Phobophobia

Everyone has they’re own inner battles. Some are more obvious than others, but when it gets down to it, everyone has something they really struggle with. One of my personal struggles is fear. Fear seems to have more power over us than just about any other emotion. When we’re afraid of something can’t think rationally and behave in ways we wouldn’t normally. Like insisting on sleeping with the light on or checking under our beds for monsters. Or almost ripping our shirt off in the middle of the living room, because we think there may be a tiny spider on it. (I did not do that!) Or running away from your Dad, screaming, because he told you he felt like he was going to vomit. (I have done that.)

That brings me to my fear. THE STOMACH FLU. Notice how that is in all caps, that’s kind of how I imagine those three words together, mixed with a high pitched squeak. Now, when I say I am afraid of the stomach flu, I mean I am really, really terrified. Or at least I used to be. Now I am very scared of the stomach flu, but not like I was. I used to be soooooooo frightened of the stomach flu that it was a physical reaction. My body would tremble, I would feel weak, and my heart would race. At times it was so bad, I could barely function. And this wasn’t just my reaction when my family started vomiting, this was my reaction when anyone I knew got sick with the awful virus.

Then one night, several years ago, my entire family got the stomach flu. Every single one, but me.

It was at that point, as I lay in bed crying, my heart pounding, that I realized I feared the fear as much as I feared the stomach flu. I also knew that I couldn’t live with this fear for the rest of my life. It was too controlling, it stopped me from doing things that I would normally have done, simply because I was afraid I might get the dreaded illness. That night I begged God to help me overcome my debilitating phobia. That night I opened my Bible and found Psalm 91. I know it’s a common passage, but I want to share it with you anyway.

 

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge[b]
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble;
    I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

I know what you’re thinking, this is going to be one of those incredible stories, where my fear completely disappeared in one night. But it’s not. I still fight with my anxiety. Each time my fear sneaks back in, I have to choose to trust God. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I notice the wording in verses 9-10.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge[b]
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.

At the beginning of these two verses it says the word because. Because you have trusted God to protect you, because you have chosen him as your refuge he will be your shield. Wait a second. That means I have to be willing to give my dread to God? That’s really hard. Why? Because I want to feel like I am in control. But reality is, I’m not. And I never will be. It doesn’t matter how much hand sanitizer I put on, it’s up to God whether or not I get sick. Besides, the Good Lord made the germs for a reason, and he’s more capable than I am of getting rid of them. I might always be somewhat scared of the stomach flu, but God has given me wonderful resources to help my win my war with worry. There are four things that have really helped me.

1. God’s word

Every time I’m afraid, God gives me new verse to focus on. One of my favorites is Isaiah 41:13:

For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.”

I love that verse! Who doesn’t want God to hold their hand? You’ve got to admit that’s pretty cool and comforting!

2. Prayer (You would probably laugh if you could hear some of the imploring I’ve done with God over the years. Sometimes it sounds kind of like this: “Please, please, pleeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaase don’t let us catch the flu!!!!!!”)

As for prayer, I’m not generally feeling very creative when I’m scared, so it kind of comes out something like this: “Help!” or “Dear God, Please don’t let me get the stomach flu!” That’s generally the gist of my prayers. But you know what? They work! I have only had the stomach flu a couple of times ever! I can’t actually remember what it feels like to throw up. (Perhaps that’s part of the problem.) God really does hear our prayers when we ask him for something, even when his answer is NO.

3. Lavender Oil (I know you were expecting something profound, but lavender oil is especially helpful for anxiety.)

Now, let’s touch on the lavender oil thing for a minute. I don’t want to sound like I’m selling something, because I’m not, but this stuff truly is wonderful! The DoTerra brand smells heavenly and is great for anxiety. It helps relax your body and makes you a little bit tired. Plus, it’s completely natural! (I’m homeschooled, so obviously that is very important.) All you have to do is put a little bit under your nose and inhale.

4. Music

Alright, on to the music. One day, my Dad felt like he might be getting sick with the you-know-what. My parents had just had it not three weeks earlier, and I was thinking, No, no, no!!! Not again! I just did this, God! Is this some kind of cruel game? I turned on the CD I had in my CD player, and a song came on (imagine that.), it was “Hold Me Jesus”  by Rich Mullins.

Hold Me Jesus

Well, sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

CHORUS:
So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

CHORUS

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

CHORUS

You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace?

It occurred to me in that moment, that I needed to stop fighting God, and let him be my Prince of Peace. I needed to let him take control of my life, and stop worrying about the future.

Honestly, I hate writing these sort of blog post. In some ways they seem too personal and open. I’m sharing a bit of myself with you, and am making my self somewhat vulnerable. That’s not easy. I guess it’s probably a pride thing. But either way I decided to share this with you today. I hope it didn’t make you feel like I was just sharing my problems with the world. I wanted to write this, because I wanted to make the point that in our many fears, we should trust God, but not to be discouraged when our problems don’t immediately disappear. Even if you’re like me and you have a bit of phobophobia (fear of fear), he’ll help you overcome that fear as well. You can’t let your fears control and keep you from doing all the amazing things God has for your life. In the words of John Wayne: “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

~Ally

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