you try to get rid of all these other fears, until you deal with the source or root it’s not going to work. Until you get healing at this deepest level of your life, you’re going to still have problems with all the surface fears.
Although fear is universal among us, God says hundreds of times “Fear not or Do not be afraid” The Greek word for fear is “phobeo” which is where we get the word phobia.
HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR
Have you ever done a high element ropes course? I did one a couple of years ago that was thirty feet off the ground. I felt like, “I am going to fall and die!” But I had to tell my mind, “I may fall, but I won’t die. I am secured by these ropes (a safety system).” Besides I just watched my friends doing it and they didn’t’ die! That’s the truth, my mind says, “You’re dying!” the truth is, “no I am not, hang in there. Don’t chicken out in front of your friends! Stay up here and do this!” The same can happen for our deep fears and specific fears. We need to seek the truth and remind ourselves often.
- Seek the Truth
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
I was reading about Phobia treatments recently. Simple or specific phobias have been effectively treated with behavior therapy. Behavior therapy sets up phobic treatment involving exposure to the phobic stimulus in a safe and controlled setting called exposure treatment. The patient is exposed to the phobic stimulus as part of the therapeutic process. One simple form of exposure treatment is that of flooding, where the person is immersed in the fear reflex until the fear itself fades away.
Like the high ropes course mentioned earlier, the fear of falling or heights that I have a specific fear of is reduced over time by the truth that harness catches me. Remember how I fear public speaking? When I was younger I would panic when called upon in class. But now as I prepare, practice and speak in public on a regular basis (flooding) then the fear has less affect on me.
- Deep level fears can be dealt with through myth or truth.
- Myth- “a story that appeals to the consciousness of people by giving expression to deep commonly felt emotions.” Webster
- The ancient Greeks, Romans, and other civilizations explained the world through fascinating mythologies.
- “Under the influences of Judaism and Christianity, mythology was replaced by religions based on historical events and evidence.”
Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia © 1999
(Jesus) “I am the way the truth and the life.” John 14:6
Jesus Christ claimed to be God and then proved it by rising from death. How do we know George Washington existed? Evidence: what he did, what he left behind and what was written about him. There is vast evidence of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Like me, millions of other Christ followers have overcome the deep fear of death, hell or judgement by placing our faith in the evidence of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. The second way to overcome fear is to…
2. Replace My Fear with God.
“There is no fear in (God’s) love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19
I love it when I hear, “I need God in my life.” Maybe you feel that way. Maybe you feel like things aren’t fitting together right. Maybe you have questions like: What am I here for? What happens when I die? Is there anything after death?
God is putting a hunger for Himself deep in your life. He’s saying “I know you and I want you to know Me. I made you. I love you. I’ve watched everything you’ve done from the moment you were born.” He’s putting in you a dissatisfaction that says, “There’s got to be more to life than this!” There is.
There’s a God-shaped vacuum in each of us. Nothing else can fill it. If you don’t fill it with God, it will fill with fear. Nothing else can substitute for God. It doesn’t matter how much human affirmation you get, it doesn’t matter how many awards you put on your shelf, how many achievements you get, how many possessions you tend to stockpile, nothing can substitute for God in your life. When we realize God is reaching out to us, and decide to trust Him in faith, (realizing that we can’t earn his love). When we embrace God’s love which is unconditional and complete in Christ’s death and resurrection, it changes us and overcomes our deep level fears.
To overcome specific fears the “flooding technique” mentioned above works for some. But some patients cannot handle flooding in any form, so an alternative technique is used called counter-conditioning  In this form, one is trained to substitute or replace a relaxation response for the fear response in the presence of the phobic stimulus. Relaxation is incompatible with feeling fearful or having anxiety, so it is said that the relaxation response counters the fear response.
Do you know what one of the greatest relaxation responses is? PRAYER! Prayer has been shown to lower blood pressure, slow brain waves, lower blood pressure and heart rate. When we pray we are using what Psychologists, Psychiatrists and counselors call counter-conditioning we use prayer (a relaxation response) in response to the phobic stimulus. That’s what prayer does. It works in our bodies, minds and emotions by trusting God to take care of things, which in turn relaxes us instead of stressing out trying to handle it all. The next way to overcome fear is to…
3. Follow Christ and Find Support with other Believers
- Faith in Christ helps me face my deepest fears.
“By his death he frees those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-16
- Christ overcame death. He says we will too.
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26
- Christ tells us what is beyond death
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-4
I need to have a relationship to God, not because I’m going to die today, because I’m going to live tomorrow.
When we follow Christ we are his disciples. We should then join a family of other disciples and follow Christ together. We learn from Jesus, he is our example and we learn from one another. This is the same as another highly successful phobic treatment that therapist use called “modeling.”
Modeling is an application suggested by social learning theorists. In modeling, the patient observes others (the “models”) in the presence of the phobic stimulus who are responding with relaxation rather than fear. In this way, the patient is encouraged to imitate the model(s) and thereby relieve their phobia. Combining live modeling with personal imitation is sometimes called participant modeling.
So this is another great reason to get into a Growth Group! We observe others in the presence of fearful situations in life and how they respond. We confess, we learn from one another. We strengthen one another. We overcome the fears of life together!
Each week at church and or group we do this very thing: we stop our hectic schedules for a moment to worship, to counter-condition, (to pray) and replace our fears and anxiety. We interact with other believers who are trying to living their faith while being honest and vulnerable about their struggles (modeling) and we are encouraged to do the same.
In my reading about Phobia Treatments I am glad that Psychologists and therapists can help people overcome their phobias. I am convinced the same resources they use to help people overcome their fears we can use and have been as the church for years already.
To Overcome Fear in review with reference to Phobia treatment:
- Seek the truth – “Exposure treatment”
- Replace Fear – “Counter Conditioning” (counter fear with “relaxation response” prayer)
- Follow Christ – “Modeling”
I’m going to say a prayer and I’m going to encourage you to follow me in it. “Dear God, I realize you’ve never stopped loving me, I accept this truth. Today I want to follow you Jesus Christ, I believe you and I want to be in groups with other believers. I commit my fears and my life to you. Amen.”
To join a group with other believers go to www.RidgeFellowship.com
Bible verses are from The New International Version
 Marks, I. M. (1987). Fears, phobias, and rituals: Panic, anxiety, and their disorders. New York: Oxford University Press.
 Foa, E. B, & Kozak, M.J. (1986). Emotional processing of fear; Exposure to corrective information. Psychological Bulletin, 99, 20-35.
 Watson, J. B. (1924). Behaviorism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
 Bernstein, D. A., Clarke-Stewart, A., Roy, E. J., & Wickens, C. D. (1997). Psychology, 4th ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin.