He is bigger than our fears
Anxiety tends to lie to me. Sometimes it can tell the truth, but most of the time it boldface lies or tells half-truths (which are still lies). It tells me that I can only depend on myself to vet every situation of danger. It tells me to be ready for threats at all times and that I am not safe, even if I am. It tells me that I have to see threats coming or else I won’t survive. Anxiety shouts all kinds of things, and most of the time they are lies.
Have you ever stayed awake late at night or woken in the middle of the night anxious about something? And then the next morning, you do an eye roll at yourself for losing sleep over something like that. I have. Anxiety can magnify even the smallest concern a hundred-fold, especially at night. It zooms in on something scary or uncertain, making it seem worse than the reality. A supervisor once told me it’s like seeing a tiger instead of a cat: the animal may be foreign or unfamiliar, but anxiety tells you it’s bigger and more threatening than it really is. It amplifies the unknown to the point that we can see and hear nothing else, because it’s the unknown that we fear the most. Not only that, but it hijacks us back to past fears or catapults us into other fears of future unknowns.
Anxiety is hard to fight because it’s a really good liar; it tricks our bodies into believing that we’re in more danger than we are. Therefore, the threat is not just perceived in our mind, it’s also felt physically with shallow breathing, tightening muscles, a rapid heartbeat, and sweaty palms. So, it feels real because anxiety is real, even though the actual “threat” may not be.
While it’s difficult to discern what’s true in the midst of anxiety, it’s crucial to get grounded in the present and what we know to be true. It’s also important to be willing to accept that our eyes may be seeing something more than what is in front of us, as that is the nature of anxiety. In the face of the unknown or in the midst of helplessness, it is good to remember what is known and what can be done. Our faith grounds us in the truth that God is our good Shepherd who looks after His sheep and that He will never leave or forsake us. It is good to recall past moments of the real experiential faithfulness of the Lord. It may not make anxiety go away completely, but it orients us more to what’s real. It is agreeing with Isaiah that “when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” (43:2) That’s not to say there won’t be trials or anxiety-producing situations or triggers, but we can renounce the lies by knowing that the Lord is with us and He is greater than our fears.
Mollie Souza is a Counselor for The Barnabas Center. She has her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee where she majored in Spanish as well as her Master of Arts in Christian Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is especially passionate about helping individuals who are working through grief, doubts, trauma, relationships, anxiety, depression, self-esteem/identity issues, seasons of loneliness, family of origin issues, and divorce.