The Faith-Killing Ladder
Did you know there’s a ladder out there that each of us will climb down that’s a “faith-killer” ladder?
It’s a different ladder for each of us, but once we begin to climb down that ladder we will fall into a pit of all sorts of issues, and it’s a hard ladder to climb back up.
Each of us has a different faith-killer ladder. It’s a ladder that makes us doubt God or believe lies about God, a ladder that causes our relationship with God to become tainted.
How many of you struggle with a faith-killer ladder?
I would imagine all of you do, but today I want to share my faith-killer ladder and the three steps on that ladder that lead down to my pit.
They are known as Worry, Anxiety and Fear.
Now I have no training in the symptoms of these emotions other than my own personal experience, but I hope through writing about it I can help you readers better understand it. And, perhaps if you experience these problems, how to battle it.
So let's walk over to my faith-killing ladder and find out what these three struggles are and how they are triggered.
For me, worry has an energy much like depression. When I’m worried it wears on me mentally, I become tired and down and have no desire to do anything except brood. Worry can come out in different ways for different people, but for me, worry is the first step on my ladder, with anxiety following it.
When I become worried, it’s usually because I’ve been letting my mind wander and whatever positive or neutral thoughts are suddenly barraged by a negative one. For example:
I was helping organize a party with my sister for our Bible study. I was thinking about the people we’re inviting, and how much fun it will be, when a thought strikes my mind and says but what if so-and-so doesn’t want to come? What if everyone comes and doesn’t have a good time? What if everyone is bored?
These thoughts began to consume me and I got stuck on them, pondering over how I would counter these situations when in reality by even entertaining them I’m making it worse. Depending on the “energy” of the thoughts, they can either make me feel down and hopeless or lead to the next step down on the faith-killing ladder, anxiety.
Worry distorts your thoughts and really saps out the joy in your life. It’s bothersome, it’s annoying and sometimes downright scary. Yet the Bible states in these verses:
Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Romans 8:38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
I would really like to focus on Romans 8:38 here. Notice the line where it says “neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow”.
Fear of today and worry of tomorrow. Worry is fretting about something that has not happened and you have no control over. Worry is thinking about something you don’t have grace for yet, and it has not happened. Worry can make the event you were looking forward to something of fear, and when it comes around to that particular day you awake with fear. Worry is the first step on the ladder toward the last step on the ladder, fear, and it’s one we can stop quickly.
So when the worry thought pops into your head, banish it immediately. You don’t have to dwell on that thought, and if you find it stuck then remember that God specifically told us not to worry. If he told us not to worry, I guess that means it’s our choice, isn’t it? :) Try to think on verses about worry and remember you don’t have grace for that event. You have only been promised today, so focus on today and don’t let tomorrow worry you.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the second rung of the ladder. Anxiety.
The next step on my ladder is not a fun step at all. I don’t know if it’s this way for everyone but the jump from worry to anxiety is very, very short for me depending on how I’ve been doing. Sometimes worry is as far as I get before I shrug it off and let it go, getting back to my life and letting God handle it. However, there are times in my life, like I’m currently in, where anxiety jumped at me from nowhere and settled into my heart to battle with me and make me question my walk with God.
For me, worry becomes anxiety very quickly. Remember how I said worry kinda feels like depression, it gets you down? Well you know that super excited feeling you can get when something really fun or cool is supposed to happen, or when you’re about to do something you’ve wanted to do for a long time but you’re also nervous? Think of that feeling, and then think of that feeling and add worry to it.
That’s what anxiety feels like for me, at least. It’s a pounding of my heart, the worrisome thought going round and round in my head and I can’t focus on anything else but that feeling. If it escalates even further it becomes fear, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
An example of anxiety for me would be something like this:
I was helping at a close friend’s wedding about two months ago and was in charge of making the main breakfast dish. I got all the ingredients together but had trouble finding the hamburger, then found it wasn’t thawed. After one of my friends helped me cut the meat off I simply threw it into the mix for the quiche. I then realized I had never cooked the quiche without cooking the burger first. My heart began to slam against my chest while worry said to me, This could ruin the breakfast tomorrow.
That was bothersome enough, but then anxiety whispered, imagine if the burger doesn’t get cooked enough and everyone gets food poisoning.
Immediately I could see it in my head. My mind began to focus on that, I couldn’t push the image out of my mind, and my heart was speeding up. I was terrified to tell my friend getting married my mistake, so with shaking hands I called my mom and nearly cried on the phone. Everything in my mind was focused on that image, that horrid outcome, and all I could see in my head was everyone being sick.
