Who do you fear?
What do you fear?
Why is it that you fear?
I find these three questions particularly helpful when coming face-to-face with the things that get in the way of us living a more full and rich life.
When I was a little girl, I feared pretend snakes and spiders biting at my feet whenever I was walking in the dark from the door of my room, to my bed.
I feared never getting to see my mom again and being forgotten.
My fear was a result of my wild childhood imagination and my unsteady home environment.
When I was a teenager, I feared bullies, pretty girls, and body fat.
I feared never being accepted or good enough.
My fear was a result of the heavy self hatred I carried and the loneliness I felt.
Today, I fear love, abusive men, and false gods.
I fear an unsuccessful or wasted life, letting others down, and forever fighting perfectionism.
My fear is mostly a result of trying to decide who to trust: God or man?
I think if only we stopped to ponder who we fear, what we fear, and why we fear more often, we might realize the fear we experience is not as worthy of the time we give it. I think we might just see the beauty that lies within pain, the company we have in our individual experiences, and the peace that comes from gratitude, prayer, and God alone.
Experiencing fear is normal.
When starting a new job you don’t yet feel qualified to do.
When thinking about getting that gym membership.
Having your first child.
Getting married, or even just the thought of getting married.
Moving away from the place you’ve always called home.
Making new friends.
These things are all quite scary and it’s okay to find yourself in a place of fear just as long as it doesn’t become your forever place. When fear becomes our forever place it has a crippling effect that tends to rob us of joy, leaving us feeling empty, alone, and forgetful of all that is good in our lives.
In The book titled The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, she says this about fear and joy:
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. it’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
Brene says in her book the key to overcoming fear is to practice gratitude, and as we continually practice gratitude, we are bound to experience joy.
Like many people, it took me some time to recognize the difference between happiness and joy. In case you are unsure also, let me share with you their separate definitions:
Happiness is a temporary feeling that ebbs and flows. It is linked to circumstances, external situations, and events.
Joy is more directly connected to our hearts by both spirit and gratitude. It is a step beyond happiness, a light that fills us up and brings a more content feeling of faith, hope, and love.
Nobody feels happy all of the time and nobody feels joyful all of the time—we simply need both happiness and joy. A goal we might develop is to experience more happiness in our day-to-day lives by learning to live more from a place of gratitude and joy. To do this however, we must recognize and move past the things that get in the way of gratitude and joy, one of them being fear.
We must accept that regardless of our circumstances, “what ifs” and worry of the future, there is something greater standing in our presence and interceding for us.
We must learn to trust in ourselves less, while trusting in that something greater more.
We must detach from the webs of fear and move toward an ocean of gratefulness, where we can swim free and rest assured.
You can start this journey by asking yourself the questions at the beginning of this post, or by following Brene’s weekly gratitude practice called TGIF, reflecting on the following:
What or who are you trusting?
What are you grateful for?
What inspires you?
How are you practicing faith?
Finding joy amidst fear isn’t about extraordinary moments, it is about ordinary moments.
I’ll turn 23 in two days and I have a lot of fear surrounding me. As a 1 on the Enneagram, I want to know the plan for my life and sometimes, I’m tempted to create my own due to impatience and an intense need for control. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but something I’ve struggled with from a young age.
One day, about a year ago, I had a horrible attack of anxiety and decided to go for a walk. As I walked through a field, I repeated to myself over and over:
You will never leave or forsake me. You will never leave or forsake me. You will never leave or forsake me. You are my God, my refuge. You are my God, my refuge. You are my God, my refuge. You restore my soul. You restore my soul. You restore me soul. Surely, goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. Surely, goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. Surely, goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.
So much of what we fear only becomes scarier when we try to do life alone and forget that we are being protected, led, and guided by a God so much bigger than our present day troubles.
I would encourage you this week and as the holiday season approaches, to develop a small practice of gratitude, and to observe what the feelings you experience from it. Did you have more moments of joy? Were you a little less negative? A little less fearful?
Don’t get caught in the mindset of scarcity, another topic covered by Brene in her chapter on Cultivating Gratitude and Joy. Thinking to yourself, this joy won’t last, gratefulness will only set me up for more disaster, and I’m going to choose not to be grateful because I know once I do, something else bad is going to happen.
We must not forget that our fear is normal, but we must also, not forget that regardless of our circumstances and external environment, we are still able to find peace. That peace comes from gratitude and that peace comes from joy—a combined package we’re welcome to now and forever.