I don’t like flying, but I do it all the time. Tight spaces will get my attention. I’m not fond of heights, but last weekend I stayed in a hotel’s corner room on the 27th floor. Admittedly, I hugged the inside walls, but I did stay there. Most of us have a short list of things that make us uncomfortable (yet another golden opportunity to blame our parents for something they didn’t do).
But according to a recent article in Time magazine, almost nine percent of us have a specific phobia of some kind. A phobia isn’t something we are uncomfortable with, it’s not a minor or fleeting frustration, it is a gripping dread that renders someone paralyzed in fear.
I have a phobia of lizards. No doubt it stems from childhood experiences in Hawaii where geckos aimlessly wandered across the ceiling of my bedroom. But today the sight of those creepy, miniature reptiles will usually cause my heart to race, palms to sweat and the “fight or flight” thing to kick in.
I am a lot better than I used to be. In part because I have purposefully tried to desensitize myself with repeated (albeit controlled) exposure to those bug-eyed monsters. Gradual exposure, to a great extent has worked. That article in Time mentioned a few other techniques for dealing with phobias: flooding (a high degree of exposure); medication and a psychological approach called reconsolidation (a way to rewrite traumatic memories). I’m sure that all these approaches can help release people from the vice grip of such fears.
But as I read about that author’s irrational fear of people eating I could not help but think about the power of prayer. Specifically, the incredible release all of us can have as we take our fears (phobias and all) to the Lord.
One of the great privileges for the child of God is the intimate communication we can have; we call it “praying.” We are encouraged to regularly and specifically lay our concerns at the feet of Jesus (Phil. 4:6).
Within that intimate relationship, our communication can become focused on the “fear not’s” of the scripture. I’m told there at over 360 such verses in our Bible, one for every day. And that is how I have made progress on my dumb phobia.
In a conscious, systematic way I am learning to take my fears (big ones and little ones) to the Lord. And I am appropriate the truth of Isaiah 41:10 to my life.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
If you find yourself frozen in fear this week, might I suggest you take some “M&M’s” for it? Not the sweet chocolate version but the memorization and medication of verses like Isaiah 41:10. Let’s focus more on the “fear not” rather than the fear.