They have it all together.

How many times have you thought that or heard someone else say it?

People around us would probably be surprised to discover the kinds of fears we keep deeply buried away inside us. And no doubt we would be equally surprised to know theirs.

I decided to do some research and made a short list of some serious and some funny ones that I found on the web:

Ablutophobia—Fear of washing or bathing.
Agoraphobia—Fear of open spaces or of being in crowded, public places like markets.
Aviophobia or Aviatophobia—Fear of flying.
Bathmophobia—Fear of stairs or steep slopes.
Cherophobia—Fear of joy or rejoicing.
Claustrophobia—Fear of confined spaces.
Ecclesiophobia—Fear of church and going to church.
Ephebiphobia—Fear of teenagers.
Gelotophobia—Fear of being laughed at.
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia—Fear of the number 666.
Homilophobia—Fear of sermons.
Kainolophobia or Kainophobia—Fear of anything new or change.
Nomophobia—Fear of losing cell phone contact. (A new, but very real fear for many today)
Paraskavedekatriaphobia—Fear of Friday the 13th.
Phobophobia—Fear of phobias.
Spectrophobia—Fear of looking at your own reflection in a mirror!

This is but a tiny fraction of the fears, phobias, and panic attacks and disorders that people worldwide experience on a daily basis. Many of these are serious and very real matters of concern requiring medical care. Have you noticed that if you don’t do something concrete about chronic fears, they don’t do away by themselves? Sometimes they get even stronger as the years go by.

Obviously, some types of fears are good. We should have a certain amount of fear of alligators. Or fire. Or dark alleys. But when it comes to the kind of debilitating fears most of us carry around with us, we need to take positive action, when and where we can, to leave them behind. We’re not designed to carry them around.

For some kinds, what we can call “low-level fears,” we can play a role in removing them ourselves. For example, if we are afraid of crossing over a bridge, I am told we can confront and reduce the fear in the following way: One day we move toward the bridge with only one step, and then turn around and go home. The next day two steps on the bridge, three the next, and so forth until we actually cross over the whole thing. We cross it one tiny step at a time. Supposedly, it’s the same thing with many other such fears—swimming, climbing, skiing, you name it.

Through our reading of Scripture, it’s clear that God’s will is for us to live a life of joy and hope, not one controlled by fear and anxiety. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus commands us, “Do not be anxious about your life…” He affirms that chronic anxiety and fear are not God’s plan for us and he wants us to get rid of anything that is detrimental to our life of faith.

Now it’s true that sometimes, in a moment following a prayer for deliverance, specific fears can disappear. I’ve seen people walk away from a time of prayer completely free of whatever fear they brought to the prayer meeting. It happens. God heals us from such things by means of a miracle.

But that’s probably not the norm. For major fears that plague us year after year—fear of cancer, divorce, bankruptcy, unemployment, disability, death of a loved one, and the like—we can’t really get over them until we walk through them hand in hand with God. He wants us to learn to be fearless, with him at our side, passing through the valley and coming out the other side to tell our story. God wants us to learn about his faithfulness in the midst of our problem, not by avoiding it.

So what is your fear?

I’d like you to ask yourself these questions:

1) How long have I been carrying certain fears within me?
2) Which fears can I confront and work through by my own actions?
3) Do I have fears that I need to lay at the feet of God and seek liberation?
4) Does fear reveal some part of my life I’m holding back from God?
5) Am I prepared to go through (with God’s help) the very thing I fear the most in order to graduate to a new level of faith?

Don’t be surprised if you pray for courage and security and get danger instead, or if you pray for patience and maturity and get trial and tribulation. God may be calling you to do what he has required of his people for thousands of years—obedience and growth in the face of trouble and resistance. He has a good purpose for everything. In that lies our confidence and hope.