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Fighting Fear and Sadness

Ophelia Gherman, M.D.
March 27, 2016
There are so many things in this world that can bring fear and sadness. Understanding what fear is and how it works can lead to a better understanding of how we can control it!

There are so many things in this world that can bring fear and sadness. Fear of the dark is a common childhood fear. Among the youth, fear of loneliness or rejection is common. In adulthood, there are fears of failure, worry about economic security, and tension brought on by political wars. Fears can be rational or they can be childish, brought on by our own perceptions and expectations. Interestingly, most fear is learned.


So how can we be freed of fear, anxiety, and sadness? How can we unlearn this character trait?


FEAR can be defined as an adaptive behavior that we have to help identify threats.  It’s an internal barometer that can trigger protective actions of resolution. Although, fear can sometimes be productive (“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 9:10), in most cases fear is detrimental. Often, fear is a result of our lack of faith. Therefore, many times, our fears can be defined by using the word "fear" as an acronym: FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real.


How does our brain process fear?
The part of the brain responsible for memories and connected to our senses—the amygdala—detects a certain smell, sound, or sight and triggers the brain to respond in a “fight or flight” mode. This is why the adrenaline response is so rapid when confronted with a snake.


The rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, modulates the sensory brain and rationalizes based on reality. It helps calm down the thoughts and compose one’s reactions.


Oftentimes, our fears are reflections of an overactive sensory brain and an underactive prefrontal cortex. This happens when our imaginations control our reality. When we focus on our circumstances, we allow the amygdala to search for solutions, which it is incapable of doing. It is only by turning off the sensory brain and turning on the rational part that we can overcome fear.  


How can we control our anxiety and fear reflexes?

1) Memorize scripture: Choose an emotion to work on, such as fear, anxiety, worry or sadness, and intentionally ask God to reveal the source of it all. Next, search the scriptures for Bible verses that focus on promises of hope, healing, counsel and cleansing. Meditate on the peace you seek. The Lord knows our fears and our needs better than anyone, and He yearns to carry our burdens. The first step is to do the soul-searching, and He will be the One that unshackles us from the slavery of sadness.


2) Rejoice! Despite your circumstances, find a reason to rejoice. Count your fingers and toes and praise God for your hearing and sight. Be creative and imaginative in the process. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).


3) Change your perspective. The next time you think you are having a bad day, change your perspective. We have more power to change our thinking than we realize. God created us as rational creatures with the power to choose our thoughts. Ponder God’s love and His sacrifice done because of His love for you! Think positive, speak positive, and remove negativity from your vocabulary and thoughts. If our thoughts are always on the flaws, mistakes, what-if’s and could-have-beens of life, church, family, or job, we will miss out on the pleasant, lovely and admirable blessings all around us.


4) Take a lesson from nature. The water lily grows in shallow, dirty and murky waters, yet it produces such a fragrant smell despite its surroundings. By sending its roots into the pure sand beneath, the lily produces a beautiful, pure, and fragrant blossom. As Christians, the gospel delivers us from the murky fear of this world, so that we may live as fragrant flowers rooted in the solid Rock of Ages. 


Even as a Christian, one may experience many sad and trying circumstances that will have strong emotional effects. God did not promise Christians perpetual happiness here on earth. Instead, He said just the opposite: “In the world ye shall have tribulation…” But He left us with the encouraging command: “….but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”


 “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord!” Philippians 3:1