Thankfully none of that happened and the quiche turned out fine and no one got poisoned. ;) But anxiety takes worry to a whole new level—it takes that worry in your mind, adds imagination into the mix and makes it real to you.
So how do you conquer that? For me, anxiety can hit at any time and it can come on really strong or a slow trickle. The trick is to stop it right away. If worry comes before anxiety for you, stop and pray to God and just tell Him your worry and let it go. If you’re like me and the bridge between worry and anxiety is merely a step, you’re going to have to be more aggressive to get rid of it.
Let’s look at what the Bible says about anxiety:
Philippians 4: 6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:6-8 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Anxiety is taking your imagination and making it conjure up outcomes that you believe not only you, but God, can’t control. That’s actually rather arrogant. God can control anything! He made everything, He knows everything, He sees our future, so why can’t He control it? Anxiety, in a way, is the reminder everything is out of our control.
But it’s not out of God’s. That’s when we have to make the choice—do I really believe God’s got this under control or am I going to hold onto the fear He’s just going to let it fall apart?
For me, sometimes I literally have to reach out and either hug someone or grab something. When I’m alone and anxiety hits, sometimes I have to grab up some dirt, or a tree branch, or touch a cup, and focus on the feeling of it. This is real, I tell myself over and over again. I listen to the silence or the noise that I can hear, I focus on that while I touch whatever’s in my hand. That sound is real, too. This cup is real.
Slowly, I begin to thank God for everything around me that is real, I make myself focus on those real things I can feel and see and touch and remind myself that the image in my head, the fears that have gripped my heart are not real. They’re all inside my head. Thanking God is a HUGE part of this. If you’re not thanking Him than there is nothing you can be thankful for, which means that anxiety will control you.
On a random side note, I’m curious how many of you have worry or anxiety over following God. That’s my biggest fight right now, I’m terrified of disobeying God and not following Him or His will. And to be honest I haven’t quite figured out how to fight that, other than realizing that I am forgiven. I am free. Christ died for me WAY before I even made my first sin.
So what makes me think He won’t forgive me if I make a mistake in the future, if I don’t follow His will perfectly? He’s not out to trick me, so why do I worry I will leave the Lord? He makes his paths known to us if we trust in Him, and if He’s silent it means wait until He does make it clear, not that we’re disobeying Him.
If anyone has some other input on that area I’d appreciate it. That’s where a lot of my fears come from. ;)
Finally, if we let anxiety rule over us with it’s vivid pictures and imaginations, we find ourselves on the final step of my ladder.
Fear, at least for me, is the most damaging of my faith-killing ladder and the one that leads to my “pit of despair”. Yes I just quoted Princess Bride for the first time. Face it, all Homeschoolers are supposed to quote it, so there you go. ;).
Fear seizes control of me without mercy, I become unreasonable, I can’t control myself and I begin to cry and curl up in a ball and sob, I can’t get the images anxiety has planted out of my mind, I’m crying out for God to help me. When I’m in the last stage of my faith-killing ladder, after letting worry and anxiety get me to this point, it almost feels like there is no hope.
But there is. There always is.
Fear is something I’d compare to hysteria. Have you ever laughed so hard you couldn’t stop, and it took a long time to calm yourself down? Fear is a lot like that except you can’t stop the beating of your heart or the shaking, crying and horrid thoughts running through your head. Since I tend toward having extreme emotions, this can become painfully hard to get over.
It really is awful, and praise the Lord He is there to get us through that. An example of fear for me would be something like this:
One time, I went to see a movie with my siblings and I really enjoyed it. I talked about it all day and how much I liked it, when the first worry thought entered my mind. You like that movie too much, what if you made an idol out of it?
Anxiety didn’t take long to kick in, either. You don’t love God enough, it accused, you enjoyed that movie too much and your focus is on yourself and how you liked that movie and you don’t care about God!
Now I had this image in my mind of myself not loving God or caring about Him and that I’d made an idol and oh my gosh I was a horrible person. And then fear came crashing in, and said to me, You have disobeyed God. You don’t love the Lord. You are an awful person. You are a sinner. You don’t love God. You’re not saved.
This was the final straw. I became terrified and began to cry and sob and curled up in a ball on my parent’s bed and cried and cried. I repeated over and over again to God that I was so sorry, oh I was so sorry and God, please forgive me! But the fear wouldn’t go away.
