The Opposite of Fear

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What is the opposite of fear? If you were to describe the direct contrast of fear, the force that reckons with, opposes, and walks the opposite path of a fearful life, what words would you use?

Living fearlessly could mean living with courage, but I also believe that fear and courage can exist in tandem. Moving forward with courage does not always mean that you have lost all fear of the situation, only that you gained the gut and grit to move forward anyways. Courage is a helpful, even necessary, quality but perhaps not the opposite of fear.

Living fearlessly could mean a life and mind at peace. But peace seems much too neutral a state to do anything more than cancel out fear.  Peace does not walk in direct opposition to fear, showing another road, providing new actions and directions to go when fears and struggles plague our lives.

Living fearlessly could mean a life of truth. Instead of the fears and anxieties that plague you at night, you begin speaking the truth of your situation and accepting the hard reality. But sometimes fear and truth coexist. Sometimes those anxieties that keep you up at night are much more than vague possibilities. Sometimes the truth is full of fearful realities.

The description of fear’s antipathy that rings most true to me is that found in 2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-control.

The contrast to fear is threefold: power, love, and self-control. These are the qualities, the traits, that not only cancel out fear, but allow us to live in direct opposition to a fearful life. And right now, I am seeking to understand what these words mean for someone who suffers with chronic pain.

Power – We are not all-powerful, but God has granted us a certain agency and the ability to make decisions in life. When you live in constant pain or with the effects of constant chronic illness, it feels as though your life is out of control, and you can begin to lose that semblance of power you had before the illness began.

At this point, you must assess what you can still do, and find those small snippets of life where God has still given you power over your body and surroundings. Sometimes I run through a list of these in my mind: I can still sit, stand, and walk (even though only for short periods of time, I can still do these things). I can still see, hear, touch, smell, and speak. I can do some cooking and light cleaning; I am able to eat, and enjoy the company of others. I can write, my brain and cognitive abilities are at full functioning, and I can still work as a counselor for a few hours a week. These are the things I can do, and when I focus on them, the fear loses a bit of its power.

Love – Living fearlessly means loving self and others. When I became sick, I began loving myself a lot less. The person I used to like and admire changed into this new being – someone I was unfamiliar with and did not know how to love in the midst of her limitations and shortcomings. Thus began a process of relearning to love the actual real me. Looking back, I’m not sure the person I liked before was actually me, but just the things that I was able to do because my body was full functioning. Chronic pain has caused me to step back and look at the person I actually am, my identity in Christ, and who I am as a child of God. What I can do is not who I am, and I am continually learning the hard truth of this statement.

And what about loving the people around you? Sometimes the way I love others seems small and insignificant, but I try to grab hold of the small tokens of love and appreciation because I have found that focusing on loving and caring for those around me brings great joy, draws me out of a pit of self-focus, and lends a small hand in living a less fearless life. So, I sent an encouraging note or text to a friend, I call and talk to someone who is struggling, I make lunch for my husband, or cook a meal for a new mother. Sometimes these gestures take a lot out of me, sometimes they cost me a whole day of energy, but I have found them worth it in the end.

Self-control – Self-control in the midst of chronic pain means that every day I do the things that are good for my body, whether I want to or not. I take the vitamins, go on the walk, do my exercises, manage stress, go to bed at the right time, and eat healthy foods. Self-control means I am disciplined to each day pray, delve into Scripture, and find time to be in relationship with God. Self-control means I learn how to manage my strong emotions of anger, jealousy, and discontentment and do not allow them to consume me. I am not sure how to articulate the exact connection, but when I do these things on a regular basis, I feel less fearful.

Most important is understanding the source of all these qualities. They do not come from within. We do not have power, a capacity for love, or the ability to remain self-disciplined in and of ourselves. These things flow directly from God, who gives us what we need to live a life without fear.

How would you describe the opposite of fear?

10 Comments

  1. For me, the opposite of fear is about choosing joy. Somewhere in the midst of my battle with depression and chronic pain, I began to realize that I actually did have some semblance of power over my situation. When I was able to realize that the simple act of looking for joy in my day gave me joy, I turned the corner on handling my negative feelings. It sounds trite, but it works for me. 🙂

    I wonder if doing the things you write about under self-control (taking care of yourself, eating healthy, etc.) helps to take away some of your fear because it gives you power. Perhaps that is the connection? And by doing those things, you are also showing love to yourself. It’s all connected!

  2. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I feel that I am not living in fear, but I am not allowing exercising faith. When you don’t exercise fear you are showing fear.

    I just want to know what could be done to exercise faith.

    1. Thank you for you thoughts and for stopping by!

      I like how you contrast fear with faith. I’m wondering the context of your comment. What makes it hard to know how to exercise faith? Is this a question of knowing how to exercise faith in chronic pain?

  3. I know that in trials of faith we have the opportunity to prove our faith, then receive the witness and miracle after. I feel it is important to remember how the Ancient prophets of old expressed faith:

    “…..faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”

    I am not specifically talking about a chronic illness. I am talking about trials that feel permanent, when in reality they are not.

    My question to you is, is how do you exercise faith when you feel in a never ending trial?

    1. Such a hard question that I have been considering myself lately. I can only speak from my personal experience, and for me, the specific question is, “what if the pain never goes away?” How do I live faithfully if this physical suffering is all I know until I reach heaven?

      For me, I have to go back to the basics of my faith. It is encouraging to me that Scripture says I have been given everything I need to live a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3).So I try to figure out what it means to live a godly life that glorifies God even in the midst of my suffering. I think this looks different depending on the type of trial or suffering you are going through, so it is a bit difficult to talk through your question.

      As a side note, I’m interested in how you say “trials that feel permanent, when in reality they are not.” For me, it is quite likely my physical trials will be permanent during my time on this earth. Why do you say “feel” permanent?

    2. And in thinking through your comment more, I think living faithfully comes down to how we live out the small details of our lives. I like how C.S. Lewis says that every moral choice we make turns us into a more hellish or a more heavenly creature. Therefore, it really does come down to our day to day decisions. Do I choose to speak kindly or yell at my husband? Where do I turn when my pain skyrockets – to complaining or to prayer? It does come down to the specifics of your situation and the actual trial/suffering someone is going through because that is where faith is played out – in the small little steps we take either towards or away from God.

  4. This is great question you asked! I apologize for taking forever to get back! Hopefully I am not too late for a response to continue with a conversation! To answer your question, why I said “feel” to express what I was saying.

    Feel was more to explain, physical feelings, also emotional, spiritual, and mental. I am trying to describe that you may feel the false illusion that pain stay forever. Spiritually if you feel you are losing faith, you may panic and call quits there because you feel you are not where you should be.

    Did that answer your question?

    Also I would love to carry this conversation over e-mail:
    elderjacksontait@gmail.com

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