Out of everything I could offer you, perhaps the greatest gift I could give is that of perspective. I want to help you see that you have options. Not just in life, but in dealing with fear. The greatest tragedy for those enslaved by fear is their inability to see just how many options God gives us with fear. The heartbreaking reality is many who struggle with fear get too entrenched in their world to see fear any other way.
Some Basic Assumptions
If you are reading this series, it leads me to believe that you or perhaps someone you know is battling fearfulness. I am writing this series from a Christ Follower’s point of view. While I am not here to convince you to follow Jesus, it is helpful to be open to fundamental Christian beliefs. I strongly believe that modern medicine offers tremendous benefits in the treatment of mental health.
I AM NOT a doctor or counselor. I AM NOT advocating against modern medicine by any means. I AM sharing what I am learning that modern medicine simply does not offer.
Our Enemy And Our Perspective
As believers, we have a real and dangerous Enemy, the devil. If you have been following my writing for very long, chances are you have heard me mention this several times. If we are going about living life without an awareness of our Enemy, then we are dealing with only part of the story. We are making crucial decisions without knowing what or who we are fighting. When you step into battle today, fight with an awareness of your Enemy.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Know that our Enemy prefers to work in the shadows and largely goes undetected unless someone is aware of how he works. Our Enemy loves for us to get narrowly focused when dealing with our fearfulness. He does everything he can to convince us that our current way of viewing fear is the only way. Even worse, he even wants us to believe He does not exist.
For years, I fell victim to believing that my current way was the only way to see my fear. So, I felt stuck with no perceivable hope of my situation changing for the better. My doctor only offered a small part of the story, which was limited to prescription medication. I discovered that a good counselor can provide many other alternatives, including perspective. These alternatives may be just what you need to break free.
As I mentioned towards the end of Caught In The Overflow – Practical Approaches To Fear & Anxiety, God began to show me that I have options when responding to fear. God was even willing to help me with these options if I was willing to open my eyes to see them. Not only were there options as to how I responded, but these options could lead to freedom. The big challenge was that these options would require me to be open to a different perspective.
At a certain point, we have a decision to make about the way we look at our fear. If we continue down the same path we have been traveling, we’re guaranteed to achieve the same results as before. It was clear God wanted to show me a different path, but only if I was willing to see it. If I kept my eyes shut tight and my ears closed to God’s voice, I was sure to remain in the mess I was in.
The Root Of My Fear & Anxiety
In my journey with fear and anxiety, I experienced a major life event. I was laid off from my first “real job.” Without knowing it, my brain experienced trauma. At the time, I did not seek help in processing this event largely because I was unaware of my need. I was completely unaware of the benefits of counseling, so how would I know I needed it?
On top of this trauma, I was also going through a rather stressful time in my life. The trauma from the layoff compounded the stress and anxiety I was already experiencing in my day-to-day. As a result of not getting the help I need, the damage caused by this trauma never properly healed. I pressed on, doing my best to move forward without ever really healing from the trauma.
Outside Looking In
From the outside looking in, these other forms of trauma were not major life events. Most might see these as minor setbacks, but nothing serious. To me, they were huge! Mostly because I was already dealing with a lot. All of these minor events slowly snowballed into something larger than life. I did not realize it at the time, but I was one bad day away from disaster.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20 NLT
Our brains are pattern-matching machines. The human ability to identify patterns allowed our ancestors to adapt and survive in the past. Today, pattern matching allows us to learn about diseases, understand human behavior, and identify trends from large data sets. Pattern-matching is one of our greatest assets as human beings. Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “The best thing we have going for us is our intelligent, especially pattern recognition, sharpened over eons of evolution.”
While our brain’s ability to see patterns is one of our greatest strengths, it also holds the potential to impact us negatively. As I stated earlier, I never properly addressed the trauma of being laid off. When I began to experience new trauma, my brain often felt overwhelmed and unsafe. My brain was on high alert, scanning for patterns that might indicate possible future trauma.
In my particular situation, my brain was overwhelmed and felt unsafe. My brain started to alert my body of anything it perceived as a possible danger. The interesting part of this function of my brain is that it was frequently wrong. According to Cognitiontoday.com, “Patterns need not be exact but they tend to capture an approximation.” My brain was capturing a lot of false approximations.
Since my brain was essentially afraid, it was scanning my environment for potential new reasons to be fearful. I often found myself experiencing a little bit of confirmation bias. According to Science Daily, confirmation bias is, “a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.” While I certainly did not care about the statistics, I saw my confirmation bias play out several times.
Do you believe that? In the opening of this article, I made a pretty bold statement. I said that “…perhaps the greatest gift I could give is that of perspective.” When you are trapped in the mud of fear & anxiety, you often need a friend to pull you out. Perspective is that friend.
What Factors Contribute To A Healthy Fear Response?
We all experience fear. I have learned that what I do with my fear matters a whole heck of a lot. When it comes to responding to fear, I feel like I have made practically every mistake imaginable. So what factors contribute to a healthy fear response? One word, Perspective.
