Before you begin reading, do me a favor.
Leave any and all forms of holier-than-thou, self-righteous, shame-on-you pride on the other side of the Internet. If you're going to read today's post, you can't have that kind of attitude.
And, if that's something you don't handle real well, this may not be the blog for you.
Otherwise, I invite you to open up and lean in. Peel back the face you wear that tells others that you're doing just fine when you're really not and toss it in the trash.
In fact, I'll start.
My name is Ayana, and 99.99% of my 20-year-old life was spent living in fear. I'm not talking cute and quirky, "Hahaha-I-just-kind-of-freak-out-about-everything!" kind of fear.
I mean, big-headed, joy-stealing, fire-breathing Fear.
And, the 99.99% statistic I gave you is not an exaggeration.
Fear and I have history.
Fear and I go way back.
If I could, I would show you moments—photos of me smiling all cute, my makeup done and what not—and tell you the story that didn't make the selfie, the anxiety attack I had just hours before I posed and posted, something you would never be able to tell through the filter I slapped on it.
And, if I had a little more time, I could tell you stories as a kid when I would just become afraid. Not because something was wrong or I wasn't feeling well or because I felt unsafe. I would just...begin to panic.
Believe me when I say that Fear has been with me for enough time to know me very well. It knows my triggers, my weaknesses, and, the scary part?
It even knows my faith.
That's right, saints!
I'm writing about my relationship with Fear even when I began my relationship with Jesus. Because my heart hurts for the reader scrolling through this post today who grew up in church, sat under all the sermons, heard all of the Scriptures, and still went home paralyzed by Fear.
If that's you, you are reading the words of a girl who gets it. I understand exactly what that's like. I'm a church kid myself and that 99.99% statistic isn't lying to you.
Now, don't be discouraged or quick to judge. (You were supposed to leave that at the door!) We're going to talk about the way out of this cycle of fear—a lesson I am very new at walking in and applying it to a deep and personal level.
But, we can't talk about the solution if we don't talk about the problem. And, the way that Fear has been terrorizing the entire world lately is a problem.
It doesn't matter if you're Black or White, young or old, man or woman, girl or boy, West Coast, East Coast, North or South—Fear has got all kinds of people pierced through Its talons. And, if no one says anything now...sheesh! I think we all know it's just going to get worse.
"Okay, well, let's just get rid of It!" all the optimists cry. "Let's snap our fingers, click our heels, and tell Fear to go back where it came from!"
Hold on there, reader. I've tried all of those fortune cookie spells, and I hate to break it to you, but they don't work.
And, not only have I tried the spells, but I also tried the Scriptures too.
And, I want you to lean in closely to these next few words.
All of them.
Read them carefully.
I want you to know that the Scriptures work. The Word of God works. The Bible is organic. It brings life and peace. It gives you truth to fight back every lie of Fear, and it equips you in battle when you are under attack.
But, after a life-long history of growing up in church, these Scripture verses, along with the "just-pray-about-it's" and "have-a-little-more-faith's," became too familiar for me to believe that God's Word was strong enough to fight against Fear. However, when I did begin to profess on my own that the Word of God works, that revelation only came from what I knew, not from what I believed. But, because I grew up hearing it and because I even began saying it, I cheated myself out of putting my faith to it, and because I had no faith that the Word of God really could serve as the sharpest weapon to use to fight against Fear, I did not walk in the fullness of the peace offered through Jesus Christ, and because I felt the emptiness and the depression that came with not walking in the fullness of Christ, though I was very much walking with Him, I really didn't believe the Scriptures worked when it came to Fear.
Because I had been dealing with it for forever! Even when I felt I had experienced breakthrough at a church service, I would end up in panic a couple of weeks after. This is why I would roll my eyes and smack my teeth at people who "just ran up to the altar and prayed for freedom and never lived a day of fear after!"
In my mind, I would think:
"Really, sister-girl? Cause I kind of said that prayer too, and uh...I'm still anxious out of my mind!"
Surely my deliverance couldn't be a snap-my-fingers, blink-three-times, one-and-done deal. In fact, I began to think that God was going to have to kill me if He wanted me free of Fear!