You should promise you’ll never watch that movie again, and get rid of that movie if you have it!
Ah, then I’d feel better, right??
Wrong. The one thing I cannot stress enough is never, ever do anything out of fear.
I have made some stupid decisions in my life when I reacted to fear. Fear is the most irrational, clouding of the mind emotion there can be. It is filled with lies and when you’re in fear, Satan uses that time to attack every one of your senses. It robs you of your joy, of your peace, you become terrified and you will believe things that are so ridiculous that in your right mind you would dismiss without a second thought.
But fear is powerful. Fear is a lie within itself. It’s the feeling that you are all alone, you are powerless and God is not going to save you.
All lies. Every one of them. Now, I know worry, anxiety and fear can be brought on by sin, but here’s the thing—God is NOT a God of fear, He is a God of grace and peace. So perhaps I had been too obsessive over that movie. When the thought entered my head, my first thing to do would have been to tell the Lord, “Hey, I’m sorry if I let this consume my thoughts, thanks that I had such a good time and enjoyed that movie, and I’ll try better to focus on you.”
When you’ve repented that’s it, it’s done! God does not torment you with fear, or worry, or anxiety. He frees you from it! And if you have no sin to repent of, than you can be sure it’s not God who's doing that to you, but the enemy! Let’s look at what the Bible says:
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Fear is a human emotion. God does not put fear into our hearts. One thing I have to remind myself over and over again when I make it to the fear point is that it’s not God. No matter what my mind is telling me, no matter what it says and tells me to do, that’s not God. You never react out of emotion, ever. You always wait until it passes and pray to God and ask for his guidance.
This is a really hard lesson for me to stress, because even this past week I had a session with fear where I became irrationally fearful and reactive and wanted to do anything to get out of that position of fear. But you can’t react when you’re fearful, you can’t make decisions when you’re fearful, you can’t do anything when you’re fearful, except thank God He’s there with you.
Thankfulness is a huge step to becoming worry, anxiety and fear free. I often find if I’m beginning to go down that path, if I just stop and thank God for all the good things of that day so far I have to focus on something else other than my “faith-killers”. God commands us to be thankful. He also commands us not to be afraid, and He does that over 365 times (in different wording, of course.). I am pretty sure we can take a clue then that fear is not from God.
Oh, but wait, what about the verses that say fear the Lord?
Let’s look at some of those:
Psalm 128:1-4 How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine Within your house, Your children like olive plants Around your table.
Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
Waittttt a minute. Notice something with each of these verses. For one thing, all old Testament. For another, each one is accompanied by peace, and happiness.
So if you fear the Lord you experience peace and happiness?
And that’s what I’m trying to get at. The fear of the Lord is a different fear than the fear like I described above, the crippling fear. The fear of the Lord is a fear that can be better translated as “reverence, awe, obedience.” And while we still have that for the Lord as we live in the covenant of the New Testament, God has broken down the veil of mystery from the Old Testament and let us see him as a loving God who has forgiven us.
Let’s see what the new testament says about the fear of the Lord:
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Romans 8:15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father."
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
The Bible makes it pretty clear that with accepting God’s love and grace, by following Him, we are no longer slaves to fear. We are bold in Christ, we have nothing to fear because we are saved!
So crippling fear that torments you? Not from God. At all. That’s why you never, ever react to fear while you’re in it.
When I reach the fear stage, when it becomes overwhelming and overruns my senses, every time I’ve struggled with the terrifying question if I was following Christ or not, if I had brought this upon myself, and what I had to do to get away from that fear! That awful fear!
But you see, it wasn’t Christ! I can’t react when I’m in fear like that, that’s the devil tormenting me with the fear I have failed, I’ve messed up, and God’s turned away from me.
But the Lord promises us He will never leave us or forsake us, so we can rest assured when we are that fearful it’s not from God.
Worry, anxiety and fear are all addressed in the Bible. And it all says the same thing. “Do not worry.” “Be anxious for nothing.” “Do not be afraid.”
If God has taken the trouble to tell us not to do any of those things, perhaps we need to look at worry and fear and anxiety under a new light.
It’s a command not to do those things. It’s a sin to dwell on them over and over again.
Now I’m not saying you can’t struggle with these things. I struggle tremendously with this, and though I’m getting better, I still have relapses. But remember this, temptation is not sin. The temptation to worry is not sin. The temptation to anxiety is not sin. The temptation to fear is not sin.
