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  • Writer's pictureJen Stone-Sexton

Finding Peace in a World Filled With Fear

Updated: Apr 3

How can you find peace in a world filled with fear? Learn 5 Strategies for Overcoming Fear in today's blog so you can experience freedom, peace and joy.

5 Strategies for Overcoming Fear

Fear, it is pervasive in our world. Fear can be incredibly insidious and fear is powerful. Unless we choose to address fear, it can control our lives, and rob us of the peace, joy, strength and freedom which are rightfully our inheritance through Jesus Christ.

Some fears are inherent to being human. For example, newborn babies have two fears: loud noises and falling.

"Babies' brains and nerves grow rapidly in the first two years of life, but they are born with very immature nervous systems. This means that they cannot interpret or handle certain sensory input -- like loud noises or the feeling of falling. Fear -- of loud noises, monsters, strangers, or other objects and events -- is a natural part of childhood. But while experiencing fear is stressful to children and parents alike, it should not be minimized. A part of normal development, being afraid is a sign that the child is gaining awareness of the world and trying to make sense of it, says Ari Brown, MD, coauthor of Baby 411 (Windsor Peak Press). Fortunately, most fears arrive at predictable stages, and with some insight, parents can help their child navigate his or her fears and walk more confidently through childhood. (Parent Magazine)

Fear that is minimized, ignored or not well navigated in childhood can set an individual up for fearful responses as they grow into adulthood, where there is no actual threat. As well as conditioning the mind to accept limiting beliefs and mindsets based on fear.

Fear can also be a learned behavior in that we sense fear from others, we can learn it from our own experiences, and from what we expose our minds to. More often than not, fear comes from our own minds and our imagination. Unlike the animal world, God created us with the ability to dream, create and imagine. When we use our minds to worry, our creative energy to self-protect from something that hasn’t even happened and imagine undesirable outcomes, we are using a gift God gave us in a destructive way.

“Worry is a misuse of the imagination.” - Unknown

More often than not, we hold ourselves back from new experiences, relationships, or pursuing a dream by imagining a negative outcome instead of a positive one. Science has proven that the subconscious mind cannot differentiate a negative from a positive. It takes in all those thoughts as fact and then goes to work to communicate those facts to the conscious mind. So you can literally bring about what you think about most in your life. Our minds are very powerful and what we tend to focus on is the direction we will go.

If you are driving down the road and your focus is on looking ahead and staying between the lines, you will keep your vehicle in your lane. If however, you allow your focus to linger on something else for more than 1-3 seconds, you will begin to actually steer your vehicle in the direction you are looking. So it is with our thoughts.

“Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its strength.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Psychologists use an acronym for fear: “Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real.” Another one is “False Evidence Appearing Real.” In either case, it is NOT real. More often than not, fear is all about what MIGHT happen – not what WILL happen. Jesus says in Matthew 6,

“Therefore I tell you, don’t worry about your life – what you will eat or drink; or about your body – what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds flying about! They neither plant nor harvest, nor do they gather food into barns; yet Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they are?

Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to his or her life?

And why be anxious about clothing? Think about the fields of wild irises, and how they grow. They neither work nor spin thread, yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as beautifully as one of these. If this is how God clothes grass in the field – which is here today and gone tomorrow, thrown in the oven – won’t He much more clothe you? What little trust you have!

So don’t be anxious asking, ‘What will we eat?’ “What will we drink?’ or “How will we be clothed?’ for it is the pagans who set their hearts on all those things.

Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.

But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness,

and all these things will be given to as well.

Don’t worry about tomorrow – tomorrow will worry about itself!

Today has enough troubles already.”

Matthew 6:25-34 (CJB)

Where there is God’s peace, there is an absence of worry or anxiety, fretting or despair. I’ve read this passage many times throughout my life, and yet when I opened my Bible to this passage a couple days ago, the words took on an entirely new significance and meaning for me. How often I have worried about things I have no control over? How many hours of my life have been irretrievably lost trying to predict an outcome so I could protect myself from possible pain or avoid disappointment? Or been all consumed with something I was planning - hoping every little detail would be perfect? Can you relate at all? Yet Jesus tells us not to worry and instead, above all else, to set our heart on knowing Him and seeking His Kingdom.

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

When Jesus said in John 14:27, “What I am leaving you with is peace – I am giving you my peace. I don’t give the way the world gives. Don’t let yourselves be upset or frightened.” is that as a Believer we have His peace. What does that mean? How can the Lord give a peace different from what the world gives? Well, what do you think about when you think about peace? So often I thought it meant calm; absence of turmoil, fear, violence or war; nice; soothing. Yet, my definition is different than what the Bible teaches us about peace.

