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Over the years I’ve had many major bouts with fear that pops up uninvited, unexpected, and ferocious in its attack. I’m startled that I can be so shaken, so diminished, so tried by fears that my head labels irrational.
I’ve come to believe that fear vs. faith is one of the primary tests of mortality. Because of the fall, our natural man tendency is to be afraid. When we are not actively inviting the Spirit to influence our thoughts, it is so easy fall into fear, worry, doubt, and negative conclusions. Fear and negativity is the path of least resistance. I believe the adversary magnifies that tendency by planting fear thoughts in the soil of our minds on a regular basis. Although fear can be, on some occasions, part of the warning from the Holy Ghost to protect us from danger, more often fear is a fast-growing undesirable weed. Our challenge is to recognize fear weeds whenever they first appear and root them out by turning our thoughts to the Lord. If we feed and water them instead, they can grow like Jack’s beanstalk!
Because I have a soul-deep desire to live in light and truth, the best motivation I’ve found to weed out fear is simply to see that fear thoughts are almost always lies. In order to dig those fear weeds out by the roots I must be aware of them. I’m learning to challenge their truthfulness by taking the following steps:
The first step is to turn a floodlight on my thoughts, taking them out of the darkness of automatic pilot into mindfulness. In other words, I have to pay attention to what I am thinking. For Instance, a few years ago I started writing about the fears that were keeping me from even starting the project when I knew I had the heavenly assignment to create a book of comfort for those who had lost a loved one to suicide. I recognized and wrote down thoughts such as: “I’m not up to this task—physically, mentally, or emotionally. Besides, the very process of writing such a book is sure to drown me in grief.”
Such thoughts were creating all kinds of resistance to this book project. The fear thoughts were also creating bad feelings: self-doubt, dissatisfaction with my life, restlessness, guilt that I didn’t have the faith to move ahead. These negative thoughts filled me with fear that if I did try I would surely fail.
Once I had pinpointed the thoughts, the second step was to challenge them.
Challenge Your Thinking
In Randy J. Gibbs’ excellent new book, You Get to Say: Making Sense of Trials, Setback, and Negative Surprises, we read, “If negative and stressful feelings accompany your thoughts, that tells you that you are embracing a lie.”1
Well, the thoughts I mentioned above certainly qualified: negative and stressful feelings accompanied them. So Randy suggests we say, “Is this stressful thought really true? Can I know for certain that it’s true?” 2
“Toxic, fearful thoughts are harmful only because we wholeheartedly believe them. . . But negative feelings always signal to us that there is something twisted, distorted, or utterly flawed in our thinking.” 3 He explains that stressful feelings [such as fear] are always a function of untrue thoughts and beliefs. As our mind interprets, judges, and assigns meaning, it is vital to question our thoughts.
Think about it: the Holy Ghost is the voice of truth and comfort. Truth and comfort go together. The fruits of the Spirit are always peace, joy, and love—not fear and misery. So if a thought is making us anxious, upset, fearful, or diminished, we can be sure the thought originates from the natural man mind or from Satan’s promptings. (Probably both.) Most importantly, it is based on lies. (I have to interject here that Satan is a master at mixing the lie with just enough truth to make it seem plausible. That’s how he gets us to believe it.) But the Lord can help us sort out the truth from the lies.
Some of Satan’s primary tools are shame, fear, and discouragement. We can ask for the Spirit to help us see light and truth to keep him from using those tools to stop our progress. We can cast Satan out and follow, instead, the Lord’s pattern of encouragement, building on strengths, repenting and moving on when we see the need.
Letting Go of Fear
I’m happy to report that I overcame the fears referred to above in regard to writing that book. Fortunately, I did recognize and challenge my negative thoughts and saw them as the source of my doubt and fear. I kept feeling the promptings of the Spirit to proceed, so day by day I turned my fear over to the Lord, and asked Him to help me see the truth. I wrote down my fearful thoughts one by one and said, “Is that thought true? What could be more true?” I came to recognize that it was true that I wasn’t up to this task by myself. But the Lord wasn’t asking me to do it by myself. Not only would He help and strengthen me, but He would lead me to several other people who would give me support, feedback, and encouragement. He would also lead me to others who would provide relief from some of my physical and emotional problems.
Just by diving into the project I exposed the lie that doing so was going to drown me in grief. Instead I found myself immersed in the Spirit, comforted and uplifted.
With the Lord’s help I kept putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward one step at a time, truly not knowing beforehand how to proceed. Whenever fear again threatened my ability to move forward, (and it happened several times in the course of the writing) I wrote down my thoughts and challenged them, asking the Lord to help me see the truth. One time I was swamped with fear that nothing I had written so far was any good. Sweet friends who were giving me feedback rallied to encourage me. Brenda Floyd wrote, “You have met with a sort of resistance. Don’t let it dampen your inspiration. Keep going. Remember the purpose of your work.” Two other mothers assured me how much my writing had already helped them.
I turned to the scriptures and fastened my mind on the following verses, reading and repeating them often:
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear . . .” (Psalm 46: 1-2)
“God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
“Fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks.” (D&C 98:1)
Asking for the Lord’s help and moving ahead with the strength I found from the scriptures and the support from these friends helped me out of the fear over and over.
