There is a category of fear that encompasses many fears that is hard to name, a category that is hard to attach a label to. Because of this, I almost didn’t write this article. But I couldn’t bring myself to hit the “delete” button out of the overwhelming sense that some of you reading this cannot move forward in purpose and passion because of these fears. Fears that many would label “irrational.”
These fears are the hardest for me to write about, yet it is where my fears have taken up the most space. Sharing my fear of the irrational requires a deep level of vulnerability. Many fears are relatable and easy to identify with; however, the irrational ones, or as I like to call them, “fear of the unexplainable,” are different in nature. These fears are the hardest to describe to others because, from an outside perspective, they don’t make sense. But, when you are experiencing these fears, walking in the muck and mire of what feels like is swallowing you whole, it is all too real.
Hopefully, just reading that another person deals with these types of fears puts you at ease. Until now, you have believed that you are alone in your fight. Please hear me: you are not alone.
Peanut Butter and Honey Toast
I couldn’t have been more than seven years old. It was a typical day filled with morning cartoons, homeschool lessons, and play. Morning came and went; before I knew it, it was lunchtime. Lunch at the Murrow household often included a peanut butter wrap or toast. For those unfamiliar with the term “peanut butter wrap,” let me enlighten you. This “delicacy,” or, as one might say, “A lousy substitution for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” includes a flour tortilla, peanut butter, and, if you are lucky, honey. And as you might have guessed, you spread the peanut butter and honey on the tortilla, roll it up, and just like that, you have a wrap. On this particular day, however, the toast was chosen as the foundation for the peanut butter, and, because my mother loves me, honey.
As my mom prepared lunch, I stood close by, eager to play my part in constructing the peanut butter and toast. Barely tall enough to see over the counter, I patiently waited for the bread to pop up from the base of the toaster. After what I am sure felt like an eternity, the toast finally made its way to the surface. We spent the next few minutes assembling lunch.
After lunch came clean-up, which would include unplugging the toaster and tucking it away in its designated location inside the kitchen cabinet, the moment that happened next would send me spiraling into the realm of the irrational for far too long:
“Mom, can you unplug the toaster? “I asked. As I voiced this simple request, I simultaneously thought: “if she gets electrocuted while pulling out the plug, it would be my fault.” For some reason, this thought, a thought most would dismiss as silly, I wasn’t able to excuse it as such. Instead, I took hold of it and stewed on it, immersing myself deeper and deeper into a crazy cycle of illogical fears. The following fears I faced this season had one common denominator: my mom getting hurt. For months, I carefully calculated the potential risks of my requests:
If I asked her to get me something I left in the van, would she be at risk of getting hit by another vehicle?
If I asked her to pick up a toy for me, would she be at risk of falling, busting her head, or worse?
If I asked her to drive me somewhere, was she at risk of getting hurt in a car accident?
For months these fears robbed me of experiencing the joys of childhood. Instead of planning what I would play and create that day, I spent my time and energy coming up with ways to ensure my mom didn’t get hurt. It was exhausting.
This instance is not my only account of my time spent on the battlefield of the unexplainable. I could list several other examples, both during adolescence and adulthood, highlighting the wars I have fought in this battle. And for someone who has struggled in this space for so long, you would assume I could outline an exact formula for finding the way out. But the truth is, I can’t describe exactly how I reached the other side of each of these fears; I can’t pinpoint it to one single thing. Instead, I wholeheartedly believe each victory was won due to God’s faithfulness played out through a culmination of different battle tactics. I want to share the tactics with those of you who currently find yourself in the realm of the irrational. I want to give you hope as you bravely fight back against the actual author of confusion.
Encouragement for the Weary
My friend, if I could reach through the pages of this article and hug you, I would because I know how hard this fight is. I know it produces feelings of anger, sadness, desperation, loneliness, exhaustion, and defeat. I know how it feels to go from gaining an inch of ground one day to waking up the next morning to find yourself back where you started. I know the solutions that seem so simple to someone feel so complex to you. I know the urge to wave your white flag, signaling to the enemy your choice to live in constant torment instead of fighting back. Trust me, I get it. And as someone who has walked in similar shoes, I urge you to put down that flag because your fight is not over; victory is possible.
Here is some encouragement as you continue to wage war:
1. Root Yourself in Scripture.
Immersing ourselves in Scripture is an essential battle tactic in our fight against the enemy, and Scripture tells us it is one of the most effective ammunition when fighting (Ephesians 6).
In college, I was dealing with yet another fear of the irrational. During this time, I heavily relied on my husband and parents to help me fight (we will get to the importance of this later on). Knowing that I was struggling to drown out the lies of the enemy, my mother and one of her close friends compiled a list of Scriptures and wrote them on index cards for me. These cards were a lifeline during a very dark period in my life. Anytime I felt overcome with fear, I would pull them out, read them and claim them over my life. In doing so, the death grip started to loosen slowly.
When you are weary and tired, quick access is valuable. Having to pause and search takes away valuable fighting time. And let’s face it when you are drained, picking up the Bible can seem like an impossible task, searching through its pages, even a bigger one. If you currently find yourself in a state of exhaustion, I have included some of my favorite verses from my index cards for quick access as you fight your battles. I encourage you to write out Scripture on your own index cards and carry them wherever you go. When you are tempted to wave your white flag, instead of reaching for the flag of surrender, reach for the cards of truth.
