A fear of heights is quite reasonable; so is a fear of spiders and snakes. However, while protective, some fear can be quite debilitating. Being able to put these fears in a proper perspective is a good skill. Reduce fear knowing someone has your back!
You might be impressed by my sky-diving experience depicted in the photo to the right but don’t be fooled. I was terrified and my whole body was reacting with great vengeance and furious anger. While my instructor was on my back I wasn’t sure if he had my back!
It turns out I am much more fearful of heights than my experiences would suggest.
The truth of this will be joyfully recounted by my family. The story they will tell you is of when we were enjoying a day at a local water park. While I was more than willing to participate in the extreme attractions, my fear of heights was finally revealed at 5m.
The Jamberoo water park has a deep water pool below three launching pads above. The highest you can jump from into the water below is 5m. I managed the 1m and 3m but, when I got to the taller height of the three, I couldn’t do it. I tried a number of times but could not bring myself to jump.
“Why? What was going through your head?” you might wonder. I was thinking, what do I have to prove? I have sky-dived, I walked to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. I can manage tiny planes over a vast ocean and high rope bridges. I simply do not enjoy jumping off heights like this —I never have— and certainly don’t need to prove my courage to anyone. My family, however, disagree, and rib me mercilessly when the story comes up.
How to Reduce Fear
A fear of heights is quite reasonable. So is a fear of spiders and snakes. In these cases, fear is an instinctual and protective mechanism of our bodies and emotions. Fear is good therefore. However, some fear, while protective, can be quite debilitating. Being able to put these fears in a proper perspective can alleviate the fear and build us up. How to reduce fear is an important question.
I called to the LORD in distress;
the LORD answered me
and put me in a spacious place.
The LORD is for me; I will not be afraid.
What can a mere mortal do to me?
The LORD is my helper,
Therefore, I will look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humanity.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in nobles. (Psalm 118:5-9)
These verses describe fear in the face of opposition. The“mere mortals” might be enemies or just interlopers. The poet does not make identifying them a priority. In the face of such aggression, how did he reduce fear? How did he put his fear into a proper perspective?
These verses are taken from The Book of Psalms so were written for a congregation gathered for worship. Thus they are words meant to lead the people into an insight from or an experience of God.
The poet has described being in distress —a tight spot, in other words— yet, because he called out to the Lord being his helper, he felt as if he had been delivered into a spacious place. Through this experience he discovered the Lord was his helper. Having discovered the Lord is on his side, he moved from fear into a sense of triumph in the face of enemies. He learnt to trust the Lord rather than rely on other humans.
Of course, fear is protective. So, when we face enemies of any kind —at work, on the street, on the playground, wherever— fear is good initially. When the adrenaline starts coursing through our veins, however, fear can lead to panic or violence. What we really need is a way to calm down, assess the situation realistically, and reduce fear.
When you are facing a fight, isn’t it good to know that someone has your back? For the friend of Jesus, who has learnt to trust God and to find security in faith, someone always has your back. When you remain in that place of faith and trust and obedience, you can take comfort in and courage from knowing that God is always with you. You have nothing to fear … although this is not a reckless confidence. It is a certainty in who you are and who is with you; that you will prevail in the face of obstacles and opposition.
And that’s a good feeling indeed!
My fear of heights will never go away and my stomach will always get tied up in knots at the top of the first rise on a roller-coaster. And I certainly won’t ever sky-dive again. Didn’t I tell you fear is always protective!
While some fear is reasonable, other fear can be overcome. Tim Ferriss has some great insights on why we should define our fears rather than set goals. For overcoming fear in the face of opposition, however, learn to trust the Lord.
What are you afraid of?
When have you let your fear immobilise you?
When has your faith helped you reduce fear?
 Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN, USA: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017).