The truth was that the Lord wanted me to do this work and Satan didn’t. That became more and more apparent as I overcame one fear attack after another. The happy news is that the further I got into the work, the more the process yielded a harvest of love, joy, and peace. I didn’t expect it; I never would have anticipated it because of the hard topic of suicide I was dealing with.
The Great “Letting Go”
Why do we so often “sell the Lord short”—getting stuck in fear, forgetting that He is always true to His promises that are so abundantly given us in the scriptures. One of those promises is that when we follow the Spirit we will get the fruits of the Spirit! No wonder our Prophet, President Nelson, has so strongly counseled us to seek the Spirit and improve our ability to receive personal revelation. It truly is the key to our spiritual survival in these last days.
We live in the best of times and the worst of times. The worst is characterized by a tsunami of evil that threatens everything we hold dear. The best is great enlightenment and truth more readily available than ever before as the gospel light shines across the globe via the Internet. The best is the Spirit striving with amazing power to create a Zion people prepared to meet the Lord.
In order to take advantage of the best, we have to let go of the worst; we have to weed out Satan’s influence and Satan’s lies. More and more people are learning to be mindful—to discern between truth and lies and let go of the lies, false traditions, and false assumptions that can keep us in bondage.
We are living in a day of “the great letting go.” Most importantly, we need to let go of fear and our tendency to listen to Satan’s lies. We need to let go of the fear that we will never get what we most desire. We need to let go of the fear that holds us back from focusing on the true desires of our hearts. God is a God of joy, love, and compassion. When we overcome fear and follow our hearts and follow the Spirit we find all of those things.
Overcoming Fear of Lack
Especially in these difficult economic times, Satan would like to keep us in fear of that we will never have enough—not enough time, not enough money, not enough energy. He is the author of scarcity mentality. I suppose a good percentage of my fear has been from his efforts to convince me that I am not enough and don’t have enough of what I need to become more and do more.
However, God is a God of abundance: good measure, shaken down, running over. When we rise above fear and focus on the Lord we know there is enough of everything—because He makes up the difference. When we are weak, He is strong. When we are lacking, He strengthens and fortifies us. He has asked us to be yoked with Him so that His power works through and with us to accomplish His purposes. Our fear of lack is only a lack of seeing that with His help we can create more and that God can give more, which is always the case.
Socialism and communism are Satan’s plans, both based on lack. The law of consecration is God’s plan, based on the truth that there is enough and to spare as long as we are working with God’s help and sharing freely with all.
We need to shut Satan’s voice out of our minds and say, “I’m enough today for what God needs me to do because whatever I am lacking He makes up for. I have enough time and resources for what He wants me to do, because He would never require the impossible.”
Why We Can Be Sure Fear Is Based on Lies
Through this whole process I have become more and more convinced that fear is almost always based on lies because we are safe in God’s hands every moment. We are His children. His power prevails. We have all the scriptures and words of the Prophets to testify to those facts. Whether we live or die, we can trust God with the final outcome, so we are safe.
I have previously shared a special experience and feel inclined to share it here because it seems perfect to illustrate the point I am making:
A few years ago I was going through a hard time spiritually. One night I had an unusual dream—so real, so vivid. I saw myself driving alone up a narrow mountain road, shivering in the cold of a dark rainy night. Fear enveloped me. The road had no shoulder, no place I could turn around or pull over, much as I wanted to. I was driving slowly, carefully, higher and higher up the mountain, but the road was treacherous and slick with rain. As I approached a hairpin curve, I suddenly realized I could not hold the road. I’ve never been more terrified as my car sailed off into black dark nothingness. I was falling, helpless, knowing I was going to die. The only thing I could do was surrender to God—give myself totally over to Him. As I did so, my fear was swallowed up by the most intense, most amazing peace I have ever known. I felt and saw myself cradled, safe and warm, in God’s loving hands (just like I’ve seen pictures of the whole world in His hands) and nothing else mattered.
I woke up still wrapped in peace, and sat up in bed, amazed. The symbolic message was clear: In one of the most perilous circumstances I could imagine, the Lord had shown me I could trust Him implicitly. I am always in His hands, always spiritually safe regardless of outward danger. That message increases in importance as calamity and evil increases in this world.
I often come across scriptural passages that powerfully validate my dream, such as, “Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power?” (Mormon 5:23) and “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:6).
We can say “Get thee behind me Satan,” call on the Lord to help us, and ask specifically to have the Holy Ghost fill our minds with light and truth. God’s truth brings the opposite of the fear which is full of Satan’s lies.
Let’s fill our minds with faith, not fear. Let’s follow our Prophet’s counsel and make it our top priority to seek the Spirit, listen to, and follow the guidance and witness of truth the Spirit always gives.
1 Randy J. Gibbs, You Get to Say: Making Sense of Trials, Setback, and Negative Surprises, CFI, Springville, UT, 2010, p. 10
2 Ibid, pp. 14-15
3 Ibid, p. 13-14
Author Note: Learn more about the free offer for my book After My Son’s Suicide: An LDS Mother Finds Comfort in Christ and Strength to Go On by visiting my web site: www.darlaisackson.com