I had roots in Fear. I started to take Fear on as part of my identity. I couldn't even imagine myself living a fearless life. It kept coming back like a bad habit, a toxic ex, a disease I thought I had been healed from only for it to return one hundred times worse.
And, it just kept coming.
Altar call after altar call.
Sermon after sermon.
Night after night.
And, I was very, very close to just giving up. There was and still is so much I want to do with writing and speaking and reaching out to people. But, with Fear breathing down my neck? I can only do so much. Fear would only let me go so far and not as far as I wanted. It was a strategic way of keeping me in its grip, by the way. Fear would let me go to church, publish a book, start a podcast, and talk about the Bible. But, when my faith would begin to rise and I would go beyond the boundary Fear had set for me, it would chew me to pieces. The way anxiety attacked me was traumatic. In fact, it kept me so traumatized that in some areas of my life, I vowed to never try to step out in faith again. I would condemn myself for doing something so bold. I convinced myself that it was safer to stay within Fear's limitations. And, that was normal for me. It was normal for me to cower and worry and get nervous. And, I found a great Scripture verse to justify my lifestyle too. Fear was that thorn in my flesh that Apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 12. I mean, hey! What Paul opened up to us about sounded familiar to me. He begged God three times to take the torment away and God responded with the sufficiency of His grace and power through weakness? Well, amen and hallelujah! That's how God responds to the Fear that torments me, right? He won't take Fear away because that's just what I'm assigned to struggle with...
Very, very wrong.
Here's what you and I both have to understand, reader:
God does not use Fear to torment us.
In fact, Scriptures say in 2 Timothy 1:7, He didn't even give it to us in the first place. No, He gave us a spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind—far different than the spirit of fear. Not to mention, it is recorded over 365 times in the Bible to not be afraid. If that isn't enough, 1 John 4:18 also says that it's His perfect love for us that expels all fear. So, if He delighted in using Fear to torment us, it wouldn't have been written that His perfect love (that He is always pouring out on us) gets rid of it completely.
I'll say it again:
There's no Fear in Love!
"So, does this mean that if I have fear, I'm not loved?"
I cringed typing that out.
NO! It doesn't mean that!
Don't believe that filthy lie for a second!
But, this is the fun point of the blog where I get to introduce to you the answer to your question, to my question. For those of us wondering if there's a way out of Fear, out of panic and anxiety, if God could actually put an end to the cycle of constant worrying and timidity.
This is where I give you the solution to the problem.
It's a solution I was crying out for in September of last year. Fear had left so many scars on me and all of them started to burn, both old and new wounds alike, and I couldn't take the pain. I had become numb to it all for twenty years, but the desire for peace became heightened, and I began crying out to God, with very little faith, to set me free from Fear. Whatever medicine He had, potion He created, spell to recite, I'd take it. I didn't care what it was. I just wanted to be free from Fear. And, every day, the answer became clear to me. Every step I took, I began to understand the line of communication I was supposed to keep with Him. Yet, just the other night, the Holy Spirit clarified and solidified what I knew to do all along.
What I knew to do?
Don't click off.
Let me explain.
My word for 2021 is: Aware—meaning, to be aware of His presence, His goodness, His Word, His love, His peace, Him at all times, 24/7. To be aware of Him when I'm working. When I'm grocery shopping. When I'm out with friends. When I'm in line at Starbucks.
Any time, anywhere.
I want to be aware!
But, how do I do that when there's so much that I have to get done? When the chaos of my everyday life demands all of my attention?
How do I manage to stay aware? How do I keep my focus?
By doing the very thing I was always taught to do.
What that thing is?
If you are in any way skeptical of this or are tired of hearing this command if you're a church kid like myself, I would suggest to you that you have underestimated the power of prayer.
I'm not poking fun at you. I've underestimated it too.
In fact, I would get offended when people would tell me to "just pray about it." Because after a long while of hearing that so often, what praying began to mean to me was closing my eyes, telling God all of my problems, and then opening my eyes to see that my situation has been solved, my doubts are gone, everyone who hurt me was in line to apologize, $100,000 would be deposited into my bank account, and nothing bad would ever happen to me ever again.
