Worry Free Living

Betty blue bordered (2)

This is our penultimate week of preparation for Easter. It’s also our next-to-last look at how to fight fear in our lives. I just listened to Chris Tomlin’s song, Whom Shall I Fear, with the line, “The God of angel armies is always by my side.” What more could we ask to uphold our courage?

The book we focus on this week is Worry Free Living, by Frank Minirth, M.D., Paul Meier, M.D., and Don Hawkins, Th.M.  Though it was published in 1989, it still holds great insight, and used copies are available on Amazon. Written by two psychiatrists and a minister, this book pulls together guidance for our minds and our hearts.

The authors believe we experience anxiety when we are afraid to look at a negative emotion inside us, such as, anger, guilt, lust, or resentment. The Holy Spirit uses anxiety to draw our attention to something that needs to be aired. Though we might not want to admit a hidden truth, we must uncover it, and forgive ourselves or someone else or ask for forgiveness, in order to rid ourselves of anxiety. Forgiveness involves becoming aware of our anger and then choosing not to hold the offense against the person, in order to unburden ourselves. We decide not to seek revenge or even dwell on the offense. We don’t lick our wounds.

As we’ve read from other authors, a little anxiety can be a good thing, if it helps us prepare or encourages us to work in order to dispel the worry. Too much anxiety can lead to defense mechanisms, phobias, mental disorders, addictions, physical complications, and spiritual hopelessness. Sometimes professional help is necessary, but the authors suggest steps of self-help can prevent or alleviate anxiety for most of us:

  • Meditate daily, including meditation on Scripture.
  • Condition yourself to relax, using a repetitive phrase (like our affirmations) or visualizing a beautiful place to calm yourself.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Talk through problems to vent the pressure with someone you trust, and listen to theirs, too
  • Limit your worry to a 15-minute time slot and push aside worries until that time (As a parent, when my girls became highly anxious we would walk around the block once or twice, limiting our expressing-worry time to that walk.
  • Live one day at a time, not thinking “what if” about the future, or “if only” about the past.
  • Design an Action Plan. Do something to lessen your anxiety, for instance take an assertiveness class if you have trouble expressing your wants and needs.
  • Cultivate awareness of God’s presence with you. (Our God of angel armies!)
  • Decide to obey God, both to avoid guilt, a source of anxiety, and because He commands us not to worry.
  • Replace worry with prayer.
  • Give up faulty beliefs, like perfectionism or the necessity of winning approval from all.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle in the areas of sleep, diet, recreation, and exercise.
  • Examine your self-talk and replace the negative with positive. Replace a low self-image with a sense of your worth as a child of God.
  • Grow in intimacy with others. Reach out, build healthy friendships. If you aren’t able to do this, then reach out to a counselor to help you learn how. A good friend offers love, peace, open communication, mutual improvement, and refreshment.
  • Grow in intimacy with God through prayer, Scripture, and meditation. Since God is for us, who can be against?

I suspect each reader has methods they use to counter fear and anxiety. As we mature, we adopt methods of self-soothing. I tell myself, “I’m safe right now.” One reader emailed that she prays, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Another reminds herself to “claim my power” or “take control of my life”.

How do you fight fear?



Fighting Fear with Fear

Betty blue bordered (2)We’ve looked at fighting fear from a psychological perspective; we’ve talked about thinking positively, acting in spite of fear, and respecting reasonable fear.

This week, let’s turn to fighting fear spiritually. In Courage: Fighting Fear with Fear, authors Wayne and Joshua Mack remind us that nurturing fear is not part of God’s plan for us. Repeatedly, 365 times even, the Old and New Testaments instruct us not to fear. For the Macks, when Jesus tells us, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me (John 14:1),” He is giving a command, not a soft encouragement. God wants us to be in relationship with Him, and that relationship is meant to be one of love and trust. Worrying shows a lack of trust, a disbelief that God is all-powerful, loves us unconditionally, and wants what is best for us. To be afraid of people and what they think of us borders on or is outright disobedience, because we should only be concerned with following God’s guidance. In fact, by nurturing fear, we often fail to be our best selves, and fail to live out the life of meaning that God intends us to live, thus cheating ourselves and others of the graces He wishes to bestow.

