Have you ever been so afraid that you’ve literally been unable to think, talk or move? Did it feel like you were paralyzed by fear? What would move you to the point of immobility? Is it a fear of death, failure, man or even success?
Scripture: Psalm 143:4-6 (NIV)
I am losing all hope;
I am paralyzed with fear.
I remember the days of old.
I ponder all your great works
and think about what you have done.
I lift my hands to you in prayer.
I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.
Paralyzed by Fear: How to Keep Pressing On
I’ll never forget being invited to play saxophone at the Green Dolphin Street jazz venue in Chicago. It was like a dream come true for a jazz saxophonist. That dream quickly turned into a nightmare when I realized I was way out of my league. Songs that were very familiar suddenly seemed foreign. My mouth became so dry that literally I was unable to play. I became paralyzed by fear and couldn’t wait for the night to be over.
Thankfully, over the last number of years, I’ve also had plenty of positive experiences that help me usually overcome those fears.
For men, we grow up hearing that we’re not supposed to be afraid of anything except fear. In reality, we mask our fear behind labels like people approval, greed, workaholism and health. Women disguise their fears behind family, their homes, careers or volunteering. An extreme focus on these can lead to feeling paralyzed by fear.
Think about it: It’s healthy to not want to disappoint those we love or respect, but when taken to extremes this becomes a fear of man. Our desire to acquire can hide the fact that we are afraid of failure or admitting our dependence on others. Our extreme love for work can be a way to escape our fear of being known or being found a fraud. Even our love for healthy living can be taken to an extreme where we are motivated by a fear of death, illness or weakness.
Even King David knows fear. He fought battles with Goliath and armies that outnumbered him 10 to 1. He ran from Absalom and Saul, men he loved who wanted to kill him. In the midst of his paralysis, he cries out to the Lord–acknowledging that the Lord alone can quench his thirst. David needs the confidence that comes from fearing God and God alone.
God is the one who conquered Egypt, split the Red Sea, and created the heavens and earth. As believers, we know that Jesus faced the fear of the cross so we wouldn’t have to face the Father’s fury – the only thing we should truly fear. Because Jesus faced our worst fear, we can embrace his words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
One of the fears that rightly paralyzes many is the fear of having our sins exposed. I love how Dr. Steve Brown addresses this through his book Three Free Sins. In a tongue-in-cheek style, he shows us the grace of Jesus extends to you no matter what you’ve done. Read that again: no matter what you’ve done.
When you find yourself paralyzed by fear this week, lift up your hands in prayer, list five things the Lord has done for you, and acknowledge your deep thirst for the life and peace He alone can bring.
In the midst of your fear, you may find encouragement from this song from Casting Crowns:
Prayers for Today
Self: Father, I acknowledge that I’ve become good at hiding my fear behind socially acceptable habits. For the glory of your Name, I ask you to expose my hypocrisy so that I might love those around me more freely. I pray you would dismantle all fears that bind me except the one fear that matters – a reverence of You.
Family: I ask for insight into the hearts and minds of my spouse, children, and extended family so I might show them the destructive nature of misplaced fear. Teach us to be a family who fears Christ and loves to celebrate the good news of His life, death and resurrection. Free us from fear of failure, success, people, and death.
Work: I pray you enable me to work with confidence. I know it’s acceptable to fail if the failure is for good reason. But it’s hard to admit defeat and risk failure, so give me the willingness to fail. I pray I would learn to respect of people without fearing what they could do to me. Show me ways in which misplaced fear is holding me back from making a difference in my work.
Church: I pray you would free our church leaders from any fears that prevent them from preaching and teaching the truth. I pray they would find daily confidence in your presence. I pray our church would be known as a place that fears You alone and is willing to take risks for the sake of your glory and the spread of the Gospel.
Community: Lord, you know how easy it is to avoid speaking the truth out of fear of how I will be received or seen by my neighbors and friends. I pray you would free me from that. Grant me boldness as I desire to love those I encounter every day.
World: The violence and wars that surround us every day demonstrate and create on-going fear. I pray for church leaders and government leaders to boldly enter into the chaos of a world at war to show a path toward love and lasting peace.