What do you do when you are really afraid?
I’m talking about the kind of afraid that grips you when you are standing in the doctor’s office waiting for the diagnosis, or when the phone rings in the middle of the night, and it’s not a wrong number.
That all-consuming, I-can-hardly-breathe kind of fear that consumes every thought in your mind and every cell in your body.
What do you do? Do you clutch on to control? Shrink back inside yourself? Put on a happy face so no one knows?
If you are like me, maybe you’ve tried all of the above. There are a lot of ways we can react to fear, but they are not all necessarily good or helpful.
The thing is, when we find ourselves in the grips of intense fear, it’s already too late to evaluate how we will respond — which coping mechanism we will grasp on to — because at that point, we are in survival mode, relying on instincts.
That’s why I think it’s important to talk about fear now, in the relative calm of life.
When we gaze at fear like this, it’s almost as if we can see it from an outside perspective. It helps to get a grasp on ways to overcome the fear, so when it starts to push in all around, we are better equipped to deal with it.
So here are a few things I’ve learned (and am still learning) about handling fear:
1. The power of mini prayers.
In those moments of fear (especially intense fear), I like to use catch-phrases — mini prayers — that are just a few words.
These are prayers I can whisper when I don’t know what else to say. One of my favorites is, “Lord, save me!” I pray this when I feel like I’m drowning in anxiety.
And sometimes, all I can muster is, “Jesus.”
But somehow these whispers are enough to ask God for help when I feel like the devil is working overtime to strip the prayers from my mouth.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
2. Have a prayer partner.
Another way to offer up prayers when the fear is too crippling is to have a prayer partner. I sort of fell into this when my friend and I started sending a quick text whenever we needed prayers. It has been such a blessing.
The arrangement we have is not complicated. We just know that if we need someone to pray we can text each other. Often it’s just a simple message like: “Hey, can you pray for me? I’m feeling overwhelmed today.”
There is something so comforting about knowing a friend is praying for exactly what you need at that moment.
We have prayed each other through sickness, new endeavors, and big events. And since we have made a habit of asking for prayers, we are more likely to rememberin times of major anxiety. With the asking, Got takes our hand.
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)
These are simple tools. But in the throes of all-consuming anxiety, can we really handle much else?
I would be so interested to hear what has worked for you when you encounter anxiety in your life. Please consider leaving your thoughts in the comments below!