The other day I went for a walk in my favorite park near my home. It’s a beautiful place where I often walk and pray. So many times, I feel the presence of God there in the rustling grasses and flowers. It is a place to walk and worship or say a prayer to stop worrying if my mind is troubled. I always leave feeling refreshed and cheered up.
But, the other day, as I started to ascend the trail behind the pond, a couple came walking hurriedly down the hill towards me. “We turned around,” they said excitedly. “You did? Why?” I asked. “There is a big, black snake lying totally across the path up there. We turned right back!” Watch out as you go around the bend and the sun hits your eyes.”
“Well, thank you,” I said. “I’ll be careful.”
I continued on, stubbornly not wanting the snake to interfere with my routine which is: I go up the hill. I listen to worship music. My heart explodes with joy and hope as I walk in the sun and hear the words of favorite songs.
I did not want to give that up. But their description of the snake was a little daunting. The path is asphalt, about 5 or 6 feet across. If the snake was lying stretched out fully filling the path, it would be one big snake!
Fear Tends to Magnify Threats
Curiosity and stubbornness made me keep on. I LOVE this walk. Do you have something like this in your life that gives you such peace and fortifies you so much? This park, this walk does that for me. I kept thinking, “Maybe they’re right, but maybe the snake is gone by now.” No way I’ll give this up!
I kept on walking listening to “O the Glory of His Presence.” The sun was so bright. The clouds big and full. The prairie grasses were swaying, as if to the music. (I live in the Midwest). Somewhat cautiously I climbed, higher and higher.
And then I saw the snake. To be fair, perhaps it was a different one, but this was not an all black snake. It had a black stripe and it was a pipsqueak. I mean it looked like Snake Junior. I began to laugh. The little thing made a darting move at me as if to say, “I’m scarier than you think. Really!” But I tapped my foot and the poor little thing raced away across the path and into the grass.
He was tiny. Far smaller than the snake in this picture above that is, itself, small (see the frogs in the pond). Fear had exaggerated the size of the snake and the level of its threat.
I told my husband about this when I got home and as we talked, I remembered a second snake story.
One time my daughter and her best friend were swimming in the lake near a former home. They were young teens having a great afternoon. They dove under the water and came up. Just as they did, a snake came out of the water and was looking them in the face. If the snake could have screamed, he would have. All three of them turned and swam away as fast as they could possibly go!
I think the snake was more scared than they were!
Fear and Worry Make Us Retreat from Life
Now, this story of the snake causing the couple to retreat from their walk turning out to be a tiny, non-threatening creature gives us a good metaphor for explaining how fear and worry work on us.
We sense a threat. Fear rises up in us. Our imaginations “go wild.” And then, we retreat, and oftentimes, miss out on something, maybe many things. Thoughts of “what could happen” fill our minds and paralyze us.
Don Joseph Goewey, author of The End of Stress, wrote in a blog article about the results of a study. He wrote that, “Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.”
A Bible Story of Worry and Loss
A classic example of fear stopping people from going forward and enjoying all that life has for them, all that God has for them, is the story about the 12 men sent to spy out the Promised Land found in the Bible in Numbers 13.
In this story, God told Moses, the leader of the Israelites who had escaped slavery in Egypt, to send 12 men to explore Canaan (the Promised Land). God said, “I am giving this land to the Israelites.” (Numbers 13:2) The men spent 40 days exploring. When they came back, they were carrying a branch with a cluster of grapes, along with some pomegranates and figs.
Upon returning, the men gave a report, “We went into the land to which you sent us and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But, the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” (Numbers 13:27-28 NIV)
We can go up…
As the men began to speak fear and worry, Caleb (one of the 12) interrupted them and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land for we can certainly do it!” (Numbers 13:30 NIV)
But there was no trust in God’s wanting to give them the land, no prayer to stop worrying. The 10 reluctant men just said, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them.” (Remember fear “magnifies things?”) (Numbers 13:33 NIV)
With that bad, fearful report, the 10 reluctant men injected terror into all the hearts of the people. The result – God let the people wander 40 years in the wilderness. Their generation would pass away and not enter into the beautiful land that God had promised and had readily desired to give to them.
