"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline" 2 Timothy 1:7
In 2018 Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the United States, announced a 25% jump on books related to anxiety from the previous year. 25%! That’s a dramatic increase in only one year. Fast forward to 2020… the year that went through the cheese shredder. Even those who never struggled with anxiety prior to this were researching books about the subject.
Anxiety-related stressors impact 40 million people in the United States. Women are more commonly affecting with as much as 23.4% of the population recording mild to severe anxiety. 1 in every 15 men also struggle with anxiety. Not surprisingly, the most anxious generation is the Millennials: men and women ages 25-30.
God—as the Creator of the universe and Author of mankind—is not taken back by these statistics. He created us to be emotional beings. Fear serves a purpose in the human experience; it should cause us to be alert. Rational fear keeps us from doing anything stupid. For example, when considering the purchase of a new house or car, our fear of over-extending ourselves financially can help us stick to a budget; or, the fear of getting a speeding ticket should help us to slow down.
Irrational fear, on the other hand, can prevent us from doing anything useful. Fear can paralyze us to the extent that we are not willing to take any risk. This is what I believe Paul was referencing in the passage above. The “spirit of fear” is a pervasive attitude, not an honest evaluation of the facts.
Of all the gifts God has given us to combat fear and the related anxiety—such as His love, His Holy Spirit, and His power—the one “gift” that seems out of the place is self-discipline. In fact, many of us would hardly consider this a gift!
And yet, self-discipline is the key which can release us from the bondage of fear.
How does it work? God has given us every tool in our tool belt to know how to separate rational from irrational fear. Picture your brain as a computer; you have the power to hit the ACCEPT or REJECT button on every message that pops up. Is this particular fear useful for making a good decision (such as avoiding spending too much money as mentioned above)? Accept it. Or is this fear general and gripping (such as fear of rejection, failure, or embarrassment)? Reject, reject, reject! [Please also reference 2 Corinthians 10:5.]
Do you want to be fearless? Be disciplined in your thought life. God has programmed us to be able to control our minds, but we have to put in the hard work.