Overcoming the Enemy of Fear
by Becky Harling
We arrived in Nigeria, Africa, exhausted. The big friendly smile of our driver greeted us at the airport. Hearing the sound of my husband Steve’s voice conversing with our driver, I fell asleep in the back of the van. Moments later, I heard my husband’s voice calling me from my rest, “Beck, wake up! This would be a good time to pray!” The urgency in his voice woke me from my peaceful slumber. I opened my eyes to see our van surrounded by teenage boys—all yelling and pointing AK47 machine guns at us.
To be truthful, I had felt fearful about coming on this trip. Stories of the terrorist group Bocca Haram had filled the news in the months before we left the States. The trip was important to my husband. He desperately wanted to return to the country where he spent the majority of his childhood, and he wanted me with him.
As I sat in the van that day, watching our driver arguing with the young men holding machine guns, I whispered a prayer: “Lord, I praise You that this is not catching you off guard. I feel fearful, but Lord, I trust You. If I die in the next few moments, help me to enter heaven praising you.” Then I launched into praising God through the alphabet. Why? Because it was a great place for my mind to go rather than spinning scenarios about what might or might not happen. In those moments, I experienced the peace that passes all understanding. After about 45 minutes of arguing and a pay-off of about $100.00, our driver got back in the van and the teens let us through. That wasn’t the last of the fear I would feel on our trip.
A week later, my husband was invited to preach in a village church. The only problem? A week before, Bocca Haram had entered a village church about 20 minutes away and shot all the believers who attended. Steve told me I didn’t need to go to church with him—that I could stay on the guarded compound where we were staying. God began to speak to my heart, “Becky, will you step past your fear and join me tomorrow. Will you live your message of turning your panic into praise?” I did go to church that Sunday morning, and looking back, it was one of the highlights of our ministry life. The exuberance of the African worshippers inspired me far beyond what I am able to communicate in this article. If I had let my fear hold me back, I never would have experienced the joy and passion I witnessed that day.
Honestly, fear has been my battle since I was a little girl. We live in a dangerous world, right?! I’m guessing you’ve felt fear even in the last few months as you’ve watched news reports of COVID ravishing the globe, heard reports of racial injustice and riots, and watched the economy decline. I’ve been told that most of what we fear never comes about, yet in the moment of our angst, it feels overwhelming. Fear can serve a purpose. It can alert us to danger and provide the adrenaline rush to flee. But how do we control our fear so that fear doesn’t control us?
Here are a few tips that have helped me:
Practice Unleashing the Power of Praise. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat heard that Judah was surrounded by enemies who were getting ready to attack. He felt alarmed. No kidding! I’d be alarmed too, wouldn’t you? After Jehoshaphat inquired of the Lord, he decided that Judah would go into battle praising the Lord. Can you imagine? There’s really never been a crazier battle plan. But as the people of God marched into battle singing God’s praises, He set ambushes against the enemies and Judah emerged victorious.
When I am afraid, I practice praising God for His character traits. As I praise Him, my mind shifts from what I’m afraid of to the only One who can sovereignly protect me. I often use the alphabet. Think about it. You know the alphabet by heart, right? Use it to praise through the attributes of God.
Build an Emergency Verse Kit. Satan is the enemy of our souls, and he wants to get us all wrapped up in fear. When I feel afraid, I immediately start reciting my emergency verses. Some of my favorites are Psalm 46, Psalm 91, Psalm 27:1-2 and Philippians 2:9-11. I have these verses memorized so that when I need them, I don’t have to go looking for them.
Have a few verses that you’ve committed to memory that you can access in your thinking the next time panic tries to overwhelm you. Then clobber the enemy of your soul with Scripture!
Do It Afraid! Honestly, the call to follow Jesus never came with a guarantee of safety and security. When Jesus called us to follow Him, He was inviting us to a lifetime of adventure. God consistently calls us to get out of our comfort zones. Sometimes you’re going to feel scared to death. Take a risk and just do it afraid. As you do the thing that God is calling you to do, you’ll find that He gives you courage and comfort along the way. Here’s the thing: He doesn’t give that comfort beforehand. He gives it in the moment you need it.
Remember me in that van surrounded by teen boys with machine guns? Well, as I prayed and praised God, He gave me peace. Whatever God calls you to, He will provide the grace in that moment. Trust Him. His plans for you are good even when they’re scary! Learn the power of praising God, memorize a few emergency verses, and just do it afraid. I guarantee His presence will go with you and provide the comfort you need in the moment.
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