Phobia is the Greek word for fear. It refers to panic that is completely out of proportion to the perceived threat behind it. Fear has very paralysing effects.
We all fear something. For instance, fear of failure keeps people from trying anything risky; fear of rejection makes people afraid of doing anything that would draw criticism or ridicule. Yet, anything that is worthwhile and living by faith requires taking some risk - getting married, a new job, having a baby or starting a business.
Many fears will confront you whenever you embark on a journey to achieve something significant. There are at least 322 unique phobias that have been identified.
According to Bertrand Russell, “Fear is the main source of superstition and a form of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” And according to Miguel de Cervantes, “Fear has many eyes and can see things underground.”
Nelson Mandela said:, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Some examples of fear: Achluphobia/scotophobia - fear of darkness. Agliophobia - fear emotional and physical pain. Agrizoophobia - fear of wild animals. Altophobia - fear of heights. Cacophobia - fear of ugliness. Cancerphobia/carcinophobia - fear of Cancer. Decidophobia - fear of making a decision. Genophobia - fear of sex or sexual intimacy. Gynophobia - dislike or fear of woman. Hominophobia/androphobia/arrhenphobia - Fear of men. Ecclesiophobia -fear of churches. Atychiphobia - fear of failure.
The single command in scripture that is frequently repeated is ‘fear not’. The reason is that people use fear to avoid doing what God asks or requires them to do.
Unfortunately, you block your dream when you allow fear to grow bigger than your faith. Extreme cases of fear can result in escalated anxiety and full-fledged panic attacks.
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The book of Exodus records how the Israelites left Egypt where they had been slaves for many years. There were mountains on both sides; the Red Sea ahead and behind them was Pharaoh’s army racing after them. They were afraid, scared stiff, apprehensive and in consternation. They based their faith on the surroundings which spelt doom. They were so engrossed in it that they lost sight of where God had promised to take them - Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Fear typically has various ramifications on us. First, fear makes us sceptical, doubtful and to ask many questions. The Israelites sarcastically asked Moses if there were no graves in Egypt so that he brought them out to die in the dessert.
Second, it causes us to be selfish by excusing ourselves, accusing and blaming others for our predicament. When gripped by fear one tends to focus on themselves and their needs. The Israelites asked Moses what he had done to them by bringing them out of Egypt into the desert.
Third, it causes us to be stubborn, resist change and want to maintain the status quo. The Israelites told Moses that they had asked him while still in Egypt to leave them alone; to serve the Egyptians. When afraid, people tend to reason ‘I have never done it that way before’ or ‘this will rock my boat.’
In relationships, people fear to make a move because they are afraid of being hurt again.
Fourth, it causes us to be short sighted and relive the past experiences. Fear makes us go backwards, retreat, turn around and go to back to a place where we came from; because it is familiar. The Israelites told Moses that it would have been better for them to serve the Egyptians than to come and die in the desert. Singer Sara Groves in her song titled, ‘Painting pictures of Egypt’ says, “It’s not about losing faith or about trust, it’s all about comfortable. The future feels so hard and I want to go back. The past is so tangible, I know it by heart and familiar things are not easy to discard.”
Many people would rather maintain their self-defeating behaviour than risk the fear of change or the unknown. The Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt even though they knew it was painful and did not like it there because at least they were sure they would have good food (meat, fish, beans, rice, bread, garlic, onions, cucumbers, fruits, etc).
God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites to let go of their fear; to look up to him for salvation; and launch out in faith by continuing with the journey to the Promised Land.
How do you overcome fear in your life? Move forward by doing the very thing you fear most and do not let anything or anyone derail you. Learn to take small steps that will help you reduce your fear or discomfort. Get concrete positive motivations by reading the word of God and focusing on promises that counter your fear.
Have a different perception of failure and rejection by making improvements and trying again.
Choose to be in the ‘now’ by refusing to let your mind remain stuck in the past or worrying about the future. This does not mean having no plans; rather that you organise your actions and intensions within your capabilities.
Finally, surrender to the will of God including the difficult situations and you will discover that he has your best interests at heart.
Bishop David Muriithi- Founder & Overseer House of Grace International Ministries