The Devastating Consequences of Fear

The Devastating Consequences of Fear

You can’t stop thinking about it–that fear that keeps you up at night, keeps you vigilant, keeps you looking for safeguards. It could be a health scare, fear for your kids, or a phobia. Whatever your fear, you are preoccupied with the terrible consequences you foresee. How would your kids cope without you? What if something happens to your child? What if you’re in a packed public place and you can’t get out?

None of the reassurances you get from statistics, family, or even doctors provide any comfort. The fear doesn’t lose its grip on you. Want to watch this in video form instead? Scroll down!

Devastating Consequences of Fear

As a trained Christian psychologist, I know how to treat anxiety. Pharmacotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and biblical counseling can be very effective in treating anxiety. Yet, there is evidence that anxiety is on the rise. I’ve noted a significant increase in the number of people I know who suffer with anxiety. Despite being very familiar with anxiety, I suffered with it myself.

The Truth That Can Set Us Free From Fear

If you suffer from chronic fear, I urge you to seek help from a Christian counselor experienced in treating anxiety disorders or a cognitive-behavioral therapist. In the meantime, consider this truth:

Fear Quote

Before I explain, I’d like to direct you to 1 Samuel. David had been promised by God (with much confirmation) that he would be the next king of Israel.

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of theLord came powerfully upon David. 1 Samuel 16:13

We, too, have the promises of God: eternity with Him; He will never leave or forsake us; nothing can take us out of His hand; all our needs will be met; we will be comforted in our trials; all things will work together for our good, and many more. Like David, we have had the promises of God confirmed many times. Can you recall a time of God’s provision, presence, or peace in fearful times in the past? I definitely can.

Yet, despite God’s confirmed promise to David, David feared that Saul would kill him. He wouldn’t be king after all. Now there aren’t many things more terrifying than being chased after by a murderous madman, so I sympathize with David. But the consequence of David’s fear was eminently more devastating than even his own death.

David fled to Ahimelek the priest and lied to him about why he was in Nob because he feared Saul. The end result of David’s fear was the murder of 85 priests and the entire town of Nob, including children and infants. What’s more devastating than losing your life? Being responsible for the murder of an entire town full of people. Can you imagine the guilt he must have felt?

You’d think that David would have learned his lesson and would have trusted God to protect him, but no. His next fear-induced decision was to go to live amongst the Philistines. There, he consoled himself, he would be safe from Saul. But the devastating consequence was that his wives and his men’s wives and possessions were taken. His men were so upset with David about this turn of events that they nearly stoned him to death. Would it have been more devastating to be responsible for losing your family, your men’s family, and to be killed by your own men than by Saul? I think so! If you don’t know how the story ends, read 1 Samuel.

Are the Consequences of Fear Really More Devastating Than What We’re Afraid Of?

“Okay, Melanie,” you may be thinking. “That was David in Bible times. What I’m afraid of is much worse than the consequences of my fear.”

Don’t be so sure. Allow me to use fears you may be able to relate to for the purposes of discussion.

Are you afraid for your own health?

I was. I had symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a disease my mother has. I was so terrified I wouldn’t see a doctor. I didn’t want to hear the diagnosis. I began a diet and supplement regimen I hoped would cure me. It left me twenty pounds underweight, had me experiencing nearly every physical symptom you can imagine, and had my family and friends fearful for my life and sanity. What my fear did to me was much worse than multiple sclerosis could ever do. When I finally decided to trust God (and that was a process that required much prayer and meditation on Scripture), my physical symptoms disappeared. The book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie is full of accounts of people whose terminal illnesses disappeared when the fear did.

Are you afraid of losing someone you love?

Surely the consequences of your fear aren’t worse than having your loved one die? Not so fast. People who are afraid of losing a loved one typically make their loved ones so miserable with their constant worrying and unnecessary rules that their loved one no longer wants to be with them. Isn’t it more devastating to have your child or your spouse leave you by choice than by God’s sovereignty? I have had the opportunity to know godly people who have experienced the loss of a child. Their testimony is that God has given them grace to endure the loss. You will literally have Jesus’ ability to cope if you need it.

Are you afraid of flying or crowds or failing?

If you have a fear like these, do you think the consequences of your fear are more benign? Wrong! Do you remember the parable of the talents? Servants were given bags of gold: one was given one, one was given two, and one was given five.  Why did the servant who made no return on his money bury it? Because he was afraid. What was the consequence? He was called wicked and lazy and his money was taken from him. He was thrown into the darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I’m not suggesting our fears will send us to hell. Rather, this account suggests that the consequences of our fear includes separation from God. Ultimately, my own fear was like the wicked servant’s. I was afraid of God because I didn’t see Him as the good, loving God that He is. I didn’t believe His promises any more than David did when he was running from Saul.

The second devastating consequence of these kinds of fears is missed opportunities. We don’t know that the servant who buried his money saw the money the other servants earned or not. But won’t we realize our lost opportunities either at the end of our lives or when we give an accounting to God?

What would God have done in you and through you if you’d gotten on that flight? What if that crowded Christian concert you were too afraid to attend would have renewed your faith and confirmed that mission God has for you? What if you had written that book, gone into business, or started a ministry and you had changed people’s lives? Regret, my friend, is more devastating than anything you fear.

