Scared to Death!

June 10, 2015

Sherry Allchin

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Sherry Allchin

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the fourth of a several-part Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Anxiety. In today’s post, Sherry Allchin discusses fear and faith in Scared to Death! You can also read Part 1, by Pastor Pat Quinn, at The Divine Remedy for Anxiety, Part 2, by Dr. Tim Lane, at How Does Jesus Talk to Worriers? and Part 3, by Dr. Ed Welch, at For the Fearful and Anxious.

A Flight, Fear, and Faith

Recently my husband Ron and I were on a flight home from ministry that was delayed because of weather at our destination. As we took off, we were just glad to be going home! It wasn’t long into the flight, however, that we understood why the delay, and that perhaps it should have been a cancelled flight. In our many years of flying, that was the roughest flight we have ever experienced. As the plane creaked and tossed to and fro, several ladies began to cry, one rather uncontrollably. Children were crying. Some of us were praying or reading, but calm.

Why the difference in response to the same circumstance? Why is one person afraid of flying while another experiences the time of their life sailing through the air at top speed?

The ladies in the first scenario had a belief system that controlled their fearful responses to death or suffering or to the unknown. Perhaps they believed that the plane could or would crash and they might suffer or die. Their belief in turn determined their response…crying out in fear and experiencing panic.

I well remember the fear I used to feel at take-off and landing. My belief at that point was that the plane might crash and that would be the most probable time. My heart pounded and I prayed. But in flight, I relaxed. Same plane, same pilot, same God, but two different reactions!

How Can Fear Be Controlled?

Since God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), I decided to use my sound mind to overcome anxiety. I began to think differently about flying.

But I also began to think differently about my God. I realized my anxiety was really a trust issue. My God is good, and He is trustworthy. He has an appointed time for each of us to die and that appointment will be exactly on His timetable. No storm, no pilot, no evil can change that date. It is set. I do not need to be afraid (Psalm 23) because He will guide me through the valley of the shadow of death at exactly the right time. I need not fear judgment because the debt has been paid, and I stand in His righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 8:1).

As I came to peace with death, I soon came to peace with flying. I could read through the storm while others cried because death has lost its sting. My power was in trusting God and His Word.

My love for God enabled me to focus on His purpose for my life rather than my own. My sound mind could reason that take-off or landing was no closer to death that the relaxed flight in between! The storm had no more power than the calm. The night has no more fear than the day. This sickness has no power that my good God hasn’t given it.

I now rest in peace that as long as God has a plan or purpose for my life on this earth, I will live to His glory. And when my time comes, I pray that I will also die to His glory! Death has no grip on those whose hope is in the Lord. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain! (Philippians 1:21).

How Can We Help Others to Overcome Fear?

As biblical counselors, this is the hope we must proclaim, helping those who struggle with anxiety to experience peace and calm in the midst of the storm. I wanted to get up out of my seat in that storm and tell the crying lady about Jesus and the storm He calmed on the Sea of Galilee.

He told His disciples to row to the other side of the lake, but a fierce storm threatened their calm about half way across. They cried out in fear, “Lord, don’t you care that we perish?” Their belief at that moment was that He had abandoned them and would let them die in the storm. But had He not just told them to go to the other side? Did He really have a plan for them? They learned a powerful faith lesson on that sea that day, that Jesus’ word meant exactly what He said…go to the other side! No storm could hinder that. He was their peace in the midst of the storm, and He calmed the waters immediately to prove it!

On another trip, I sat next to a young man who was breathing heavy, sweating, and racing through pictures on his phone trying to calm himself. I kept noticing pictures of his dog, so I began to talk to him about his dog. Then he opened up about his fear of flying. As we talked on a three-hour flight, he shared his story of how he and his dog travel everywhere in his truck because he had a very negative flying experience about fifteen years earlier and had not flown since, until the necessity of this flight. His family didn’t know about his fear when they arranged his flight home, and he was too ashamed to tell them. As we talked, he calmed down and showed me amazing pictures of his dragon lizards and his dog!

Then I was able to share my faith with him to help him understand how distraction had worked to calm him down initially (cognitive-behavioral approach), but that a trust in Christ would calm his fear of death or his fear of life’s bumps to make a lasting calm in the storms of life. The Lord has repeatedly told us that we have no need to fear when we trust in Him, when we are certain about our eternal destination. He was certain his mother was praying for him to consider his faith, and he was confident he could make it to his final destination after our divine appointment.

Beliefs determine actions, resulting in feelings that either escalate or calm. When our counselees shift their trust from themselves and what they believe they can or cannot do, to what the Lord has already promised to do (to never abandon His own nor fail to love and care for us, to help when we call out to Him in times of trouble) then faith takes the fainthearted through the storms of life and through the valley of the shadow of death. They will no longer be scared to death!

Join the Conversation

How do you move from fear to faith? How do you compassionately help others to do the same?

2 thoughts on “Scared to Death!

  1. Sherry, thank you for the gentle but powerful reminder that despite the trials of this life, God has us in his wonderful grasp. Needed to hear someone else say that to me this morning. I have counseled many anxiety suffers in this manner, again thank you for the post!

  2. It is interesting that you mention the person looking at photos of their dog. When we gaze into our dog’s eyes, we produce a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin shuts the amygdala (the part of the brain that releases stress hormones) down. In the work I do, we don’t wait until on the plane. We do a few sessions in which we link the various moments of flight that might be emotionally challenging to a pet. But more powerful than a pet, the experience of nursing a child produces far more oxytocin. So does a moment of good sexual chemistry. Oxytocin is nature’s way of helping us lose our fear of reproducing, and we can tap into an oxytocin-producing moment to keep the amygdala inhibited during flight. Details on setting this up are in my book, “SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying.” I would caution against thinking of fear as lack of faith, as I have found the more religious a person is, the more they are concerned (at least in many cases) with guilt, and being punished by God, or not deserving of God’s protection. So sometimes it is lack of faith that we have been good and faithful enough to deserve protection when flying.

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