“Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9
This scripture comes to Joshua as he begins to lead the Israelite people. Joshua has now been called to succeed the mighty leader Moses, so I can imagine Joshua feeling a little bit of fear and anxiety having to step into some pretty big shoes. Moses had just led the Israelites out of Egypt, parted the sea, and received the ten commandments. How could Joshua succeed this amazing leader?
On top of being Moses’s successor, Joshua was also asked to do some very difficult, seemingly impossible, things as well–like cross the river Jordan and then conquer Jericho. I can see how Joshua might have been a little bit nervous regarding these huge tasks ahead of him.
So no wonder God tells him, “Be not afraid. I am with you.”
That’s a comforting phrase. And because we can liken all scriptures unto ourselves, we can also see that God is not only telling Joshua this, but He is telling you and me:
“Be not afraid.”
But . . . are you afraid? Do you worry about things? Are you afraid of things that might happen to you in the future? Do you fear making positive changes in your life because you don’t know the outcome? Are you worried bad things might happen to you? Are you afraid of being the person God wants you to be?
To all these, God says to YOU, “Be not afraid.”
Hold on here. Easier said than done, right? How do we actually be not afraid? Do we shove our fears deep down inside so that we feel like they aren’t there? Do we ignore them and try not to think about them? Do we try to talk ourselves out of our fears and tell ourselves we really aren’t afraid?
PROBLEM: How do we “be not afraid?”
In my studying and learning about emotions, I’ve begun shifting my paradigm of what emotions are. I used to think they were uncontrollable villains that plagued me. When God said, “Be not afraid,” I thought I was supposed to expunge these bad things from me and stop feeling any form of fear.
But I never really could.
And now I know why.
Through studying, learning, and living life’s experiences, I now understand that emotions are messengers.
And that’s why I could never really get rid of my fears–because I never actually tried to listen to the messages they were bringing me.
My fears and anxieties and worries would not, and will not, leave until I’ve recognized the message they are bringing to me–and I act on those messages.
So what is our fear trying to tell us?
I’ve learned that the message in fear is that there is a path that diverges, and I need to choose which direction I will go. My fear is telling me that a choice needs to be made—and when I take the time to ask my fear what the options are, I can know what my paths look like and then make the choice I need to.
Your fear is telling you this very same thing.
With this approach to emotions, and with the command to “Be not afraid,” I can see that God does not want me to remain in my fear. He wants me to listen to its message and act on it, so it can leave me in peace. And He wants you to do the same thing.
I remember a moment I worked through my fear–where I actually realized there was a choice I needed to make. It is similar to how I work through it now, but because I didn’t understand emotions at the time, it was a friend who helped me work through it and make the choice I needed to make.
Seventeen years ago, I worked as a construction flagger at Yellowstone National Park in Montana for a summer job between college semesters. My roommate and I lived in an apartment in West Yellowstone, the tourist city right outside the park, and every morning we would drive twenty minutes into and through the park to get to the location of the construction.
On most days, I stood on the roadside between Madison and Norris for hours in the sun holding the stop sign to oncoming traffic as they waited for the way to clear so they could travel through safely.
And many of those days, I stood among the wildlife that the tourists came to see. (Some tourists even took pictures of me!)
I loved that job.
I lived and worked there with a small group of friends, and one day, as one of my friends and I were driving home from work together, we began talking about our hopes and dreams for the future, which turned to the topic of things we were afraid of.
At the time, I had lots of fears—but the one I shared with her was one of my deepest fears. It was a fear that a very specific thing would happen to me or one of my little sisters. The fear of that unknown–whether it would actually happen or not–would overwhelm me in thought, seizing me in fear.
As I talked about it, she listened to me. I expressed that I knew I needed to have more faith, but faith in what? I couldn’t have faith that God would stop anything bad from happening to me or my family because I knew God didn’t work that way. He does not interfere with people’s choices. We all have the gift of agency, and He won’t take that gift from us. And He won’t prevent the consequences from choices because He abides by celestial laws–one being that all actions require consequences.
So I knew I couldn’t have faith that God would protect us from bad things because I knew there was a possibility that something bad could actually happen. I actually tried having faith in this once, but always felt that subtle string of fear resonating within me because deep inside, I knew that God would not interfere with our choices. So there was just no surety that this bad thing would never happen.
After my long monologue, my sweet, wise friend quietly said, “Maybe it’s not about having faith that it won’t happen. Maybe it’s about having faith that God knows you, and He knows what you are capable of enduring and what you can’t bear.”
I was speechless. I had never thought of it that way before.
It was as if I had now become aware that there were two paths–two options for how I could live the rest of my life. And I was given the chance to choose which way I wanted to live: remain on the path of fear that I was on or choose to have faith in this new thought–that God knows me, He will help me through difficult things, and He won’t give me anything beyond what I can bear.
I made my choice.
And suddenly, as I shifted my faith into this new paradigm, my fear instantly melted away.
And though I’ve had fears and worries and concerns and doubts plenty of times after this moment, this specific fear about this specific worry has never returned.
My fear was telling me that I needed to make a choice,
and your’s is telling you the same thing.
Would you like to work through one of your fears right now? Would you like to find out what choice it is specifically trying to tell you to make?
Let’s do it.
So let your mind ponder on the following questions:
Are you worried about anything right now? Do you have any anxieties or are you feeling fearful about something? (You can use your Cheat Sheet to browse other words for Fear.)
Now, make a list of all the things you are stressed/worried/anxious/fearful about. Don’t just do this mentally, write it down!
Next, browse the list you just made. Is there one that is The Most Stressful to think about? Circle it. You are going to discover its message RIGHT NOW.
Take some big deep breaths. Quiet your heart and mind in preparation to ask and receive the message your fear is bringing to you.
Now ask yourself these questions:
What are my options? What do my paths look like? Are there more than two? (If there are, see if you can consolidate it down to two ultimate choices–remain in fear . . . or what???)
Once you have gotten this far, now ask, “What action do I need to take?” or “What choice do I need to make?”
It might be a no-brainer for you. Or might not. It might seem impossible to choose to live any other way.
Ponder on the options, then make your choice. Take action by visually seeing yourself step off the path you will no longer remain on and step onto the path of the new way you will live. Then listen for an answer or a confirmation to what you chose.
If you’ve worked through it all this way and got this far, great job! You should be feeling a great sense of relief and peace.
If you don’t, there might be another emotion surfacing that wants you to pay attention to its message as well. Do you feel anxiety about something else? Go back through this same process with this new topic!
Maybe you are feeling sadness or fear, or another emotion. Use the Cheat Sheet to figure out the parent emotion and the find tags on this site to learn how to work through those feelings as well.
I know you can do it!
You were created with this ability! Your emotions want you to be happy. They are bringing messages to you to help you get there. Find out the messages, take the action, and move forward in your progression in this life!
If you know someone who worries a lot, or could use some guidance in their own emotions, share this page! Let them know things can get better. Because they can.
Joshua became a great leader. He accomplished miracles similar to Moses, which is truly incredible. And I can’t help wondering what kinds of great things you and I can do when we work through our fears–not by ignoring them–but by listening to them, asking their messages, and then making our choices.
We can be great. We can be successful. We can “be not afraid.”