Fear is defined as an “unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or is a threat” ( google dictionary). It also can be defined as a feeling of impending doom. Other terms used to describe fear include dread, anxiety, nervousness, worry, unease, unrest, and apprehension. We have all experienced fear at some point in our lives. Fear is a God-given emotion to alert us that something is amiss, but left to run amuck fear will cause physical illness. Fear creates stress on the body. Merriam-Webster defines stress this way:
Definition of stress
1 : constraining force or influence: such as:
a : a force exerted when one body or body part presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or tends to compress or twist another body or body part; especially : the intensity of this mutual force commonly expressed in pounds per square inch
b : the deformation caused in a body by such a force
c : a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation
d : a state resulting from a stress; especially : one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium job-related stress
e : strain, pressure the environment is under stress to the point of collapse — Joseph Shoben
The natural bodily response to fear or stress is called the Fight or flight response. The brain receives information regarding stimuli (the threat) from the eyes and ears alerting the amygdala. When the amygdala interprets the message as a threat it sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This activates the autonomic nervous system which controls heart rate, pupil dilation, blood pressure, breathing, and vessel dilation or constriction. The Autonomic Nervous system is composed of two parts: parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The Sympathetic Nervous System elicits the Fight or Flight response. Adrenaline is released increasing blood flow to the muscles and increasing the heart rate preparing the body to make a quick exist. Adrenaline also triggers the release of glucose and fat increasing energy. As the adrenaline begins to subside, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal is then activated. Hormones are released that stimulate the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. Cortisol will continue to be released as long as the brain continues to perceive something as a threat. Cortisol will go down when the perceived threat is over. The parasympathetic nervous system will then kick in causing relaxation and calm.
Studies have shown that chronic levels of stress continue to activate the release of cortisol. Overtime, cortisol suppresses the immune system increasing our risk of illness. Cortisol also promotes weight gain. Increase levels of adrenaline also can damage arteries and increase blood pressure increasing our risk of heart disease and stoke. To read more about the physical effects of stress on the body, go to an article entitled Understanding the Stress Response by Harvard Health Publications.
More than 87% of illnesses are stress related and this stress or perceived threat starts in the brain. It does matter what we are thinking or meditating on. Fear can also be a learned response. If you had an anxious parent who was overly concerned about getting sick, then you may have learned to be overly worried about your health. Every ache and pain becomes, in your mind, a serious illness. And that’s when fear kicks in. You may have had a parent that was worried about you getting hurt, not allowing you to try new things, teaching you to be afraid of trying new things or fearing something bad would happen all the time. Of course, life happens and many of us have experienced unfortunate hurts and accidents that have produced fear and trauma in our lives. It’s what we do with the fear and hurt that determines how we will live each day.
Growing up in a stressful environment, I am all too aware of fear and it’s torment. At around the age of eight, a man who worked for our family sexually assaulted me several times. During one of the assaults, I had a candy sucker that I was eating while the event took place. This began may unhealthy relationship with food, using food as a way to deal with my anxiety and, in some ways, to escape reality. I was very over weight as a child and was teased a lot, compounding the feelings that something was wrong with me. As a teenager, I felt that if I was thinner that someone would love me or that I would fit in better at school. I always felt that I never fit in. Food addiction lead to bulimia and then to abusing alcohol to help me “fit in”. I went from one bad relationship to the next. Each time feeling more and more rejected and unloved. Growing up in the church, I learned about sin and thought that I had to be good enough to be loved. I saw God as angry, just waiting to punish me because “bad” people like me deserved to be punished. I had a religion, not a relationship with a loving Heavenly Father. I never learned about grace and the healing power offered to me through the cross of Christ. I started praying when I was about 9 years old, but because things just seemed to get worse, I believed the lie that I was not lovable. I was depressed, over weight, suicidal at times, and tormented by fear of the future. I spent a month in a Dallas hospital for the bulimia and three months in a halfway house. It was in the halfway house that I had a dream. In the dream, I saw a casket in front of me and over the casket was a bright light. In this dream I heard Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. I remember being in church, shortly after this dream, looking at Jesus on the cross saying please help me. It is at this point my life began to change. Things started to get better, but because I had no teaching about who I was as a believer in Christ, I continued to be tormented with fear. You name it, I worried about it. I was addicted to worrying, you might say. My mind was always going, seeming never to shut off. I would do alright for a while but if something happened, I went back into begging God to forgive me or back into condemning myself and thinking how stupid I am. I was extremely hard on myself. I was never good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or thin enough. I feared retribution from God, and I went to church and prayed out of fear, not out of love. I was also very self-righteous and critical of others. I feared the future and was alway concerned about something bad happening. I was afraid to get my hopes up because I knew something bad was just around the corner. I was also very afraid of God because I thought the bad things that happen were from Him – to punish me. In 2007, I came to a place where I sunk down into the pit of depression and condemnation again. It is at this point I told God this: “I have been praying to you since I was 9 years old. I know you are real but I need to KNOW you are REAL!” In other words, I need confirmation that you are with me because I can not live this way anymore. Shortly after this prayer, the Lord sent a wonderful woman who began to teach me the wonder of God and His amazing love. I actually felt the Holy Spirit for the first time and felt His overwhelming love. I learned that I had a stronghold of fear and that I had believed lies from Satan as to who I am and who God really is. I began to look back at my life and I could see God’s hand of protection. I really should have been dead with all the risky behavior and the bulimia. I learned that it was the devil who came to steal, kill, and destroy, and he had been trying to kill me off from the beginning. I began reading in the bible the promises of God and that He was my protector and shield. As I by faith went to Him in prayer and reading the bible, He began to heal my heart and to break one by one every stronghold of fear in my life. He put wonderful people in my life that showed me the love of the Father. All he required of me was to believe Him over the lies of the enemy. It was not easy to trust God for I really trusted no one. I really had let no one get too close for fear of refection. He told me that He would never leave me or forsake me. He began to prove His faithfulness and as a little child I began to receive and believe His love for me. His love has transformed me. He has made me courageous and confident. Not in my own strength but I am confident in His strength, power, and wisdom.