The word for “peace” in Hebrew is “shalom”. Shalom means something different all together. Shalom means wholeness, completeness, lacking in nothing, perfect. Wow! The peace or shalom of Jesus Christ is complete, whole, perfect, lacking in nothing!

We do have a choice about what we will think on. Will we dwell on the goodness of God and experience His peace and move forward in our lives with courage and faith? Or will we dwell on all that is bad in the world, on we cannot control and be paralyzed by fear, worry, and anxiety?

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

Most of us tend to think the same thoughts over and over. (If you don’t believe this, then try writing all of your thoughts as they come to you in a notebook for one week.) In most cases, something happens one time - there are exceptions when it comes to experiencing neglect or abuse of any kind. We experience a painful or frightening moment or situation. The fact is, it happened once and it is over. But when we play it over and over in our mind, what happens is that we become emotionally stuck on repeat, so we re-live the fear or the experience multiple times.

Neuroscience imaging shows the affect our thoughts have on our brain and our bodies.

According to Neuroscience research and imaging, these negative and fearful thoughts played over-and-over in our minds form deep, black grooves. The more repetitive the negative, anxious, or fearful thoughts, the deeper the grooves go.

The good news is that the opposite is also true. The more positive, life-giving and truth filled thoughts we think, the whiter and lighter these grooves become. In-other-words, neuroscience supports the truth of the Bible. When we replace negative, fear-based thoughts with positive, truthful thoughts based on Scripture, we literally change the neuropathways of our brains.

Our brains are neuro-plastic, meaning they are created in such a way that we can literally change our lives by changing our thoughts. Thoughts that are learned can be un-learned and replaced.

Neuroplasticity, also known as neural plasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. It is when the brain is rewired to function in some way that differs from how it previously functioned. These changes range from individual neuron pathways making new connections, to systematic adjustments like cortical remapping. Examples of neuroplasticity include circuit and network changes that result from learning a new ability, environmental influences, practice, and psychological stress.

Neuroplasticity was once thought by neuroscientists to manifest only during childhood, but research in the latter half of the 20th century showed that many aspects of the brain can be altered (or are "plastic") even through adulthood. However, the developing brain exhibits a higher degree of plasticity than the adult brain. Activity-dependent plasticity can have significant implications for healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage

Paul writes in Romans 12:2:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT)

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

The Message version says it this way:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 (MSG)

These Scriptures tell us that we can control our thoughts. Fear comes up a lot in coaching. What I share with my clients is that while you can’t control every thought that comes into your mind, you can control how long you dwell on it.

It’s like someone coming to your house and knocking on your door. You can’t control that they (thought) have come to your house (mind) and that they are knocking (trying to get your attention). However, you can control whether you open the door, talk with them for a few minutes and send them on their way, or whether you invite them in to dine with you or you allow them to just move in and live with you! You DO have power over your thoughts.

It is your thoughts that determine your feelings. If you are not aware of what you are thinking, then your feelings are usually an accurate barometer or litmus test of what thoughts you are thinking.

The ripple effect goes like this: Your thoughts determine your feelings. Your feelings influence your behavior (decisions and actions). Your behavior shapes your habits. Your habits form your character. Your character determines the quality of your life.

{my graphics are inspirational gifts for you}

All too often, we allow fear to run amok like a wild beast in our minds and we don’t stop to realize that we have relinquished the control of our wellbeing to a paper tiger. Here are 5 Strategies for Overcoming Fear and living empowered:

5 Strategies for Overcoming Fear

1. Become Aware of Your Thoughts

Whenever you feel worried, anxious or fearful, retrace your mental steps and observe what you are thinking. What thoughts led to your feelings? Perhaps even to a very real visceral experience?

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJ)

Battles are fought and won or lost in your mind. This is not a one-and-done. This is a thought-by-thought, moment-by-moment mental discipline rooted in the courage of being free and living empowered in the authority given to you through Christ Jesus. You have to take up the spiritual armor God has given to you and use it. (Ephesians 6:13-18)

2. Choose Your Thoughts - Replace Lies with the Truth

Once you identify the negative or fearful thought, then you can choose to exchange it for a positive and truthful one. You cannot get rid of negative, fearful or anxious thoughts simply by not thinking them. Just as there are very real physical laws, such as gravity and momentum, there are also spiritual laws. The Law of Replacement dictates that you can’t replace