We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. [2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NLT)]
Bad things happen, unforeseen events occur, and every one of us will eventually become a fatality statistic of some kind. A certain amount of fear or caution is wise in our unpredictable world. Most of us, however, are rather selective in our fears. We obsess over things about which we have little or no control and ignore those things over which we do. We don’t want to give up control to the pilot when the odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 11 million but trust our driving when the odds of a fatal car crash are 1 in 5 thousand! While we are far more likely to die of heart disease (1 in 6), we tend to obsess about things like dying in a terrorist attack (1 in 20 million). In actuality, we are fourteen times more likely to die in our bathtubs and twenty-five times more likely to die by choking on our food than in a terrorist attack, but we prefer not to think about that while bathing or eating.
A younger friend has begun to let unfounded fears control her life. Instead of healthy fears that keep her prudent and sensible, her unwarranted fears are starting to diminish her enjoyment of life. Afraid to take the elevator, no matter how inconvenient, she chooses to take the stairs. While some of us may take the stairs for fitness, she takes them out of fear. There are, however, only 27 deaths per year attributed to elevators but 1,000 deaths a year are attributed to taking the stairs. When taking a plane, my friend’s fear and anxiety cause her to turn to alcohol and tranquilizers when the odds of dying from that combination are much greater than the odds of dying in a plane crash.
God doesn’t want us to live in fear of anything other than Him and that kind of fear is one of respect, veneration, and reverence; it is also a healthy fear of displeasing Him. Fear of God is a positive and productive fear that actually empowers us. Terrifying and paralyzing fear are not in God’s plan for us. The enemy, however, hates to see us happy or living life to the fullest and one of his best weapons is irrational fear. The Apostle Paul told us we can defeat the enemy’s plan by capturing those fearful thoughts.
When unfounded fear starts disturbing my thoughts, I picture a small fellow (looking a bit like Ziggy of comic strip fame) who carries a butterfly net. He is powered by God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, prayer and a large portion of common sense. His job is to chase after those baseless fears that flit around in my thoughts. Once they’re captured, he stomps on them and demolishes their power. He must start when those fearful thoughts first appear because, given time, they can multiply and grow large as vultures. For most of us, most of the time, that little God-powered guy is all we need to capture our fearful thoughts and defeat the enemy’s destructive plan.
With more than 19 million people affected by an anxiety disorder every year, however, even the most devout Christian can be stricken by mental illness. When our fears seem to overpower us, begin to interfere with everyday functioning, or become unrelenting or destructive, there may be issues that call for professional counseling or medical help. Christians are human; we can be afflicted and in need of healing as much as anyone else and should never hesitate to get mental health care when necessary. For those common “garden variety” types of fear, however, get out that net and start capturing those fearful thoughts.