The words of the title, Fighting Fear with Fear, refer to replacing our fear of man with a healthy, holy fear of God. This concept has bothered me since I was a child. Why should we fear God, if He is all loving and all good?

An alternate translation of “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread,” (Isaiah 8:13) is instead, “The Lord of Hosts, Him shall you hallow.” To hallow means to make holy, to have great respect or hold in reverence. It can mean to sanctify, as in setting apart as holy. If we “fear” God, as in hold Him in respect and awe while setting Him apart as exalted above all else, we recognize his complete power and control of every situation. If we set God apart as holy, He becomes our holy place. Our refuge. We turn away from sin because we “fear” God, respecting and honoring Him with our actions and choices. Yes, we may suffer, but we trust His plan will transform our suffering to good.

The authors point out that frequently in the Bible, the commands for us to fear God are followed by promises of consequential blessings to us:

  • God will instruct us and guide us in our choices. (Psalm 25:12)
  • Our souls will abide in prosperity. (Ps 25:13) And what is soul prosperity? Direction and meaning in life, inner joy and satisfaction, inner peace.
  • Our descendants shall inherit the earth. (Ps 25:13, Ps 112:2) The positive influence will affect our children and our grandchildren
  • The psalm continues saying the secret of the Lord is for us. This implies a very close intimacy, for it is only with our dearest that we share our secrets. (Ps 25:14)
  • He hides us from the conspiracies of man. (Ps 31:20)
  • We will influence others, even after our death. (Ps 112:6)
  • We will not fear evil tidings. (Ps 112:7,8) 

Our fears put the focus on us, rather than our trust in God. Fear can be selfish and debilitating to what good we can accomplish. It runs counter to the two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 10:28) The Macks write, “When you fear man, you are not loving God with all you have, and you aren’t loving your neighbor as yourself.” The opposite of a spirit of fear is a spirit of love. The former is self-protecting, the latter is self-giving.

How do we rid ourselves of unhealthy fear?

  • Exercise our faith daily; trusting God’s Word that He is in control of everything.
  • Remember heaven and how eternal it is, compared to our current short-term worry.
  • Be prudent, protecting ourselves from real danger, but not to the point that it keeps us from serving others in need.
  • Ask ourselves if our fear keeps us from obeying God’s commands, or causes us to disobey them.
  • Replace sinful fear with holy fear, that which puts or keeps us on the right path.
  • Feel sorrow and repentance when we don’t trust God enough to overcome our fear of man. 

How do we attain a healthy “fear” of God?

  • Ask for a change of heart from God, that we might fear Him rather than anything or anyone else. We must ask for forgiveness and for this grace to fear Him.
  • Revere God and respect those whom God has given authority.
  • Devote ourselves to prayer.
  • Study God’s word.
  • Meditate on the truth: our sinfulness, God’s salvation, God’s goodness, His mighty works, His judgment, and His blessings. “Be still and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10
  • Follow Christ’s example, which includes taking up our cross and dying to ourselves. We must trust that since God is good, when we suffer it is for his purpose, and that purpose will be for our best, even though we don’t understand.

    Here’s my favorite quote from this week’s book, which wouldn’t be a bad addition to our daily affirmations:

    “God knows, God cares, God understands, God is loving, God is good, God is sovereign, He is in control, and He will deliver my soul from destruction and keep me in my times of difficulty. There is a way out. God will work all things together for good. He will not abandon me.” 

    Finally, in the words of St. Pope John Paul II: “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”


Recognizing Relationship Danger Signals

Betty blue bordered (2)Last week we discussed differentiating true fear from anxiety and worry. Sadly, sometimes people get so used to true fear that they ignore it. In The Gift of Fear, author Gavin de Becker writes, “People who ignore their intuition, their mind and body’s warnings of danger, either through self-doubt or groomed desensitization, can find themselves in very imminent risk of harm or death.”

You may know people in difficult relationships or be in one yourself, and with de Becker’s permission to quote directly, I include his list of pre-incident indicators associated with spousal violence or murders. Perhaps it will help you to help yourself (or someone you love) recognize an unsafe situation, take control of your life, and leave safely. Or maybe a controlling person may recognize himself and seek help before it is too late. (Note that sometimes the genders in these warnings can be reversed.)