So, if you could imagine how rudely awakened I was when I began praying through dark, panic-filled moments of my life, only to open my eyes and still have the same amount of doubts, the same situation, no "I'm sorry" texts or surprise cash in my savings. On some nights, I can recall feeling the same amount of panic I started with as I did even after I had already said, "Amen!"
"But, Yana, if prayer works, how could you pray and still feel anxious afterwards?"
That's just the thing, reader.
I prayed, said, "Amen," after a couple of minutes of babbling on, and then I never prayed again. I let Fear bully me for the rest of the week, of course, but only prayed against it for about five minutes out of the 168 hours it tossed me around. No wonder I had trouble believing that prayer worked. No wonder I questioned God about His listening skills whenever I spoke to Him. I stopped praying way too soon and inevitably lost my focus of Him.
But, today, I want to encourage us all of something I used to roll my eyes at. I want to shine a light on the only thing more powerful than panic.
That is, of course, prayer.
Pray, pray, pray, and keep praying. It's what Jesus did when He was in anguish after all.
Don't believe me?
Luke 22:43 says, "An angel from heaven appeared to Him (Jesus) and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was falling like drops of blood falling to the ground."
I did not write this Scripture verse out of order. It says that He was strengthened and was still in anguish. Can I tell you how comforted I am by that? That even though, deep down, I knew the Lord was strengthening me in prayer, I still felt severely distressed. It feels good knowing that Jesus Himself knows what that's like!
But, there's a difference between what Jesus did in His moment of anguish and what I do in my moment of anxiety.
I stopped praying.
Not only did He not stop praying, but He prayed more earnestly! Even when He didn't feel the weight of His anguish lift off of Him, He kept on praying! And, even when He was already strengthened, He kept on praying! Even while the ones who were supposed to be there for Him were sleeping on Him, He kept on praying! When the night got darker, He kept on praying! When His time of death got closer, Jesus. Kept. Praying!
And, if Jesus—Creator of the World, Light in the Darkness, my Savior and King, Jesus—kept on praying...y'all! I'm going to keep praying too!
No wonder the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was to pray. They saw just how powerful prayer was!
And, what does Apostle Paul tell us to do in Philippians 4:6? To not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything!
So, I'm going to pray! And, I'm going to pray! And, then I'm going to keep praying! And, then I'm going to pray some more! And, tomorrow, I'm going to pray! And, if my situation gets worse, I'm going to pray! When I don't know what to do, I'm going to pray! When I know exactly what I need to do, I'm going to pray! In the morning, I'm going to pray! At night, I'm going to pray! When I have to do the thing I don't want to do, I'm going to pray! If all of my "What-if" scenarios come true, I'm going to pray! When it gets hard, I'm going to pray! When it gets easy, I'm going to pray! When I think I've got it all figured out, I'm going to pray! I'm going to pray! I'm going to pray! I'm going to pray! I'm going to pray!
And, reader, the cry of my heart is that you will begin to pray too! Prayer is powerful—even more powerful than Fear. Because prayer helps you to focus on the Name above every Name, Jesus Christ. And, if you are focused on Him, you can live a fearless life. But, you can't live fearless if you're not focused. And, you can't be focused if you're not praying.
I pray that you would live a fearless and focused life, that your fight against Fear is won because of your prayer life. I pray that the Holy Spirit would hover over the fear and darkness in your heart, just as He hovered over the darkness in the beginning, and ushers the light of Jesus Christ to shine brightly in your hearts. I pray that the breath of God would break off and break through any spirit that would dare keep you from praying, keep you from fixing your eyes on Jesus—the One who defeated death, hell, the grave, and their cousin Fear, too! I pray that your awareness of Him would increase the more you pray in the Name of Jesus, that Fear would have no choice but to bow because Fear would no longer be your God. Jesus would be your God. And, I pray that the God who wins every single time, the God who has never lost a battle, the God who loved you so much that it drove Him to death would be your only focus today and forevermore. In the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen!
Now, pray it over yourself! Pray it over your life! Pray it over your family! Pray it over the generations after you!
Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray.
And, you better believe I'll be praying with you!