 

What will you do now?

Fear is appropriate when our proposed actions are foolish or disobedient, but fear isn’t appropriate when God has clearly called us to act, trusting in Him.

If you suffer with chronic anxiety, recognize that it is the most treatable mental illness. Make an appointment, and ask your loved ones to pray for you and to go with you for support. I’m praying for you!

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Airplane Anxiety

Airplane Anxiety

A psychologist's funny account of airplane anxiety, humor

I’m a psychologist, and as such, I try to present myself as being mentally healthy. That facade will be put to rest today.

There are only two things that make me anxious and I experienced them both together as I traveled home from a speech tournament with my oldest son yesterday.

The first thing that gets my OCD juices flowing is public restrooms. I really, really hate using them. It isn’t so much that I am afraid that I will pick up germs from someone as it is that I’m grossed out thinking about who has been in there before me and what they’ve been doing. I am not going to try to justify my abnormality. I tell you this only to explain the events of the day.

As I boarded the plane, I was feeling the call of nature mildly. I have an exceptionally big and strong bladder from years of avoiding using public restrooms. I figured I could certainly make it until the plane landed, at which point I would be forced to use a public restroom at the next airport. Later is always better when you’re anxious.

I smartly refused all beverages on the plane, but it was too late for my bladder because I had had a coffee drink before boarding. I debated with myself for a good hour about whether or not I could survive more than a three-hour flight without using the restroom. The stakes were high. Literally. While I have a distate for public restrooms, I have an all-out aversion for airline bathrooms. I believe in all my 43 years, I have used one once. The experience imprinted upon me the necessity of avoiding a repeat performance.

Anyone who shares my disgust for public toilets does not need me to explain why I was flipping out at the prospect of having to use the bathroom on the plane. But for the rest of you, I will give details.

  • Men are using the same restroom
  • It’s the size of a casket
  • The flush is a massive suction effect that threatens to take you with it
  • Poor ventilation
  • Impossible to hover
  • No bathroom attendant keeping things neat

The other horrors I got to experience firsthand. As I saw over an hour left in the flight, I knew that the misery of holding it had surpassed the misery of the airplane toilet experience. I got up and started making my way to the back. Right then the man sitting behind me decided he would go too. Wonderful. He was in front of me. Standing up made me realize that I really, really had to go.

The toilets were both occupied. For. a. long. time. The only thing that made it better was that the man who was going to use the toilet before me looked just as uptight as I felt. Finally one opened up and he entered. Meanwhile, a sizable line formed behind me. Another bladder age passed and I was finally able to get in there. That’s when my second source of anxiety kicked in: turbulence.

I hate turbulence. It brings to mind all those horrifying airplane crashes I’ve experienced with Tom Hanks, the cast of Lost, and others. The worst turbulence I had experienced personally was a dramatic loss of altitude after flying out of Philadelphia immediately post-9/11. People were screaming. My anxiety level was a 12 on a 1-10 scale.

In that frame of mind, I locked the door and felt like I was in an outhouse connected to the back of a speed boat. The ride was so bumpy that I was doing well to stand up at all. There wasn’t any way I could even get my pants down. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized that I better get busy or the anxiety would finish the job for me, toilet or no.

I’ve already mentioned that you can’t hover in an airplane restroom. I was hopeful that I could at least put toilet paper on the seat. As I tried in vain to get the paper to stick, my third fear kicked in. I wondered what on earth the poor full-bladdered souls in line were thinking of me. As the plane continued to bounce through the air, I realized that any germs I would get on my hiney couldn’t kill me because the plane crash would get me first. I sat down, did my business, cleaned up, and made my way back to my seat, physically and emotionally relieved.

I was actually kind of proud of myself for overcoming my fear. (Pathetic, I know, as I was forced into it). The turbulence calmed down and in no time at all, we prepared to land. That’s when the pilot came on the intercom and announced that there was “weather” at the airport and that we would be in a holding pattern.

Fear number four kicked in: tornadoes. Our airport was recently damaged in a tornado. I wondered how terrifying it must have been for the passengers who were on planes as those storms went through. I reassured myself that we were safe and sound in a holding pattern. Until the turbulence kicked in again.

I called to mind all my psychology tricks to get me through the next 30 minutes of turbulence and announcements that we still couldn’t land because of “weather.” I wondered if this was akin to calling cancer a “health matter.” I praised God from A to Z, imagined myself back home and hugging my kids, took deep breaths, relaxed my tense muscles, and reassured myself that crashing wouldn’t be painful. Hopefully. All of these things really did help and we were finally able to land without incident.

I headed to the restroom once in the terminal, delighted to see that they had automatic plastic covers on the toilets. I sat down gleefully and relieved myself. After I stood up, I read the instructions for the plastic covers indicating how to get a new clean cover–instructions that I hadn’t used. Oh well.

I praise God that He got me home safely to my beloved family last night, dirty hiney and all.

Can you relate to any of my fears? If so, do you have any tips for dealing with them?

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Photo Credit: Creative Commons epSos.de

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