As moms, we don’t have time to be afraid. When something stirs fear in relationships, parenting, jobs, or health, it’s immediately bulldozed by diapers, carpools, arguments to referee, and spills to clean. If the fear has weight, it comes back later, just as you’re falling asleep. You start to feel your own heart again for the first time all day. Then your husband nuzzles up to you and, well, you know….
Life doesn’t make it easy, but we still need to care for ourselves when we’re afraid. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could fight our fears with greater courage, especially in those inconvenient moments? The good news is this:
“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” ~John Wayne
As I faced a big fear of my own this week, the following tools helped me be courageous, even when I was shaky.
Name your fear.
Say your fear out loud. As soon as you say it, it’s days are numbered. We fear most those things we can’t explain or verbalize. Describing it gives it boundaries and often makes it much more manageable.
Turn and face it.
Jerry Sittser, a professor at Whitworth, lost his wife, mother and young daughter in a tragic automobile accident. His grief led to intense depression as he tried to run from the darkness he faced and the fears it brought with it. His sister gave him what he describes as the best advice he had in that season. She said, “the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to sunrise.”*
Sometimes letting our minds “go there” can take the sting out of what we fear. I use this one for public speaking anxiety. Before I approach the mic, I imagine the talk being so awful that the audience throws food at me and rushes the stage to toss me out. Creating a caricature like that of our fear helps put it back in perspective so we can move on.
Remember it’s just a feeling.
Just like any other emotion we feel, to be afraid is a regular, normal part of life. Getting anxious or being afraid of feeling scared – of letting yourself feel what you feel – does the opposite of what you want. Just ask yourself: “When was the last time I actually died from having a feeling?” Don’t give fears special treatment just because they’re “scarier” than the other things you feel.
Stay in this moment.
Right now is all you’ve got. Many challenging things MAY happen in the next few weeks or months. But they also may not. So let’s remember these words and stay in the here and now:
“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time”-Abraham Lincoln
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Jesus
Give it a reality check.
Handle fear of the future by reminding it of the victories in the past, and the promises God’s given you. This helps me every day with my kids. When one of my daughters with behavioral special needs is screaming on the floor, I remind myself of the fact that she wasn’t doing that just minutes before. Which means she did stop the last tantrum at some point! Scripture promises, “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches… in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). The word “needs” means not just necessities, but everything that concerns you. How can fear stand up to that truth?
*When Your Rope Breaks, Zondervan, 2009, p.56.