The Secret to Mastering Worry and FearPublished February 27, 2019
The excerpt below is from The Way of the Warrior, a new book by Erwin McManus, who guides readers to a deeper understanding of the inner workings needed to establish peace and tranquility in their homes, neighborhoods, communities and even the world.
Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
With simplicity and wisdom, he cuts between the two things that steal our peace, for the greatest enemies of the peace within are worry and fear.
All around me I find troubled hearts—men and women drowning in worry. We have become so adept at worrying that we have created an endless number of names to describe the nuances. Whether we use the language of stress or anxiety or find ourselves in the depths of depression or despair, worry is the source of so much of our hearts’ troubles.
Worry is not rooted in reality, but does affect our reality.
Worry projects a negative view of the world around us. Worry projects a negative future. Worry is an act of faith. It is a deep seated belief in worst case scenarios. Worry is not rooted in reality, but does affect our reality.
I’ve also found irony in these words of Paul: “Be anxious for nothing.”
I know that he means is that we should not allow anything to make us anxious, but the truth is that it is usually nothing that is making us anxious. Our anxiety, our distress, our worry—when stripped to its very essence—is rooted in nothing, or at least in nothing we can control.
Paul’s solution, of course, is to be anxious in nothing, but in all things, through prayer, we should bring our thanksgiving to God. It seems he’s telling us that anxiety comes when we try to control things that are out of our control. We become anxious because we haven’t learned to trust.
It is interesting that in another place where Jesus speaks of peace, he brings up trouble once more. Here he says to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.”
This is an important contrast. First he says to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” but then he says to us, “In this world you will have trouble.” We have no control over the reality that in this world we will have trouble, but we have control over whether we decide to allow our hearts to be troubled. He makes the promise that though there will be trouble in this world, we can take heart, for he has overcome the world. Our worry will steal our peace, and when peace is missing, we find ourselves drowning in anxiety and crumbling under the weight of life’s pressures.
He also said, “Do not be afraid.” If worry wars against our peace, fear is perhaps an even greater foe. When we live our lives afraid, it creates turmoil and chaos within us. Fear is the enemy of peace. While worry will rob our joy, fear will steal our freedom, for what we fear establishes the boundaries of our freedom. What we fear has mastery over our souls. When we are anxious, we lose our strength. When we are afraid, we lose our courage. When we have found peace, we have both the strength and courage to live the lives we were created to live.
Even in my own life, I see the relationship between worry, anxiety and the inability to control the world around me. Throughout my life, I have had a fear of dogs. Even to this day I still jump when a dog moves in my direction, even though I love dogs. The root of this fear is not undiagnosable for me.
Fear of Dogs
When I was around five years old, I saw my brother get bitten by a dog. It could have been either one of us, but as life would have it, he was the one the dog targeted. Oddly enough, my brother, who was actually bitten by the dog, never developed any fear of dogs whatsoever. My fear and anxiety were rooted in what could have happened and not in the reality of what did happen. It was as if for the rest of my life I kept waiting for what I feared to happen, even though to this day I have never been bitten by a dog.
Fear of Roller Coasters
For years I was afraid of roller coasters. Again, it was not rooted in something irrational. When I was around ten years old, the seat belt broke while I was riding a roller coaster, and I held on for my dear life. I remember screaming my guts out, trying to get the operator’s attention, but he was too busy smoking to notice. I was never thrown out of the roller coaster, as I managed to hold on until it finally came to a stop, but out of that negative experience, an enduring fear took over. I spent years watching other people ride roller coasters. But that’s exactly what fear and anxiety do to you: they put you on the sideline watching life happen. I couldn’t control the variables if I got into the roller coaster, so I stayed on solid ground to give me a sense of control.
In order to reduce our anxiety, we often create smaller and smaller boundaries to give us some sense of control over our lives.
It was years later when I finally determined to overcome that fear. Without fully understanding the complex nature of fear and anxiety, I knew what I had to do was get on a roller coaster. I had to destroy an ingrained belief that if I got on the coaster, I would die. Since that time, I have enjoyed a lifetime of extreme inclines and insane drops. I love roller coasters. I love the feeling that happens when my stomach drops. I love the illusion of free-falling and plummeting to my death.
Ironically, those two phobias in my life helped me establish a pattern of overcoming fears in multiple arenas. Every fear feels justified. One reason is that every fear has a seed of truth in it. But the thing is, you do not ultimately have control over your life. Peace does not come because you finally have control over your life; peace comes when you no longer need control.
If fear has a direct object, anxiety is fear without an object. We experience anxiety when we feel overwhelmed by life. In order to reduce our anxiety, we often create smaller and smaller boundaries to give us some sense of control over our lives.
Excerpted from The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace. Copyright © 2019 by Erwin Raphael McManus. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Just released, you can read more of The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace by Erwin Raphael McManus here.
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About the Author
Erwin McManus is senior pastor of MOSAIC, a church in Los Angeles known for its innovation, creativity, diversity and social entrepreneurism. A thought-provoking communicator, McManus has spoken to more than a million people in 50 countries on leadership, creativity and culture. In his latest book, The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace, McManus shows that encountering peace comes by artful intention.
Years at GLS 2003, 2011, 2018