Healing Line

Healing Line

The Anatomy of Fear

by Linda Strickland
Jan/Feb 2011

The disciples had every reason to trust Jesus. They had watched Him heal all kinds of sickness, they had even witnessed demons scatter in His presence. Not to mention the personal relationship and friendship they had with Him. They knew Him better than anyone. But out on a boat, when a storm came up and threatened them, they all forgot who was in the boat with them. (Mark 4:35-41)

Have you ever noticed that fear creates a form of spiritual amnesia? It dulls our miracle memory. It makes us forget what Jesus has done and how faithful He is.

While my husband was in seminary we struggled financially. Before moving we both had good jobs that afforded us a comfortable lifestyle, but all of that changed as our income was dramatically slashed. Although God performed miracle after miracle in providing for us (we called it “loaves and fishes math”), I would still fret and worry each and every time it looked like we were going to be short. To say that I struggled with fear and spiritual amnesia during that time is an understatement!

Fear is a powerful thing! But it’s important to know the difference between God-given natural fear and a spirit of fear.

Natural, primal fear is a healthy function and it serves us well. A good dose of fear can keep a child from running into a busy street or from picking up a poisonous snake. Natural fear sets boundaries for us and can even give us physical strength when needed.

For many of us, though, our fears go well beyond natural fear. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear.” A spirit of fear can put us in bondage, cripple us and keep us from living a joyful life.

“When fear gets out of control it can be irrational and extreme. Some people will become afraid of everything and suffer from phobias. They are driven by their fears and compulsions. A phobia will cause us to want to escape from the world and avoid life and people.” (From CHM’s School of Healing Prayer III student manual, page 63, The Purpose of Fear).

The danger of living with a spirit of fear is that it can become a stronghold, and, once firmly attached, will shape our life.

In Max Lucado’s book, Fearless, he puts it this way: “When fear shapes our life, safety becomes our God. And when safety becomes our God we worship the risk-free life.” He then goes on to say, “The fear-filled cannot love deeply because love is risky. They cannot give to the poor because benevolence has no guarantee of return. The fear-filled cannot dream wildly. What if their dreams sputter and fall from the sky? The worship of safety emasculates greatness. No wonder Jesus wages such a war against fear!”

A spirit of fear can have a number of root causes, such as trauma. It can also come to us through our family of origin, where dysfunctional patterns of fear originated in past generations. But most of our fears grow out of experiences in life where we have been hurt. I have a friend who had a terrible marriage in which she was hurt over and over again. She has vowed to never love again. For her, it is no different than touching a hot stove and deciding to never do it again. Unfortunately for her, and many like her, she does not understand that fear is meant to be a guardrail, not a roadblock. Healthy fear keeps us between the ditches, but should not stop us.

After Paul tells us that God did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), he goes on to declare what He has given us: three things that are weapons we can use in our war against fear.

  1. Power - “I have given you all the authority over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).
  2. Love - “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
  3. A Sound Mind - “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3).

For most of us, each New Year usually brings a certain amount of change and/or transition into our lives. Change can be good as it pushes us to grow and often brings new people and relationships into our lives. However, change can also be uncomfortable and can cause us to feel anxious and fearful. This is the kind of fear that can hold us back.

In my life I have discovered that half of learning is learning what we don’t know and the other half is unlearning what we do know, which is twice as hard. It’s like missing a freeway exit - you have to double back.

We are all born with two fears: the fear of falling and loud noises. That means that all of our other fears are learned, and more importantly it means that they can be unlearned. We can actually unlearn fears that paralyze us and neutralize us. Unlearning can be a lengthy process, but it is well worth the effort.

If you are embarking on a journey this year where you will be required to embrace change and go through a transition that is making you feel fearful, I want to encourage you! This next destination just might be the place you’ve been asking God to take you.

So, what are you willing to give up that is keeping you from your next destination? How about fear?

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9

Happy Fearless New Year!


Linda Strickland Linda Strickland is CHM's Associate Director of Ministry and Assistant to Judith MacNutt. Jan/Feb 2011