Sometimes Jesus’ call to “fear not” seems like the hardest instruction to follow. Some days you faultlessly juggle everything that is your life—kids, husband, house, job, church, friendships, school, pets, appointments, and on and on. Other days the very thought of which ball you’re going to drop puts your anxiety level through the roof.
Bible Gateway interviewed Alli Worthington (@alli) about her book, Fierce Faith: A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety (Zondervan, 2018).
Why are fear and worry such a constant struggle for so many, in spite of the Bible’s repeated admonition to “fear not”?
Alli Worthington: Twenty million Americans struggle with anxiety. Fear is something that we all deal with at some point in our lives. It’s part of being human. The danger for Christians is to heap self-condemnation on ourselves when we feel fear, worry, and anxiety because we think it shows a lack of faith. I believe the Bible tells us so many times to “fear not” precisely because everyone deals with fear and it’s said to encourage us and to comfort us when we’re afraid.
How should a person handle personal rejection so that it doesn’t contribute to anxiety?
Alli Worthington: The most important thing to do is to acknowledge the hurt, ban negative self-talk, remember how Jesus sees you, and connect with people who care about you. When we’re in the process of healing from a rejection, it’s easy to pretend it doesn’t hurt, but what we don’t reveal is very hard to heal.
We want to acknowledge what has happened and be careful not to hurt ourselves even more through negative self-talk. When we feel rejected it’s easy to take it out on ourselves. Self-criticism is often confused with humility, but it’s not; I believe it’s straight-up sinful behavior. If Jesus doesn’t talk to us that way, we shouldn’t either.
And finally, it’s important to surround yourself with people who love you and who will build you up and encourage you. Being in community is the key, but we need to make sure we surround ourselves with people who build us up instead of tear us down.
Explain how the battle against fear can be fought on the spiritual and the physical level.
Alli Worthington: We’re beings made out of both body and spirit, the physical and spiritual. My spirit knows that the victory is in Jesus. My spirit knows I have nothing to fear. But my body lives in the physical world, and my body often feels flat-out scared. There’s a battle between the spiritual and physical. When the spirit says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” our bodies reply, “But I’m still scared.”
Since we all live on two levels, we have to learn to fight fear, anxiety, and worry on two levels, both with the spiritual and physical. We can fight using truth found in Scripture, the peace we find in Jesus, and using practical steps in our everyday lives.
What are the Five Bad B’s?
Alli Worthington: The Five Bad B’s are the unconscious coping strategies that we all use to deal with fear, anxiety, and worry:
- Busy: when we feel anxious, a common coping strategy is to stay busy to distract ourselves from our worries.
- Blame: blaming others when we feel scared or worried is a common coping mechanism. It’s as if our brains are saying, “I can’t handle feeling this way and I need to take it out someone else,” so we shift our focus to others instead of focusing on the problem or uncomfortable feeling at hand.
- Binge: binging is the act of doing something to excess as a way to numb uncomfortable emotions. It could be excessive eating, exercise, watching TV, shopping, or any number of other things.
- Bury: we bury our feelings in three primary ways: through denial, procrastination, and avoidance, and often these three ways become intertwined with one another.
- Brood: this is when we replay in our minds what’s happened or what could happen, over and over again. Another word for this is rumination. Experts say that brooding over something in your past or fear of something in the future is directly related to developing depression.
It’s common to avoid battling our fear, anxiety, and worry and instead busy ourselves, blame others, binge away our concerns, bury our worries, or brood until we’re an emotional mess. But when we’re armed with the knowledge of these unhealthy coping mechanisms, we don’t have to get stuck there. There’s a better way, and a step-by-step guide for overcoming what holds us back.
What’s the relationship between social media and the fear of missing out (FOMO)?
Alli Worthington: Because we live in a time where we have a world of information, images, and videos coming at us instantly, FOMO isn’t going to go away. In a world of constant connection, FOMO—and its evil twin, social comparison—are the struggles of our time.
Because of social media, we see the most fun, most amazing, most exciting hand-picked moments and hundreds of acquaintances lives, all in real-time. And if you’ve just cleaned up a diaper blowout, gotten fired, or are simply hanging around eating Cheetos on the couch when you see these posts, FOMO pops up and whispers to you that you don’t measure up in comparison.
What is the Battle Plan you include in the book?
Alli Worthington: Fierce Faith, as a whole, is a manual on how to fight individual fears, worries, and anxieties. Each chapter has a unique battle plan for that specific fear. The step-by-step way to overcome the fear of something bad happening in the future, for example, is completely different than the step-by-step to overcome the fear that something terrible will happen to our children. However, there’s an overarching battle plan that we use for all of our fear, worry, and anxiety. I call it the Four Good A’s. We fight the Five Bad B’s with the Four Good A’s:
- Aware: be aware of your feelings. Our feelings come from a combination of what we think and what we believe. Feelings are the way we know the health of our thoughts. When we’re aware of our feelings, it helps them not be able to sneak up and sideswipe us. Being aware allows us to be self-compassionate instead of self-critical. Giving yourself permission to feel, and acknowledge your true feelings, is the first step in battling fear.
- Avoid the Five Bad B’s: when we’re aware that we’re using any of the Bad B’s we can begin to avoid them and not stay stuck in behaviors that are unhealthy for us.
- Ask Jesus for help: take it to Jesus and let him fight the spiritual battle. We need to ask for a clear mind, peaceful heart, and extra strength to encourage us on our difficult days. Our most powerful tools will always be prayer and worship. We know that we should take everything to Jesus, that the battle is his and that we fight not for a victory, but from a place of an already won victory.
- Attack: practice the battle plan to take care of anxieties on the physical plane. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Talk about a plan of attack! Paul begins by telling us to watch how we think about the things in our lives. It’s with our thoughts we decide to believe the lies of the enemy; to be our own false prophets of the future and steal our own happiness in life. We can attack by changing our thoughts and our behaviors.
The enemy has a plan to keep us from experiencing the full life God has created for us. His plan counts on us being unaware and unarmed. To fight back, we must be aware of our thoughts and arm ourselves with the truth that Jesus spoke when he said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Bio: Alli Worthington is a speaker, blogger, author of Breaking Busy, and the executive director of Propel Women. As an executive coach, Alli has helped individuals, small business owners, and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. Alli’s no-nonsense, guilt-free take on motherhood, parenting, and balance has led to appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, their five sons, and a rescued dog and cat who moved onto their doorstep. You can connect with Alli at AlliWorthington.com.
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