Our perspective often determines if we yield to fear or if we choose to fight. It gives us the ability to endure, to persevere. It allows us to dust ourselves off when we have been knocked down. Perspective changes our attitude. It softens our hearts. It gives us courage. It allows us to keep going when no one is watching. It helps us to press on to reach the heavenly prize. (Philippians 3:14)
Perspective Without God
It is entirely possible to utilize perspective without God or the power of the Holy Spirit. Yep, you hear me correctly. I believe that perspective on its own can have that great of an impact. So if you ignore everything else I say, please take this with you, your perspective matters.
While I completely stand by what I just said, it comes with a couple of giant asterisks next to it. One at the beginning and one at the end. Perspective on its own can change a person, but a change in perspective on its own is unlikely to lead to real-life change.
Perspective On Its Own
I believe that a person could heal over time with a renewed perspective. I just feel it is highly unlikely in this particular context. Those who are battling fear and anxiety are typically not mentally strong or healthy. Their brains have been weakened either by trauma or cycles of unhealthy thinking.
The Right Frame Of Mind
In my experience, I was not in the place to do anything which required extensive mental strength for long periods. I believe healing is possible utilizing perspective alone, just not probable. The brain needs what is called perceived safety. The brain needs to experience a sense of safety enough to take positive steps towards healing. It is similar to a turtle that pulls in all its extremities inside its shell when it senses danger. When the turtle starts to feel safe, it peeks outside its shell and slowly begins to re-engage with the world around them.
The human brain at this point needs so much just to begin the healing process. Most individuals would not feel safe enough to do what is necessary for long-term healing to begin.
Perspective + the Holy Spirit + the Bible = a recipe for healing.
Embracing & Keeping A Kingdom Perspective
So how do we embrace and keep a Kingdom perspective? Such an important question, I had to ask it. I have found that the foundation of a Kingdom perspective is built by spending regular, quality time with God in the Bible. I know many might be reading this thinking, “Is this all you got?” Bear with me a bit, I am going somewhere.
As human beings we are sinful by nature, we are not good people, and we desperately need God to do anything. Welcome to craigbooker.com, where I vow to make you feel good about yourself, wink, wink. An essential part of a Kingdom perspective is an intimate and ongoing relationship with God. Without a relationship with God, all you have is a human-centric, self-centered reality. Your perspective will be incredibly limited and lack what you need to find healing or to make any progress.
Why A Kingdom Perspective?
I struggled with this title. Why not a Godly perspective? I believe we all have our ideas of what a Godly perspective might be. Whether you grew up in church or are completely new to following Jesus, we have our ideas of what Godly means. A Kingdom perspective serves God’s purpose and keeps our eyes on the big (God-centric) picture.
The Inability To Envision
For many battling fear and anxiety, your mind is filled with reasons to fear everything when you look at things in your life. It is incredibly difficult to see anything but the worst in your day-to-day. You spend your life managing the outcomes as much as humanly possible. One reason a Kingdom Perspective is so important is that it will help you see how your suffering plays a part in God’s story.
Your suffering is real my friend, do not get me wrong. Your fear nature has caused you to turn inward, keeping you from seeing any other possibility. It is the fear and trauma which have rocked your world so much, that keeps you from seeing a way out. By studying the Bible and the characters, you have a chance of seeing how God worked in and through their greatest challenges.
Creating A Safe Place
These real-life stories show how they made choices to trust/follow God and how these choices ultimately impacted their life good or bad. It allows you to walk in their shoes without the consequences. It is a safe place to play it out. It gives you a safe space to imagine how trusting God in your life could work out. So now that is out of the way, let us dig in.
Biblical Examples of Perspective
Let us start with a few examples of perspective as portrayed in scripture. In Luke 12:22-33, Jesus is teaching about money and possessions. The main point of Jesus’ teaching in this passage is to encourage listeners to have faith and trust in God to provide. Jesus takes things anyone could relate to and shows how God cares for things as basic as a flower or bird. And if God cares for such things as a bird, how much more does he care about you?
The imagery of lilies or ravens allows the reader of Luke to capture a glimpse of how much God loves them. The examples challenge us to reflect on how good God is to all of creation. In Luke 12:24, teaching about food, Jesus encourages the audience to “Look at the ravens.” And in Luke 12:27 Jesus is teaching about clothing, Jesus encourages people to “Look at the lilies and how they grow…”
Can you see how Jesus uses these examples to shift our perspective?
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:2 NLT
Let us shift our attention to Hebrews 12:2 NLT where the author encourages listeners/readers to “…run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Knowing just what a daunting challenge this will prove to be for believers, the author follows with, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…” Then again in the second half of verse 2, describing Jesus, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its share…”
As you can see, Hebrews is full of examples of perspective.
As we wrap up this post about fear and perspective, you might feel like I left something out. You are right, I did. I cannot give you perspective if you are unwilling to take the journey for yourself. What I hope is that you caught a glimpse at what a Kingdom Perspective can do for your life. YOU HAVE OPTIONS! You do, but it will take a lot of work on your part. You have to take a step of faith if you want to change your situation. I CANNOT take that step for you, my friend. What I can tell you is that you will keep experiencing the same results if you do not make the choice to do something about it. I pray you will choose to pursue a Kingdom Perspective.
“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Luke 12:24 NIV
“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.” Luke 12:27 NLT