As I tucked my little boy back into bed this week after he had woken in a fright I was reminded of a time in life when fear gripped me. 

I was eleven and from the outside looking in, my life looked good. There were so many positive things going on in my life. I was blessed with a loving family and great friends. I had much to look forward to.  

But on the inside, an irrational fear of death had taken hold of me. I dreaded going to bed each night [as I’m sure in hindsight my parents did as well]. I didn’t want to go to sleep because I feared I wouldn’t wake up.  All my Sunday School lessons on the joy of heaven weren’t meeting my growing, irrational fears. The more fear gripped me, the more my child’s mind played cruel games. I was convinced I was going to have a heart attack and not wake up. I was fast becoming physically and emotionally exhausted. My parents tried all the tricks in their parenting book. They even had my GP give me a full medical check-up and a glowing bill of health. “But what did he know” my young mind said. 

 Yes – I was on the verge of paralysis – fear paralysis! 

Thankfully this painful, stretching phase came and went. Today, some four decades later that fearful childhood season reminds me of the power that fear can have at any stage of our lives. 

 It may be as you read this post today, you know that your life is being held back because of a particular fear. Let me ask: Are there areas of your life where fear is holding you back from seizing new possibilities and opportunities? Are their fears robbing you of relational growth and deeper connectedness in your marriage, family, friendships or neighbourhood? 

 So often fear is irrational, yet it can still take hold of us. It can sneak up on us when we don’t expect it.  It can stop us in our tracks. It can rob us of our potential. It can steal joy. It can squeeze the very life out of us! In essence, fear is an illusion inexistent in the physical world, but it exists in our minds and manifests in our actions. We therefore bring fear to life often without need. 

 In recent months I have chatted with people grappling with everyday fear issues – a fear of commitment, a fear of public speaking, a fear about leaving a dead-end job because of a greater fear of the unknown, a fear of not finding a life partner, a fear of separation and a fear of following in a family line of illness. 

Yes, fear can be a powerful beast – but a beast that we all can conquer!

We sing a great song at church with the powerful, life-transforming line: “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.” Behind that line is a great biblical truth and a doorway to life-transforming freedom and joy. 

Overcoming deep-seated fears can be a painful, stretching process, but the reality is there is hope for all of us! We can all take practical steps today to live freely.  

Here’s some things that we can all do.  

  1. Face the truth – own your fears (don’t hide from them)
  2. Let others share in the journey with you  
  3. See failure for what it is [It’s not failure that holds us back; it’s our fear of failure that can rob us of so much potential 
  4. Be willing to seek help – friends, pastoral care, professional counselling  
  5. Pray and ask the Spirit to help you take control of your mind on a daily basis 
  6. Relax and unwind – catch your breath in a crowded, busy world 
  7. Dare to take the next step to conquer your fear(s) 
  8. Invest in things that matter; that help you focus on positive things in life  
  9. Most of all – remember God is on your side! 

Books, workshops and courses, professional support, friends, daily rituals, exercise and guarding our minds are just some of the many things we can do to protect ourselves from the squeeze of fear. But none of these things match the resources of heaven that are ours to discover as we live a life of freedom, purpose and joy! 

Jesus came to pay the ultimate price, so we can overcome all things that rob us of living life the way God envisaged. Jesus came to open the door to freedom, hope, forgiveness, opportunity, faith, adventure and meaning. 

Romans 8:15: You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 

As one who knows what it is to be a slave to fear I am so thankful today that there is a new freedom song in my life. I am thankful that I am a child of God. I am thankful that I have a good, good Father who wants the very best for me. He wants me to share my fears with him and better still he empowers me by his Spirit to be free of fear on a daily basis. He wants me to experience the joy of live a free and full life!  

Today what intentional steps may you need to once and for all conquer the beast of fear in your life? Your loving, gracious, powerful God is here – ready and wanting – to help you overcome.  

Scott Pilgrim 

Soul Decluttering

Welcome to Fuel – a new Crossway blog that aims to “fuel the soul” in the midst of our busy, crowded world. On a regular basis we will share encouraging and challenging reflections. In our first Fuel blog our Executive Pastor Scott Pilgrim offers some insights into “decluttering” our lives and focusing on things that matter most.

We’ve just moved to a new house and it’s great to get the chance to catch my breath after a hectic few weeks. It’s our second house move in just over a year and again it has provided us with the opportunity and challenge to declutter.

At the beginning of last year we made the big move from Newcastle to Melbourne. It was a stressful, stretching and exhausting process, but at the same time it gave us the opportunity to do a massive clean-up on the homefront. We filled two huge skip bins as we sought to significantly declutter and lighten our load for our southern move. This time around we’ve only travelled five minutes down the road and thankfully there has been less to dispose of, but there’s still been the need to ask the question: “Do we really need that?”

Megan has asked me that question with every move we’ve made when I pack my box of newspapers I’ve collected from around the world, stacks of old dusty books, my grandfather’s lawn bowls that haven’t been used in more than 40 years and other childhood memorabilia. Yes, some things are hard to part with! “One day the kids are going to love all these things,” I reply with a sense of declining optimism as the years roll by.

As we’ve physically hauled boxes and furniture into the moving truck and cleaned the house we are leaving, my mind has again been pondering the vital need for what I like to call “soul decluttering”. It’s that intentional process of taking stock of our lives – physically, emotionally and spiritually – and seeing where do we need to declutter, simplify and be refreshed and renewed by God’s Spirit.

It can be a challenging, even painful process, but it’s an essential practice if we are to live with passion and purpose. In the midst of our breakneck pace and crowded schedules we can load so much “clutter” into our lives and then wonder why we aren’t experiencing the joy, freedom, peace and purpose we all innately yearn for.

“Soul decluttering” requires intentionality, honesty, space and time.

As Bill Hybels writes: “Simplified living requires more than just cleaning out your closets or reorganizing your desk drawer. It requires decluttering your soul. By eradicating the stuff that leaves your spirit drained, you can stop doing what doesn’t matter and start doing what does.”

Today where may your life need some intentional decluttering?

From my personal and pastoral experience here’s a quick, but not at all exhaustive list, of some common areas that can so quickly clutter our souls and squeeze the life out of us.

• Unforgiveness
• Unhealthy & overcrowded schedules
• Unnecessary activities and commitments
• Unresolved conflict
• Unrealistic expectations
• Unhelpful relationships
• Unchecked motives
• Unkind attitudes (including a critical spirit)
• Unguided priorities (where we lose sight of purpose and vision for our lives)
• Unattended sin

Yes, there’s ten “Un’s” to consider, but better still let me encourage you to be promptable to the Holy Spirit and see what clutter he may personally reveal to you.

In Hebrews 12:1 we are reminded of the need to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up”.

As I’ve been in the midst of our physical move over the past week it has been good to again pause and take the time to intentionally reflect on the importance of ‘travelling light’ in today’s busy, crowded and stressful world.

Today, how are you travelling? Are you carrying excess baggage? Are you overloaded? Are you weighed down? Where might you need some soul decluttering? Where may you need the Spirit’s refreshment and renewal?

As we sweep the clutter from our souls we provide the Holy Spirit more space to do his work, moulding and shaping us into people who look and live more like Jesus. As we declutter we intentionally simplify our lives so we can re-orient around Jesus’ purposes and priorities – the things that matter most in life.

Scott Pilgrim