Toxic Fear

Last week I did a post about the first video in a series by Craig Groeschel called Soul Detox. I was really impressed with his teaching on toxic language. I taught the second video today in Sunday school and thought I’d share about what Craig calls “Scared Pollution” or toxic fear.

The gist of the video is pretty simple – there are four common fears that we encounter and they affect how we live our lives. Craig says those fears are:

  • Fear of Loss
  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Rejection
  • Fear of the Unknown

Each of these fears can make us put our faith not in God but in the “What ifs” in life. For example, if you fear loss, you start thinking things such as “What if my wife leaves me?” or “What if I lose my job?” If your fear is failure, you think, “What if I fail at work?” or “What if I fail to meet my goals?” You see how this work. There are thousands of what if statements that can run through your head ranging from  what if people won’t be my friend because I am a Christian to what if this lump turns out to be cancer? These what ifs in our life can be paralyzing!

One of the really important thing Craig points out is what we fear reveals what we value most and what we fear shows where you trust God the least.

Chew on that for a second. See if it is true in your life.

When I thought about that statement – which is pretty challenging by the way – I felt Craig was right at least for me. My two areas of fear have to do with financial security and with not being abandoned. Having grown up poor and had people taken from me when I was a child, I am very weak in these areas. So when I am challenged in those areas, I tend to be fearful and instead of relying on God – trusting Him to provide for me – I take control and try to do things in my own power. How about you, have you experienced the same thing?

I taught the class today that when we get like this, we start making fear-based decisions instead of faith-based decisions. Here is why that is bad. First I asked the class to think back over their life and tell me a time when God abandoned them or let them down. Nobody could come up with a time. I pointed out that in the middle of our life’s crises we often feel as if God isn’t there, but when it’s all said and done and we can look back on things in a rational state of mind, we always see where God was. Perhaps not how we thought He would intervene, but always there.

Next, I explained that God has all sorts of blessings He wants to give us, but sometimes He can’t because we’ve decided not to make faith-based decisions, but fear-based. It’s kind of like dealing with children. If you’re a parent, there are times you really want to give your kids all you can. But then they do something really stupid and you have to withhold that stuff from them – you can’t provide blessings to them when they act out, because you would be rewarding wrong or bad behavior. Same with God. When you choose to do things in your own power or worse, don’t trust God to do what He already has proved to you He will do in your life, He cannot bless you as fully as He would like. So even though the decisions you made out of fear seemed to work out, it would have worked out SO much better had you trusted God and made faith-based decisions instead.

That said my experience is the opposite. When I have made fear-based decisions I have created self-fulfilled prophecies of doom! For an example, because I have abandonment issues I will project those on those closest to me. Instead of trusting God to keep people in my life, I have in the past tried to control those people so they wouldn’t leave. How do you think those fear-based decisions worked out in my life? Crappy. Lost everything because of it, fulfilling what I thought would happen.

Fear can affect you many ways, including,

  • Mentally
  • Emotionally
  • Physically
  • Spiritually
  • Relationally

Simply put, it sucks to live a life based on fear instead of living an abundant life based on God’s love and care for you.

So how do you go from making fear-based decisions to faith-based decisions? First you have to recognize what decisions you make that are based on fear, which means understanding yourself well enough to know your fears and demons. Next, you have to stop being so defensive and protective of yourself! This is the hard part!

I shared with the class today that one of the issues we face is not placing negative value on stuff in our life. Here’s what I mean. An older woman in class today was struggling. She clearly had a wound of some sort on her nose and it was bandaged. She shared as she choked up that her wound may be cancer. She had beaten before, but it may be back. She was really hurting. These are tough moments for a teacher!

On the one hand you want to console and show compassion. But on the other you want to explain that she has placed too much negative value on this issue! God has never abandoned her and never will regardless of the outcome. She is making a fear-based decision to approach her issue with trepidation. I want her to make a faith-based decision to approach her issue with the understanding that God will provide and be full of joy because her God loves her. See what I mean?

I reminded the class that there is an easy way to tell if we are in the right place to make faith-based decisions. Galatians 5 tells us that when we are right with God we will have the spiritual fruit. When I am in the right place with God I will feel peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. On the other hand, when I am making fear-based decisions I will feel exactly opposite. I will feel agitated, angry or irritated, unloving, judgmental, will say and do unkind things, and I will not be self-controlled but will instead be a jerk. I do these things because I am relying on myself instead of God and I am feeling defensive, trying to avoid emotional pain. It never works out well for me when I am like this, and unfortunately, it doesn’t work out well for those around me either. I work REALLY hard not to fall into the trap of losing my connection with God and thus losing the spiritual fruit!

David tells us in Psalm 34 that he went to the Lord and the Lord delivered him from all his fears. God can and will do the same for you if you allow it! If you’re the type that falls into the trap of making fear-based decisions, reach out to God and let Him in. Try hard to make faith-based decisions even when it’s hard to trust God and your fear is the unknown.

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