AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Suppose I stick a rubber snake in your bed. You pull back the blankets and scream in fright. Why are you afraid? Because for a second, you think the snake is real and you believe a real snake might harm you. What you believe is what made you afraid. The most I could do on my own is try and startle you by having you find a snake where it doesn’t belong. I can’t make you be afraid of the snake—you added that part on your own. If you happen to really like snakes, then you wouldn’t have felt afraid at all, just pleasantly surprised and then disappointed when you discovered the snake wasn’t real.
Why do we get nervous riding in a car with someone who doesn’t have much driving experience? Because we believe they’re more likely to get in an accident. Why aren’t children afraid to touch hot burners? Because they believe they won’t get harmed. Why are we afraid of the dark when we’re kids? Because we believe something in it will harm us. Whether our beliefs are founded on truth or fiction, they determine how we emotionally react to life. Emotions are very distracting. When they get riled up, it’s hard to think rationally. This is why Satan wants to agitate our emotions as much as possible. His favorite emotion is fear and he’ll do anything he can to make you feel afraid, but how easily he can upset you depends on what you believe about your relationship with God.
Anytime you feel afraid, there is a core belief that is driving that fear. Identify the belief, and you have a chance of changing it. Once it’s changed, the fear will dissipate. We can’t win against Satan by trying to fight him on a surface level. He can toy with our senses, manipulate our surroundings, and plant thoughts in our minds. He can stir up other people to be his instruments against us. But as a Christian, there is one thing you need to understand about the weapons Satan uses: they’re all rubber snakes. He is absolutely powerless to harm your soul or damage your relationship with God. The best he can do is come at you with some scary illusions, but once you learn how to fix your core beliefs, those illusions will lose their power.
Let’s look at some examples of how Satan might try to scare you, what false beliefs will fuel your fear, and how you can win the battle by refocusing on truth. Satan always starts by presenting us with some kind of stimulus—his version of a rubber snake.
STIMULUS: You feel an evil presence in your bedroom at night.
FALSE BELIEF: God will sit back and do nothing while demons severely harm you.
COUNTERING TRUTH: The mighty Holy Spirit is dwelling inside you and He will not let any harm come to you.
STIMULUS: A mental image of God scowling down at you.
FALSE BELIEF: God hates you and there’s nothing you can do about it.
COUNTERING TRUTH: When God is upset about something, He will convict you in a clear manner and make it very easy for you to get back into a right relationship with Him. Negative images without any clear instructions are illusions from demons. God loves you and will never block you from being in a good place with Him. God doesn’t hate any of His children.
STIMULUS: A strong sense of distance between you and God when you pray.
FALSE BELIEF: God has abandoned you.
COUNTERING TRUTH: God is always with you; He has promised to never leave or forsake you.
STIMULUS: A doctor announces you have cancer.
FALSE BELIEF: Illness is always a form of Divine punishment, therefore God must be angry with you. Now He’s going to make you die a long, horrible death.
COUNTERING TRUTH: Every trial God brings into our lives is for our spiritual benefit. He is for us and He will give us grace for each moment. He won’t let us suffer one second more than He feels is beneficial for our souls.
STIMULUS: You lose your job the day after you get evicted from your apartment.
FALSE BELIEF: God is going to stand by and do nothing while your life falls apart.
COUNTERING TRUTH: God is intimately involved in your life. He will provide for you one day at a time. He has already gone ahead of you and arranged solutions to all of your problems which He will reveal to you at just the right moment.
STIMULUS: Your mind keeps going over things you’ve done in the past that you’re ashamed of.
FALSE BELIEF: God hasn’t forgiven your past. He is disgusted with you.
COUNTERING TRUTH: Jesus atoned for all of your sins. You are completely forgiven and nothing can separate you from God’s love. God is focused on your present and your future, not your past.
STIMULUS: Your pastor says that God will turn away from you if you sin.
FALSE BELIEF: A pastor can’t be wrong about God.
COUNTERING TRUTH: Pastors are humans and all humans make mistakes. God has promised that nothing can separate you from His love. What God says trumps anything a person says.
It takes time to unlearn false beliefs. To help us, the Holy Spirit will remind us of the same truths over and over again until they finally become engraved in our brains. Then when Satan comes along with his usual bag of rubber snakes, we will shrug them off as lame pranks and continue on with our lives. He’ll end up having to find something different to use on us, but then the Holy Spirit will coach us until we get too wise to be scared by those tricks as well. Pretty soon Satan will find it extremely difficult to try and get us worked up with fear. He’ll find it frustratingly hard to convince us that terrible things are going to happen to us in the future or that there are serious problems between us and God. The more we learn to stand on truth, the less vulnerable we are to fear.
The next time you find yourself feeling afraid, ask the Spirit to show you what belief is fueling that fear and what truth you need to focus on instead. God says that with Him we have no reason to be afraid of anything ever. We’ve been redeemed by the Blood of Christ, we are indwelt by the mighty Holy Spirit, and the Father calls us His dearly loved children. We are never alone in this world for God is always with us. Our futures couldn’t be more bright now that we know we’ll be spending eternity in Heaven. So any fear that Satan tries to spring on us is just an illusion—all of his lies are as harmless as a rubber snake. Focusing on God and on His glorious truths is the key to overcoming fear.
Practicing Discernment: The Structure of Beliefs