There is a monster that loves to linger. To look at him, you would never be intimidated by his small stature and his flimsy frame. But his shadow is another story. The shadow is enormous and grotesque, threatening everything that is peaceful and hopeful. You may not always realize he is there, but he is there in the dark corners - manipulating events to make you think irrationally, and tossing you a scary thought in order to incite a panic attack so he can snicker as you scramble around. He is cruel, he is evil and he is real.
Fear is his name. And he's after you.
Just a few short years ago, I carried a bag with me that I depended on in order to cope. In this bag were seven different daily prescription medications I filled my body with in order to get through each day. I had medicine to beat the nausea, to give me an appetite so I would eat, to prevent my body from throwing up, to fight against a stomach ulcer, to ease migraine pain, to put me to sleep and, finally, to numb my anxiety. I desperately clung to my bag and religiously swallowed whatever the doctor prescribed. Fear had me in its clutches and I was too scared to break free.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States and affect more than 40 million adults. We may not think fear to be that sinister or that debilitating, but the statistics don't lie. Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects over 6 million adults, most of them women. Panic Disorder affects more than 6 million, Social Anxiety Disorder affects, roughly, 15 million, Specific Phobias, with symptoms usually beginning in childhood, affect over 19 million and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects over 7 million. These disorders can be genetic or they can be the result from a life event, but regardless of the origin, they all go hand-in-hand with each other and we can give them all one, root name - FEAR.
Headaches, upset stomach, muscle aches, increase in blood pressure, breathing problems, heart palpitations and extreme fatigue are just some of the many health issues that fear and anxiety create in the body. Mix in feelings of shame and loneliness and you have a catastrophic recipe that our enemy loves to force feed us. He takes a sick delight in making us choke on our fears.
What are you afraid of?
I'm afraid of deep water, of spiders, of mice, of heights, of needles.... the list is quite long. But more than the things I can see and touch and run from, I am afraid of the unknown and that's where the enemy loves to play. Each morning when I wake up, I don't know what the day will hold. For some, that's exciting! For others, it can trigger some crazy paranoia. It's important for all of us to understand that fear is always going to be present. That sneaky little monster will always cast his creepy shadow in front of us. Like it or not, fear is going to walk with us - but that doesn't mean we have to be friends.
What we often forget is that the faith we have in Jesus and the joy we have through His salvation is the antidote to fear. When we delight in knowing Christ, we have a joy that can give us the strength to keep walking. When we sit and soak in His presence, we have a peace that can conquer all the worry. Though fear may be present, the God we serve is Omnipresent and He will get us through.
On this journey we call life, try not to allow the monster to eclipse your joy with his shadow. Shine out the blazing light of God as you move forward. His Word says we don't have to live as a slave to our fear. His Word says that the love of God chases fear down and conquers it. His Word says our hearts don't have to be troubled. We may see shadows, but through the living Word we hold, we see God Himself. Keep walking, friend.