Prayer to Stop Worrying
We don’t want to be among those who turn back, give up, and live paralyzed. God has SO many things set aside in this life for us to experience. God has wonderful plans for us. Yes, some hardships, some difficulties, maybe many, enter into our lives. But God says:
“I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
So, let’s not miss out on anything because we gave into fear and worry.
Here is a prayer to stop worrying:
Heavenly Father, we ask for your help. You know we are prone to worry, even to despair. Our minds too often go to the worst case scenario as we imagine frightening possibilities in challenging situations. And sometimes, like the 12 men in Canaan, we see only “giants” in front of us.
O God, others see a land filled with milk and honey. We want to see the milk and honey. Keep our mind on your goodness and reliability. Help us to wash our minds with your Word and all its promises.
Fear is a spirit. Don’t let it infect us. Rather, give us power and love and self-discipline that come from Your Spirit in us. We love you, Lord. Make us brave for life! This is our prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen
There are 100 verses about fear and anxiety here.
Related articles on this website:
What Does the Bible Say about Overcoming Fear
How to Avoid Shutting Down When Overwhelmed
Books to Read:
If you would like to receive highlighted posts, other faith building materials, and occasional free resources straight to your inbox, please scroll down and sign up for our email list! I would love to share more with you! Blessings!
Pam, wow that snake is a great analogy for fear in our thoughts. I have a knack (I’m working to overcome it!) for taking a possible fear and blowing it up so big it completely overwhelms me. I’ve grown better at identifying when I’m doing this and turning all of those thoughts over to the Lord to sift through for me. Fear can be so sneaky. I so appreciate your ways of dealing with and praying about fear.
Jeanne – yes, fear can be so sneaky! True! And behind a lot of other emotions is fear – when we blow up in anger, for instance. Bless you so much. Thanks for stopping by!
I loved this post and the snake stories as analogies of how we give in to fear. And I liked how you put the remedy in your prayer—“Help us to wash our minds with your word and all its promises.” God’s Word washes us clean of the sin of worry! And fear. Thank you for this post!
Teresa, thank you so much! Yes, the snake encounter just reminded me of the “number” fear does on our minds and how it keeps us from God’s best. Bless you!
Great analogy about how fear can stop us or make us miss out on important things. I am glad you were able to continue on with your praise and worship time. I am sure the snack wanted to interrupt it.
Yes! The snake could have stopped me. Haha! But, I love that worship walk and he would have had to have been a boa constrictor to put a stop to it! Thanks for stopping by, Yvonne!
Great post Pam! Fear is the root of worry…it’s rooting out that fear & turning it over to God that overcomes a tendency to blow things out of proportion & then worry ourselves needlessly about them. 😀
You’re most welcome to join me in a cuppa at Tea With Jennifer,
Thank you, Jennifer. Yes, love your comment that “fear is the root of worry.” Perfect love casts out fear!! And yes, I’ll come “visit!”
This is such a great way to describe how we are feeling right now. That we amplify our fears, but l am so grateful that when we seek God, He helps us place our fears in perspective. Thanks for this encouragement today!
Thank you, Ava. That’s the perfect word: amplify. I pray that we’ll all grow in our ability to see when the enemy of our souls is prompting us into needless fear and worry, trying to shake our eyes off God!
Beautiful post! I love the Joyce Meyer quote about courage. That sums it up well.
Thank you, Mary. Joyce Meyer is a great one for stirring up courage in others. She has a lot of holy “moxy” that comes from the Lord! I pray for that to be true for all of us. The heart of my ministry is to stir up courage and confidence in others because they look to the Lord for it and learn to trust Him wholly. God bless you much.