Fear was at the root of my weight problem and had caused me to never really get close to anyone. Fear also drove me to smoke cigarettes because I was told it would help me lose weight. Smoking also help calm my nerves. The Lord delivered me from smoking in 1993 but this food addiction was much harder. I can say today, I am completely healed of my food addiction. Friends, we have an enemy, Satan, who wants you dead and he will do it anyway he can. His greatest tactic is fear. Fear is a spirit that comes to destroy your life and your health. He also uses condemnation and offense. Condemnation is the beating ourselves up over all the wrongs we have done, punishing ourselves. The bible says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and that we can come boldly go to the throne of God for mercy and grace. Jesus has taken our sin and removed it as far as the east from the west(Psalm 103:12). Satan works by attacking our mind and our heart.
After the Holy Spirit touched my life so deeply, I began ministering and praying with my patients. I saw God touch their lives. It was so amazing. Then here comes Satan to kill, steal, and destroy. Because it was early in my new walk with the Lord, I still had lots of fear particularly about not upsetting God. I had not learned at that point how the enemy attacks our mind. It was in November 2008 on a plane going to see my daughter, that all of a sudden I had the thought that I had committed the unpardonable sin. The thought keep coming and coming and I could not stop it. It was so tormenting and I was terrified. I called my friend to pray for me but it did not help. I prayed to God asking Him to forgive me repenting for every sin I could possibly repent of. At one point, I was on the floor in my closet crying out to the Father saying, “God, I have repented for everything I can think of what do you want from me?” He said “It’s not me tormenting you but the devil” and He gave me Psalms 27.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall. (Psalm 27:1-2)
I reached out to a friend who talked me into going to a deliverance session. Well the enemy did not stop his pursuit in trying to stop me from fulfilling my God-given purpose. He used this deliverance session to hurt me more and cause more fear. I was so oppressed and depressed. I would have condemning thoughts and thoughts even against God. The people who were supposed to helped me abandoned me. The devil wounded my heart with the arrow of rejection. I had nowhere to turn but to God. It is during this time that the Lord taught me that the battlefield is in our mind. He taught me that nothing could separate me from Him and that I did not have to believe everything that “popped” in my head. He also showed me that He had given me authority over all the works of the enemy. I learned to speak out God’s Word and to meditated on it and not the evil the enemy would have me focus on. It took time but I pressed in and little by little, I took back the ground of my mind from the enemy. I was transformed by the renewal of my mind (Romans 12:2). I also allowed the Lord to heal my heart of rejection by forgiving those who hurt me. I am no longer easily offended because I know it is a tactic of Satan to derail me. I refused to give him a foothold in my life. I go quickly to God with any offense and by His grace forgive quickly. My journey to healing began by believing that my Heavenly Father loved me and had a good plan for my life. I gained trust in Him as Father and protector. Why am I sharing this with you? Well one reason is that during this mental attack I got sick. I had severe anemia from heavy periods and very low vitamin D. I was so tired I found it hard to get up and go to work everyday. This mental war made me physically and mentally sick. Fear was causing physical illness just like medical studies have shown.
Today, I am stronger and in better health than I have ever been. I have peace in my mind and I have no fear. Sure I feel fear at times but I go to the Father and He turns fear out the door. Maybe the enemy has not attacked your mind like he attack me, but if your mind is always going and is never at rest then you are being attack. The mental war causes physical exhaustion and can cause physical illness at some point. The mind is the battlefield. It is with the mind that we make choices everyday. It is with the mind that I choose what food I eat and if I will exercise or not. The enemy wants you to have Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and other illnesses to stop you from making a difference in this world. Don’t let Him. You can find peace and health and it is found in the perfect love of the Father. He is interested in every part of your life. He wants you to be heathy and to prosper in all things. He needs you to fulfill your God ordained purpose to bring life to a broken world.
3 John 1-2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers.
Deuteronomy 31:8 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) 8 It is the Lord Who goes before you; He will [march] with you; He will not fail you or let you go or forsake you; [let there be no cowardice or flinching, but] fear not, neither become broken [in spirit—depressed, dismayed, and unnerved with alarm].
A merry heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing. To obtain a cheerful mind and merry heart requires work. We must decide to think on things that are above or good. We must decide we want to feel better and be in health. We must decide not to allow our heart to be weight down with hurts or unforgiveness. We don’t have to do it alone. We have helper, the Holy Spirit, who gives us strength to overcome, to walk and not faint. In the last days, the bible tells us that men’s hearts will fail them because of fear (Luke 21:26). Fear is killing the church. Fear makes us critical and afraid to reach out to a hurting world. Fear makes us overly concerned about ourselves. Fear makes it ok to stay secure in the four walls of the church while a world is dying around us. Jesus died for you and me, the Muslim and the Hindu, the Buddhist and the broken in Spirit. We must tell the world of His great love. We don’t do this with a doctrine or religion but by showing the love, the peace, and the prosperity we have in Him. It’s His love that transform us. It is His love working through us that will transform cities and nations. Let Him transform you with His love and lead you to a life that is fearless. A life that knows no limitation because you understand that if God be for you who can be agianst you.