Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
Matthew 25:25 I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.
Neuroscientists have shown that fear is created in the region of the brain called the limbic system. The limbic system generates reactionary types of thoughts and actions that keep us from being able to think clearly or rationally. We often end up doing things that cause trouble or drama for us and others. (The region of the brain that allows for rational, logical, life and love affirming thoughts is called the prefrontal cortex.)
Is fear then a bad thing? Of course not. The limbic system was designed to keep us alive. It causes us to react with fight, flight or freeze in the face of a threat. In today’s world, we are rarely presented with true life threatening events. However, we often react to everyday stress and strain as if it were a major threat. That’s unhealthy fear. My dear friend and co-author, Dr. Mark Brady, a neuroscience educator, claims that unhealthy fear “makes us stupid.” It’s true. We aren’t able to access higher thinking or decision making abilities when we feel unhealthy fear.
When God sent His messenger to announce the birth of His son, Jesus Christ, the angel had only one opportunity to share the message with the shepherds. The very first words the angel spoke were, “Fear not.” God wanted the shepherds to be able to think rationally and clearly about of His message, which was an invitation to be present at the most miraculous moment in all of time, the birth of His Son! Had the shepherds been afraid, they may not have made the journey to the stable. They may have missed the blessings God invited them to experience.
There was a man who let fear keep keep him being blessed. Jesus shared the parable of the talents. A master gave three of his servants talents of money before he left on a journey. Two of them used the talents to make more money. The master was pleased upon his return. But one servant was afraid, and he hid the talent in the ground. The master was so angry that the servant had not done anything with the talent of money to create more, that he took the one talent and gave it to the servant who had the most. He cast the fearful servant out into the dark.
Moral of the story? Fear keeps us not only from being able to increase our “riches” but it can banish us into the darkness as well.
It’s one thing to know that unhealthy fear robs of us our glory with God, it’s another to know how to eliminate it from our lives. Many of us have had traumatic experiences in our lives that have shaped our brains, and made our limbic system very reactive. What are we to do to calm our fears and to rewire our brains so we have the ability to access our higher thinking and decision making region of the brain?
For me, eliminating unhealthy fear starts with knowing that it is just that, unhealthy fear. It is simply a reaction in my brain. It is not “real” in the sense that there is no real threat. Next, I give my fears to God. When I am frightened, I ask God for guidance and direction. I pray for the ability to trust the path He sets in front of me. I also avoid many things that can cause unhealthy fear. I do not to own a television. I don’t subject myself to violent media or films. I don’t read doom and gloom articles or books. I also avoid conversations with people that are negative. I do my very best to take good care of my brain, especially knowing that I have a predisposition from past trauma, to experience unhealthy fear.
God gave us amazing brains to use. I believe he wants us to not be afraid. He doesn’t want our fears to get in the way of receiving his blessings. What can you do today to calm your unhealthy fear response in your brain, and switch over to more life and love affirming thoughts?