It made me laugh out loud when I pictured your daughter, her friend and the snake all looking at each other and wanting to scream. Fear does threaten more than it delivers. Awesome post my friend …
Donna, thank you so much for stopping by to read. Yes, fear can make us see a giant where there really is something the size of a mouse! Thank God for His setting us free as we lean on Him.
I should never read snake stories. Honestly, if I were your daughter…not sure I would ever recover from the snake incident!! Ugh with snakes.
Jennifer, haha! I thought as I wrote these words – someone is going to really hate snakes – hope I don’t step on too many toes! I have to confess I went back to our park and read the sign about the harmless water snakes that are quite numerous in our area. Though not poisonous, they can bite! So the people in the park had a little reason on their side to turn around!! However, we still need God’s help so we will be mighty and strong!! Thanks for reading!
Pam, love the visual of the snake representing our fear and the quote from Michel. Worry and fear do try to rob our joy and can be quite successful if we let them. Great post!
Mary, thank you so much for stopping by. Yes, I loved the encounter with the snake because it was such a great reminder not to let things seem so much bigger and threatening than they are!
I needed this prayer today as I’m struggling with fear of my giants and what they may bring. Thank you. Visiting you from the tell His story link up.
Lauren, thank you so much. I so appreciate you stopping by to read. I plan to go back to the link up and read several of those wonderful blog posts listed there. I am so glad that reading this was of help. Bless you so much.
I’m pretty scared of snakes. I have always been afraid of them. In real life, I am yet to meet one though. 🙂
Couldn’t have drawn me faster into this article. 🙂
Yes, snakes are one of the less appealing creatures on earth! My son wanted one as a pet when he was a little boy. We could only take its hissing and striking at the aquarium glass for so long, then we put him out in the wild, and opted for hamsters! Haha! Thank you for coming by to read, Evangeline. God bless you!
I would never dismiss a snake or diminish the thought of it! But I get the part about not magnifying fear and worry out of proportion. Blessings!
Yes, fear blocks us from so much and makes us see things as much bigger and more dangerous than they are. Thanks for stopping by, Betty!
I think I need this kind of reminder often. I defeat worry and fear and then it creeps (or slithers, in this case!) back into my life. Putting Bible verses on sticky notes and then sticking those around my house has been my go-to practice when I have trouble defeating it.
Teresa, that is such a great idea – to put the sticky notes around the house with Bible verses on them. I love that because I think we do have roller coaster brains sometimes – even people of strong faith. We can hit a low point and fear and worry seem to be winning. The Word of God reminds us of God’s love and promises and “lays the smack down” on the slithering fear and worries! Thank you so much for stopping by!
I loved the snake stories! I’ll think of the one the couple warned you about the next time I’m tempted to give up due to fear!
Yes, snake Junior! I will try and remember my own story too. We need to constantly tell fear to “Get lost!” In Jesus’ name!! Thanks, Rachel!
What a timely post for me! Especially the end of that quote “This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.” Such good words for me to hear and remember . Thanks!
Oh, I’m glad it was timely and helpful, Kari. I know fear is really “after us” right now. We need the love of the Father to really envelop us and keep us brave!
I am so guilty of worrying about and analyzing everything, which usually leads me to make mountains out of mole hills. Thank you for this reminder that God is always with us so we truly don’t have to give way to fear.
Thank you for this comment, Erin. Sometimes it is overthinking things – you are so right. I love when I feel the power of the Holy Spirit moving in me and I step out brave and bold without giving too much thought to what’s in front of me, just trusting Him.
You’re a lot braver than I am! I’d be scared to death if I saw that snake! LOL! Great post and a great reminder not to let fear control us!
Meghan, I wonder how I would have done if the snake had been 5-6 ft, big and all the way across the path. Ha! But you are right. We can let fear take control. Always a mistake!
Fear wants me to believe in lack when faith in Christ reminds me He is abundant.
So true, Mamie! That is such an important point – fear wants us to believe in lack. Christ reminds us that we are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.” Thank you so much for stopping by!