FEAR: Your Worst Enemy is often Between Your Ears
With all the workshops, conferences and sermons I attend in a year, it is not uncommon to be asked, “What is your greatest fear?”
Often, this question is part of a personal growth challenge and is usually attached to a charge to identify what may be holding a person back from obtaining their dreams and finding success in their life.
As part of these exercises, I have often associated fear with a negative emotion that impedes a person’s ability to breakthrough an obstacle and achieve a particular goal or desire.
However, I was recently challenged to look at fear from a different perspective.
Not too long ago, my brother-in-law gave me a fitness book written by the legendary surfer, Laird Hamilton, subtitled Force of Nature. The book was originally published back in 2008, but it’s message regarding fear is something I believe transcends time.
As I browsed the book I came to page 7 and there was a big quote at the top of the page that said,
“Make Sure Your Worst Enemy Doesn’t Live Between Your Own Two Ears.” – Laird Hamilton
WOW! This slapped me in the face. As I read on, here is what Laird had to say about fear,
“You can spend your entire life fence-setting because your frightened of something bad that might happen—or you can launch into yourself with all of your conviction and intelligence. Here’s my advice: Meet up with your fears. If you’re afraid of sharks, go learn all about sharks. Get into the water with one. If you respect fear, face it straight on and act anyway. What you will find isn’t terror—it’s exhilaration and the moments that you never forget.”
What’s interesting, is that just a few days before reading this I had been out surfing and found myself completely in bondage by the fear of what might be underneath me. In a state of anxiety, I paddled in and sat down on the beach asking myself, “What was that all about?” It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had experienced an episode with what Ken Blanchard calls, False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR).
As I sat there on the beach I began to examine my mindset and have a conversation with God. I asked him to reveal what this was that was stirring in me. It didn’t take long before I had this overwhelming conviction that I had to go back into the water, specifically with no one around me. The message was clear, I had to paddle out and just sit there with my feet dangling in the water and deal with my fear and anxiety.
All I heard was, “Do you trust me?”
With my heartrate elevated and absolutely NO desire to go back into the water, I paddled back out and simply sat on the board. I was absolutely miserable. My chest felt like it was going to explode. I had an overwhelming sense that a shark was going to bite my legs off... ridiculous, I know!
However, as I sat there in the water, by myself, I kept asking, “What is this about? Teach me? Teach me?” After what seemed like forever, I began to actually connect with reason and logic. I embraced the reality that the odds of a shark biting my legs off was slim to none. Yes, it does happen, but the odds of this happening at that moment were very very low. You see, I am fully convinced God was teaching me something. Actually, he was asking me something!
For many years I have wrestled with the fear of tragedy. I, as I am sure you have too, have experienced enough life to also have experienced loss. Because of the loss in my life I sometimes find myself not trusting God with all matters, specifically in those moments when I can’t see what’s beneath me, or when I feel I have no control.
I had let the enemy of fear get between my ears, but here is what the Lord taught me…
Fear is overcome in faith, and faith is rooted in promises.
Let me explain…
The word fear occurs 260 times in the Bible. 62 of those uses are found in the phrase, “the fear of the LORD” and 99 are found in the phrase “fear the LORD.” This means that approximately 60% of all the verses in the Bible that contain the word fear are directly related to fearing God. One of the most well known of these verses is Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
There are 6 key words in this passage and each carry their own definition and meaning:
- Fear = to respect or revere (to show devotion and honor toward)
- Knowledge = discernment gained by actual experience; a clear perception of truth
- Fool = one who mocks (defies or disregards) when guilty
- Despise = to look down on as worthless or distasteful
- Wisdom = the accumulation of learning; skill (in war); shrewdness (severe, sharp, piercing); the ability to discern inner qualities
- Discipline = correcting mistakes and curbing passions
By replacing the words of the passage with their definitions, the passage becomes even deeper and more profound…
“The respect, devotion and honor of the LORD is the beginning of understanding, and a clear perception of truth, but those who defy or disregard this truth look down on it as worthless and distasteful. In doing so, they hinder their ability to act severely and sharply in a time of adversity, and cannot understand the inner qualities of God or those they lead. They are unable to have their mistakes corrected and their passions curbed.”
In other words, there is a unique association between having a healthy fear of God and being able to understand and make right decisions during difficult times and trying situations.
In Exodus 14:31 the Bible tells us, “…the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him, AND in Moses his servant.”
It is clear from this passage that there is an association between a man putting his fear and trust in the LORD and then others putting their fear and trust in that man. I think the Apostle Paul understood this well. He once told the members of the church at Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1)
So what’s the application in all this?
If we examine both the faith of Moses and the faith of Paul, what separated them from the people they led was that the people they led tended to trust only when they saw great signs, whereas Moses and Paul trusted in the promises.
Great signs, great faith, and great accomplishments came as a result. Because of their zealous trust in God, they experienced Him in profound ways that not all of their followers did. If you look closely at the lives of all the great men of history, you will see the same kind of faith and experience.
I believe all great men have fear, but I also see all great men overcoming fear in a healthy way, through their faith.
Their strength and ability to overcome fear is rooted in their trust in the promises of God.
I find that the promises of God are a great source of strength, encouragement, and confidence, and when accessed, provide great power and endurance in difficult times. However, God's promises also keep life in perspective when times are good.
I have also learned, that sometimes, I need to lean on the faith of another when I am struggling with my own!
God reminded me of a great promise while sitting on that surfboard…
“Fear not, for I am with you!”
I had allowed a False Evidence to Appear Real in my life. I was tested with the question, "do you trust me?" I had to actually step into the fear and get back into the water to receive the blessing, and experience what Laird Hamilton refers to as "a clear perception of truth."
How about you?
- Are God’s promises enough for you to walk in faith with Him?
- Are His promises, as found in Scripture, enough to hold you together?
- Are His promises enough for you to step into your greatest fears and allow them to become your greatest blessings, strength, and power?
- Are you open to stepping into your worst fears and letting God help you to overcome them?
I truly hope so. It can be exhilarating!
I leave you with my three favorite quotes from Laird Hamilton’s book:
- “The idea that fear is something to be denied is completely misguided.”
- “Once you understand fear, it becomes something you can tap into.”
- “Fear usually prompts us to make really good decisions.”
May the fear of the Lord always be the source of your strength, power, and wisdom.
Jade Molina, Co-Founder, Men of Growth
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