What to Do When Fear Overwhelms You

by Shelby Turner

I know exactly when I started struggling with fear. In my elementary years, I don’t remember being scared of anything. Quite the opposite really, I always believed I could conquer any challenge that came my way. In middle school and high school, I became more aware of the complexities of life when my family moved states a few times. Leaving comfort and security was hard, but somehow also oddly thrilling. Then came college and adulthood and without the safety net of living under my parent’s roof, I suddenly realized just how unsteady life can be and how far down I could fall if I slipped. Adding marriage and children into the mix has only increased my fears exponentially. With each new child added to our family, there were added a hundred new anxieties. And now I find myself completely consumed with thoughts of “what if” and “it could happen to me.” Those kinds of words constantly running around in your mind eventually lead to the conclusion that pain and heartbreak are lurking around every corner, and it’s only a matter of time before tragedy befalls you. 

Can you relate to these overwhelming fears? Yes, of course you can. Fear is something we all experience in life. So, what is the cure for this anxious menace? I wish I could tell you that it is simple to cure. I wish I could tell you that it is easy to cure. Unfortunately, these things just are not true. But, what I can tell you is that fear does have a definite cure and we find it in Philippians 4:6–7. These verses say, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Maybe you’ve heard these verses before and thought this command to not worry about anything seems impossible to keep. I do not think you’d be alone in that. However, maybe as we dig into these verses a little more, you’ll come to a different conclusion. If we were tasked with simply not worrying in our own power and of our own will, well, that would be quite impossible. But verse 7 tells us how to not worry: we should present our requests to God in prayer.

Worry is an inward thought cycle. Prayer is an upward conversation. Do you see the difference? Worry keeps all of the fears in. Prayer hands them over to God. And we hand them to God through petition and with thanksgiving. To petition God is to ask God for what we need. Instead of worrying about what we lack, we can bring our needs to God who can abundantly provide. To petition with thanksgiving means we ask God knowing that He is gracious, kind, good, and loves to provide for His people.

Possibly the most important phrase to remember in these verses is the phrase “in everything.” Worries are constant. And so our prayers will need to be constant, too. As often as anxious thoughts come, we can approach the Lord and submit our requests to Him knowing He cares for us. Prayer can be as constant a companion as worry. 

Not worrying does not mean shoving our fears under a rug or pushing them aside, but rather lifting them up to the Father and asking for His care and provision. The result of doing this is that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Jesus has forgiven our sins, united us with God, given us His Spirit, and invited us to live in glory with Him forever. In Christ Jesus, we have peace to the fullest extent. 

Worries will always arise in our lives. But, when they do it is our choice of how we will handle them. Will we hold them in and let our fears fester? Or will we through prayer submit our worries to God and receive the peace He offers in Christ? In everything, let us choose prayer. 

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