Below, I have listed some of my favorite Scriptures from my index cards to help you get started:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” 1 John 4:18
“No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:20
“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
“He will not allow your foot to slip, your protection will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep!” Psalm 121:3-4
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. Save me, oh Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.” Psalm 120:1-2
2. Prayer is Powerful.
Prayer is another powerful weapon in pushing back against the enemy’s schemes. However, when you have been battling for what seems like forever, it can be easy to lose hope when you feel your prayers aren’t being heard or answered. I get it…..
When I was in college, fighting on the battlefield of the irrational, I remember the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion from continuing to pray and plead over and over for God to bring me out of the pit of fear and torment, for Him to lift this burden from me. There were days I could hardly bring myself to mutter one word in prayer because I was just too tired. If you have found yourself fighting any fear, I am sure you can relate to this to some degree. Fighting the same battle over and over takes a lot out of you; it’s easy to want to tap out of the fight because you feel as though you are too weak to keep going. After taking punch after punch from the enemy, it’s hard to stand up, let alone fight back.
If you currently find yourself nearly knocked out cold from the blows from the enemy, please allow me to provide you with some more hope and encouragement.:
- Jesus is interceding for you.
Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus is interceding on our behalf. So, when you can’t find the strength to utter one more word, know Jesus is doing it for you. This doesn’t mean we stop praying, but what it does mean is when we are too weak or weary to come up with words on our own, Jesus has us covered.
- Jesus sees the whole picture.
It can be challenging to see past the battlefield while waging war, but Jesus sees what we can’t. He sees how EVERYTHING is working out for your good, and He sees the beautiful masterpiece He is building from the ashes of your battle. Today, choose to trust Him- cling to Him, knowing He is the Hero of every battle you face and has already won the war!
- It won’t last forever.
Friend, I pray that Jesus does remove you from this battlefield- that you would no longer have to wage war on the fears you currently are facing. But the truth is, I can’t promise you that is His plan for you. This doesn’t mean you stop waging war against the enemy, nor does it mean you stop praying for deliverance. You absolutely continue to wage war and continue stay hopeful, knowing that while you may not see deliverance on this side of heaven, there is a day when you will no longer have to fight. A time is coming when this fight will cease, and the void of your battle cries will be replaced with never-ending peace.
Below, I have provided a few short but powerful prayers for you to pray when you feel too tired to muster up more than a sentence:
Jesus deliver me.
Jesus heal me.
Jesus help me to trust you.
Jesus help me to live eternity-minded.
3. Invite a Voice of Reason.
When you are weak and weary, it can be challenging to differentiate truth from lies. In these moments, you need to invite others to help you fight and be the voice of reason when you can’t be that for yourself.
When dealing with irrational fears in college, countless times I would go to trusted loved ones to have them walk me through why my fears were unwarranted- to talk me through yet again why my fears were irrational. It’s important to note that sometimes one explanation wasn’t enough; sometimes it would take one time, and sometimes it would take 20+ times of explaining before the fog would lift, and I could see more clearly.
So, who is your voice of reason? Who has God positioned in your life to fight with you to help you see more clearly? Identify those people, then extend an invitation, inviting them to help you clear out the fog surrounding you. I know asking can be challenging, but trust me, you need backup, and the sooner you have a backup, the better!
Encouragement for the Voice of Reason
For some of you reading this, maybe you’re not the one currently on your battlefield of the fear of the irrational, but you are on the battlefield of another, fighting alongside them. Your current position comes with its own set of trials, which can also bring forth exhaustion and frustration; because of this, I didn’t want to finish the article without giving you encouragement, too.
- Stay Patient, and Don’t Retreat.
It is easy to get frustrated when you have to continue to walk someone through their fears repeatedly to show them their fears aren’t warranted. First, I want to tell you that this reaction is normal, and you are not a horrible person because of it. It’s easy to get frustrated because your loved one isn’t seeing what appears so easy to understand. You can start to feel that what you are telling them isn’t effective because it seems it isn’t doing any good. Once again, please hear me: it is helping. Yes, you may have to walk them through it several times, but know that each time you do, it is helping chip away the fog. Don’t stop, don’t wave your white flag (yes, you have one, too), and say, “I am done,” because I promise your role on the battlefield is crucial. When you start to feel that frustration creeping in, ask the Lord for renewed patience, wisdom, and discernment. He may give you new battle tactics that you haven’t used before.
- Seek Your Own Backup.
While you are fighting alongside a loved one, you need your own friend fighting with you- a friend who is praying for you, encouraging you, a friend to seek wisdom from. You need someone fighting alongside you just as much as your friend needs you fighting alongside them. You need a safe place to go to when you need to be refreshed and refueled. This isn’t a weakness; this is a smart battle strategy. The more people we have waging war with us, the more effective we will be on the battlefields of life. So, find your people and invite them in for backup. You need people, too!
A Final Thought
Now, I can close. 🙂 I leave you with this:
What you consider your greatest fear can become your greatest catalyst for purposeful living. Had you asked me this twenty years ago or even ten years ago, I would have had a different answer for you. But today, standing on the other side, I am here to tell you that what the enemy fashioned to be a thorn in your side may be the thing that the Lord wants to redeem for His glory and the good of others.
KEEP WAGING WAR!
Your Fighting Partner,