Anxieties, Fears, and Phobias

Not all fears are created equally. Rather, they come in various degrees of intensity: Let me explain the differences. Anxiety is the dread of a potential danger or loss in the future (e.g., possible terrorist attack); fear is the emotional response to a real or perceived present danger or threat (e.g., being followed); and a phobia is a fear gone wild. It is an irrational dread (e.g., fear of elevators) that seeks to avoid repeating a negative experience.

I’ve modeled the pattern. I saw my fear of earthquakes progress from anxiety about the predicted “big one,” to extreme fear during a significant temblor, to quake-phobia in which I kept an overnight bag packed by the door. Further, until recently, I flatly refused to visit San Francisco under any circumstance due to its devastating quakes. It’s no wonder that Paul admonished, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). He knew that if we didn’t nip anxiety in the bud, it would progress in its intensity and get a stronghold on our lives.

Whether an anxiety, fear, or phobia, Scripture declares that fear is not from God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). As a woman of faith, I believe this and I passionately teach it. I also know that “believing is behaving.” Therefore, in the final analysis, our behavior is the decisive test of what we really believe. When we succumb to the “spirit of fear,” it is because we have embraced an erroneous belief about God and His ability or willingness to deliver us from the fear-triggering situation, person, or thing.

I have concluded that I will probably always have to battle one fear or another; however, I have resolved that I will not allow any of them to hinder my progress or derail my destiny. It was Mark Twain who remarked, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”

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