May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, my rock and my redeemer. Psalms 19:14

The new year has started with a bang! I think it is safe to say most of us were ready for new beginnings and a fresh start.  A new year seems to bring with it a sense of “do-overs,” righting wrongs, and making straight that which is crooked.  The New Year ushers in a chance to start new habits and routines.  We are starting a new series called “Habits of our Hearts” which will discuss how our daily routines can impact and affect the state of our hearts.  It is fitting that the first post is about fear, as fear seems to have crept into many of our homes and hearts.

The last two years have brought immense hardships to many: the loss of loved ones, jobs, friends, relations.  Fear has crept in like rolling fog, capturing people’s hearts and minds in a haze of confusion.  But the kicker is that fear itself kills joy, pushes out thanksgiving, and binds us from the freedoms found in Christ.  Fear and anxiety are ripe in our society today; fear divides us and steals our peace.  It’s no wonder the number one exhortation in scripture is “do not fear,” and that Ephesians 3:14 tells us that Jesus Himself is our peace!

In Jesus all fear loses a foothold.  I follow the ministry of Robby Dawkins who travels to dangerous places and helps the underground church thrive.  When asked about being fearful while in hostile territory he said: “I feel fear like everyone else, but here’s what I’ve decided– I won’t yield to that.  The peace you feel is not absent the fear you feel.  The peace is just stronger than your fear.”

What struck me when I heard this was his decision to yield to peace rather than fear.  Believe it or not, we actually do have a choice in how we can respond to the chaos, the anxiety and the fear that permeates our news, our television shows, our minds and hearts. We can choose to stand in Christ and let His peace rule in our hearts rather than fear.

Isaiah 26:3-4 promises that our Lord will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Him.  How do I keep my mind stayed on Him? How do I speak life to myself? How do I overcome the immense fear that has already entangled me?

As always, it’s easier said than done. Changing the heart takes practice, it takes changing the habits of my mind, it takes the daily renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). I have to train my mind to think on Christ, to take captive every thought and make it submissive to Christ.

As the common adage goes, “watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become your character.”

The progression starts with our thoughts, we see or hear something that causes worry, then we come into agreement with it, allowing it to take root in our minds and hearts.  As reasonable and sensible as the fear may be, fear is contrary to what Christ wants for us.  In other words, we can justify our fear all day long, but we are choosing the enemy’s way of life rather than Christ’s.  Thankfully, Jesus wants to set us free! Ask the Spirit of God to fight for you, free you from fear’s bondage, come into agreement with Jesus rather than the fear, and replace the negative thoughts with His truths and peace.  So rather than let fear bind us, we bind fear in the mighty name of Jesus!

Taking captive every thought means we must be intentional in our thought life. I have a dear friend who was diagnosed with clinical depression starting in childhood.  She was healed by the power of the Holy Spirit but she would tell me she had to “walk out my healing.”  When negative thoughts started to flood her brain, she would take out a notebook and write down the negative thoughts, give them to Christ in prayer, and then write positive and life-giving words in exchange.  She would even pull over on the side of the road when driving to capture and take captive her thoughts.  “I constantly reminded myself that I am a child of God and Jesus really did love me. Sometimes I could only just say the name of Jesus. I learned I really needed to listen to God’s voice to identify the negative voice and turn away from it,” she said.

Simple habit changes can produce the biggest results in our lives.  This is the step of “walking out our healing.”  Pay attention to the reels running through your head, and write them down.  Like my friend, carry a small book with you and write down every negative thought you have.  By keeping a thought journal you can start to track your thought patterns.  Writing your thoughts down is particularly powerful because you physically remove those thoughts from your mind and put them on paper.

Find an accountability partner! As I wrote in Thankful for Community, it is hard to ward off the accuser of our souls, the one who brings fear, without others who can speak life and truth into the fog.  Finding time to be held accountable may take some creative maneuvering, but it’s worth the effort.  I found that waking an hour earlier once a week to check-in and pray with my companions has helped tremendously and revived my sense of community.

Change comes with opposition and the enemy wants nothing more than to keep us bound in fear, so expect push-back when you try and set new habits! But fear not, for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7).  We have the power every day to speak life into ourselves and others, or fear and death. This year, I am choosing to be more intentional in speaking the language of freedom rather than fear to my inner being and those around me.  Will you join me?