What is sin is to let it control you and shorten God of his almighty power, believing He cannot save you and that all of these things causing these symptoms are out of His control. That’s a sin.
But we don’t have to let these emotions ruin our lives, rob us of our joy and cause strain on our families. Here are some things I have found that really help me.
- Being thankful.
Any time any of these emotions start to pop up, take a deep breath and start naming the things you are thankful for. TRUST ME, it’s not easy. But there are plenty of things to be thankful for, even if you don’t feel thankful. The key is to start naming them and thanking God for them, because it takes your focus off of worry and whatnot and puts them on blessings, which are encouragements.
- Memorize verses or carry verses on anxiety, fear and worry.
I am really bad at memorizing scripture (I could do it if I really worked on it, I suppose), and when I was really struggling with anxiety I ended up carrying verses on anxiety with me everywhere to read them whenever I began to get worried or anxious. It helps to pick out verses that are your “promises”, and you can stand on those and remember those are your promises from God. Hold onto your promises, and remind yourself of them constantly!
- Spend time with your family.
Make a point of helping others and getting your mind off yourself. This really helps. Put effort into your family relationships and being with them. Friends are wonderful and you should invest time in them, too, but family is key here. Family is around you every day, they are the people God has chosen to walk these paths with you. Spend time with them and invest in your relationships with them, find out what they’re struggling with and try to help them along, too. Getting your mind off yourself is so important with this struggle. Talk to your family and trusted friends, tell them your struggles so they might pray for you but also listen to theirs, so you can pray for them. Having a sibling, parent or friend as a prayer partner and confidant is so helpful.
- Read your Bible and pray.
Pray without ceasing. You know that verse, right? Well, whenever I start to get worried, I am reminded that there is a God who can read my mind, so I turn that worry into a prayer and just tell Him about it. It’s really helpful. Reading God’s word and knowing what He says is so important, too, and knowing what He promises you. I firmly believe in reading what you can manage, not what everyone tells you to read. If you can read two verses and focus on those but no more, do that. If you can read five chapters and retain that, do it. It’s between you and God, but make time to read His word and get to know what He says every day. Remember, if you know who God really is, fear is meaningless, because you know God is not a God of fear. And prayer is your key to telling God all about your worries, and trust me, it helps. Also remember to pray for others, using worrisome thoughts to prompt you to begin praying for people on your prayer list. Get your mind off yourself and your problems, it helps.
- Rest in your forgiveness.
Yes, if you have sin in your life repent it, but if you suffer from guilt complex like I do (yet another reason worry, fear and anxiety is such a problem for me), you have to repeat to yourself over and over again that yes, you are forgiven, yes, you are free, and yes, you will sin again but oh, the Lord loves you anyway! God is a God of love, He’s not watching your life from above waiting to hit you over the head for making a mistake. Of course if you purposefully sin against him He will let you feel the consequences of that mistake, but He’s ready to welcome you back with open arms when you repent. So rest in the assurance that you will make mistakes and you have made mistakes, but they are forgiven and you can be free from that terror! If you are so fearful you’re going to make a mistake you will never progress farther in faith. Faith is believing God and obeying Him, so obey him and walk in faith and not in fear. Sometimes you won’t know what He’s telling you, so step out there and try it! Trust me, you know what is “bad” and sinful, but it’s a lot harder to know what’s good and best. So if you can’t tell what’s good and what’s best, and you’re not sure what God is telling you, walk forward and see where it leads you. He isn’t trying to trick you and you can rest that He is there to guide you. He’ll make his will known to you if you desire it.
Finally, I want to leave you with this promise, presented in song. This is how I ended up memorizing most of the scriptures I know, through song.
If you are earnestly seeking God, He will reward you. And faith is the opposite of fear. Fear is not knowing your future and becoming scared, faith is not knowing the future and trusting God does.
So whatever you struggle with, be it the first steps down on the “faith killing” ladder like worry or anxiety, or the full-blown fear issue, trust that God is there. He loves you. And He is NOT a God of fear.
Don’t let fear rob you of your joy, go boldly forward!
What is your “Faith killing” ladder? Do you have any of the struggles I’ve mentioned above? If you have any comments or anything you want to add to this, let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I hope this encouraged you. <3
Blessings, readers, and take care. May you be encouraged this week and walk in His will and love!