“The signals won’t all be present in every case, but if a situation has several of these signals, there is reason for concern.”

  1. The woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk.
  2. At the inception of the relationship, the man accelerated the pace, prematurely placing on the agenda such things as commitment, living together, and marriage.
  3. He resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying, and violence.
  4. He is verbally abusive.
  5. He uses threats and intimidation as instruments of control or abuse. This includes threats to harm physically, to defame, to embarrass, to restrict freedom, to disclose secrets, to cut off support, to abandon, and to commit suicide.
  6. He breaks or strikes things in anger. He uses symbolic violence (tearing a wedding photo, marring a face in a photo, etc.)
  7. He has battered in prior relationships.
  8. He uses alcohol or drugs with adverse effects (memory loss, hostility, cruelty).
  9. He cites alcohol or drugs as an excuse or explanation for hostile or violent conduct. (“That was the booze talking, not me; I got so drunk I was crazy.”)
  10. His history includes police encounters for behavioral offenses (threats, stalking, assault, battery.)
  11. There has been more than one incident of violent behavior (including vandalism, breaking things, throwing things.)
  12. He uses money to control the activities, purchases, and behavior of his wife/partner.
  13. He becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes her time away from the relationship; he keeps her on a “tight leash,” requires her to account for her time.
  14. He refuses to accept rejection.
  15. He expects the relationship to go on forever, perhaps using phrases like “together for life, “always,” or “no matter what.”
  16. He projects extreme emotions onto others (hate, love, jealousy, commitment) even when there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to perceive them.
  17. He minimizes incidents of abuse.
  18. He spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about his wife/partner and derives much of his identity from being her husband, lover, etc.
  19. He tries to enlist his wife’s friends or relatives in a campaign to keep or recover the relationship.
  20. He has inappropriately surveilled or followed his wife/partner.
  21. He believes others are out to get him. He believes that those around his wife/partner dislike him and encourage her to leave him.
  22. He resists change and is described as inflexible, unwilling to compromise.
  23. He identifies with or compares himself to violent people in films, news stories, fiction or history. He characterizes the violence of others as justified.
  24. He suffers mood swings or is sullen, angry, or depressed.
  25. He consistently blames others for problems of his own making; he refuses to take responsibility for the results of his actions.
  26. He refers to weapons as instruments of power, control, or revenge.
  27. Weapons are a substantial part of his persona; he has a gun or he talks about, jokes about, reads about, or collects weapons.
  28. He uses “male privilege” as a justification for his conduct (treats her like a servant, makes all the big decisions, acts like the “master of the house.”)
  29. He experienced or witnessed violence as a child.
  30. His wife/partner fears he will injure or kill her. She has discussed this with others or has made plans to be carried out in the event of her death (e.g., designating someone to care for children.)

“With this list and all you know about intuition and prediction, you can now help prevent America’s most predictable murders. Literally. Refer the woman to a battered women’s shelter, if for nothing else than to speak to someone who knows about what she is facing, in her life and in herself. Refer the man to a battered women’s shelter; they will be able to suggest programs for him. When there is violence, report it to police.”

One may ask why a person has stayed in an abusive relationship. De Becker writes:

“Being struck and forced not to resist is a particularly damaging form of abuse because it trains out of the victim the instinctive reaction to protect the self. To override the most natural and central instinct, a person must come to believe that he or she is not worth protecting. Being beaten by a “loved one” sets up a conflict between two instincts that should never compete: the instinct to stay in a secure environment (the family) and the instinct to flee a dangerous environment. […] The instinct to stay prevails in the absence of concrete options on the other side.”

Sometimes people who won’t leave for themselves can be convinced to leave for their children’s sake. However, leaving must be done carefully and with advanced planning, if at all possible, because women are most in danger while, or right after, trying to leave. Women’s shelters can give the best advice.

Violence in relationships is widespread. In today’s Oregonian, Amy Wang writes that 20% of teenage girls who date say they have been victims of violence in their relationships. This could be you, your daughter, or granddaughter. Know the signs. Find help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)  or www.thehotline.org

Dating Abuse and Domestic Violence – “loveisrespect” – call 1-866-331-9474 (24/7) or text loveis to 22522


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