Article Oct 9, 2017

Learning to doubt our fears

What is the one thing you don’t doubt when you are afraid? When we are afraid, we will doubt just about everything except our fear. We will doubt things we know to be true (i.e., whether we locked our door or paid a bill, the faithfulness of our spouse, our preparedness for an exam, God’s care, etc), rather than that which scares us.

Fear as a “close friend”

Our fears are close. When we are afraid, nothing feels closer. This means that whatever information we receive gets filtered through our fears. Whatever truth we hear feels like it is “out there,” while our fears are “in here.” This adds to our unwillingness to doubt them.

Beside, it feels like a risk if we doubt our fears. Believing our fears feels like we are “playing it safe.” If we doubt our fears, it feels like we’d never forgive ourselves for knowing better and not bracing against being hurt or let down. When we’re afraid, the world gets twisted; fear becomes wise, and peace becomes folly.

Our fears are like the bad friend we hope our children don’t have in middle school. Everything the parent says to point out the bad influence only increases the child’s allegiance. Because we believe our fear is keeping us safe, every counterpoint we hear (even when we’re arguing with ourselves) sounds “unfriendly.” We buy the lie that our fears are “for” us and courage is “against us.

Fear as a form of trust

Obeying the command to take “every thought captive” begins with our ability to doubt our fears.

What is the point? We must see that fear is a form of trust. We trust our pessimistic predictions of the future and worse-case-scenario imagination. We trust whatever comes after “what if?” Fear is a fierce allegiance to negative messages.

Often in our battle with fear and trust, we try to learn to feel peace without doubting our fears. But doubting our fears is an important step that prevents trusting God from feeling like “blind faith.” Ask yourself these questions, “What would be different if I truly believed that my fears lied more than they told the truth? What if I was as skeptical of my fears as I was of an infomercial?”

Obeying the command to take “every thought captive” begins with our ability to doubt our fears. And taking your thoughts captive begins with changing the primary question from, “What if my fears are true?” to, “What if my fears are false?” This is an important bridge to honestly considering, “What if God’s promises are true and his care is secure?”

Furthermore, obeying the command to “fear not,” the most repeated command in Scripture (occurring over 300 times in the Bible), begins with the willingness to doubt our fears. When we doubt fear, it becomes less real so that other things can become more real.

How do we learn to doubt our fears? Once we’re open to and understand the significance of the question, we need to ask ourselves, “How reliable is my fear?” What percentage of the time are our fears accurate? How many of our fear’s predictions come true? Would we trust any other person or emotion with that track record?

Does this mean that we should never listen to our fears? No. Fear is a gift from God meant to alert us to what is really important and dangerous. We should simply begin by being appropriately skeptical of our fears. We need to resist the urge to treat our fears as if they are the divinely inspired, inerrant Word of God to interpret our circumstances. We should understand them to be the mere temporal assessment of an individual wired for self-preservation.

What do we do after we doubt our fears? What do we do after we get troubling information from any other liar or unreliable source? We talk to someone trustworthy—God, in prayer, and trusted Christian friends, in conversation—about the matter and consult something authoritative (Scripture). As we do this, we give weight to the reliable, authoritative sources.

In light of this reflection, consider Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We need to realize that fear is a form of fierce, instinctual trust that feels closer and more reliable than anything else. When we fear the Lord, though, that allegiance creates a natural doubt in anything or anyone that would speak negatively about our best, most-trusted Friend/Father (Exo. 33:11; I John 3:1-3).

This article originally appeared here.