What is the one thing you don’t doubt when you are afraid? Think about it. When we are afraid we will doubt just about everything except our fear. We will doubt things we know to be true (i.e., whether we locked our door or paid a bill, the faithfulness of our spouse, your preparedness for an exam, God’s care, etc…) rather than to doubt our fears.
Our fears are close. When we are afraid nothing feels closer than our fears. This means that whatever information we receive gets filtered through our fears. Whatever truth we hear feels like it is “out there” while our fears are “in here.” This adds to our unwillingness to doubt our fears.
Besides it only feels like a risk if we doubt our fears. Believing our fears feels like we are “playing it safe.” If we doubt our fears it feels like we’d never forgive ourselves for knowing better and not bracing against being hurt or let down. When we’re afraid the world gets twisted; fear becomes wise and peace becomes folly.
Our fears are like the bad friend we hope our children don’t have in middle school. Everything the parent says to point out the bad influence only increases the child’s allegiance. Because we believe our fear is keeping us safe every counterpoint we hear (even when we’re arguing with ourselves) sounds “unfriendly.” We buy the lie that our fears are “for” us and courage is “against us.
What is the point? We must see that fear is a form of trust. We trust our pessimistic predictions of the future. We trust our worse-case-scenario imagination. We trust whatever comes after “what if…” Fear is a fierce allegiance (i.e., trust) to negative messages.
Often in our battle with fear/trust, we try learn to feel peace without doubting our fears. Doubting our fears is an important step that prevents trusting God from feeling like “blind faith.” Ask yourself this question, “What would be different if I truly believed that my fears lied more than they told the truth? What if I was as skeptical of my fears as I was of an infomercial?”
Obeying the command to take “every thought captive” begins with our ability to doubt our fears. Taking your thoughts captive begins with changing the primary question from “What if my fears are true?” to “What if my fears are false?” This is an important bridge to honestly considering, “What if God’s promises were true and care secure?”
Obeying the command to “fear not,” the most repeated command in Scripture (occurring over 300 times in the Bible), begins with the willingness to doubt our fears. When you doubt fear, fear becomes less real so that other things can become more real.
How do I learn to doubt my fear? Now that you’re open to and understand the significance of the question, ask yourself, “How reliable is my fear?” What percentage of the time is your fear accurate? How many of your fear’s predictions come true? Would you trust any other person or emotion with that track record?
Does this mean that I should never listen to my fear? No. Fear is a gift from God meant to alert us to what is really important and dangerous. Simply begin by being appropriately skeptical of your fear; resist the urge to treat your fears as if they were the divinely inspired, inerrant Word of God to interpret your circumstances. Allow them to be the mere temporal assessment of an individual wired for self-preservation.
What do I do after I doubt my fears? What do you do after you get troubling information from any other liar or unreliable source? Talk to someone trustworthy (God in prayer and trusted Christian friends in conversation) about the matter and consult something authoritative (Scripture). As you do this, give weight to the reliable, authoritative sources.
In light of this reflection consider Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Realize that fear is a form of fierce, instinctual trust that feels closer and more reliable than anything else. When you fear the Lord, that allegiance creates a natural doubt in anything or anyone that would speak negatively about your best, most-trusted Friend/Father (Exod. 33:11, I John 3:1-3).