terrifiedI have been scared a few times in my life. Once, when I was a teen, I had parked my car at a friend’s house and went out with some other friends who picked me up. Nobody was at the house, so several of us left our cars there. We got back late, I got in my car and was driving home, when a face appeared in the rear view mirror! It was my friend who’s house I parked the car at – but I didn’t know it! I pulled over and got out and ran like crazy!

This type of scared is normal – a shock to our system, where our heart pounds in our chest, and we instinctively run away.

Then there are situations that we avoid because we are scared of them. This is fear that has taken hold of us. Instead of us being in control, we give the control over to something that most likely will not happen, to an imagined idea or concept. This is not normal.

A good example for me is flying. I am scared to fly – I avoid flying. But you know what? I had to fly to Chicago last year, and to San Diego. I swallowed my fear, got on the plane, and believe it or not, we didn’t crash and I didn’t die.

I have another fear I’m dealing with though. This one goes way deeper – into the roots of who I am. You see, I love people, I love helping people, I love listening to people. I was a pastor for many years, and my gift of helping and the way I listen was a huge part of my success. But those gifts were turned back on me in a very bad way, and I my wife and I were both hurt badly in a church setting, by Christian people.

It took years to get past the pain, the anger, the bitterness. But we did, and we are involved in ministry in our church as volunteers and we love it – we use our gifts to help people every week. But I am still clinging to fear – fear that if I do what God is calling me to do, I will be hurt again, and I don’t want to go through that ever again!

This fear is unfounded, not based in reality, but still in my mind and heart it is such a real thing. It is actually terrifying to me to think that I might be a pastor again some day. I actively avoid that thinking and conversations where it comes up.

This is a stronghold in my life. Because of this stronghold, my ministry is limited in reach – I will never be the person God created and redeemed me to be with this fear in my life. And yet, it persists.

I know the steps, and I have led people through them myself, on overcoming a stronghold. This battle takes place in my mind, and is played out in my flesh, and affects my spiritual relationships. I know that the bible says I can be transformed by the renewing of my mind, and so much transformation has already taken place – but this one thing persists. Our weapons to fight these attacks are spiritual in nature – prayer, fasting, worship, reading God’s word, listening to his voice instead of the voice of the enemy. And I do these things. But still this fear has hold of me.

What it comes down to is, I have given up space to the enemy, and he has built a strong fortress. I may need to tear it down brick by brick, or God may just give me complete victory over that. Either way – I have given satan the right to be there. Until I take it back, he’ll be a part of everything I say or do or think or feel. And that is not right or normal for a son of God.

What kinds of fears or strongholds are you dealing with? What steps are you taking to recapture ground that the enemy has taken? Please talk to me about this! I would love to hear what you have to say!

  • Beth Schalk Pritchett

    I’m sure you realize this story plays out in the life of nearly every pastor. Maybe it’s a test, something that you have to get over to move on in ministry. That special crown a pastor receives is hard won I suppose. Anyway, I hope you’ve talked to other pastors about how they found a way to move past the fear and unforgiveness, take responsibility for their part in the whole thing, learn what you can from it and move into grace. Getting through the rocky spots in the road are tough but that narrow road was never promised to be smooth and easy.
    If you work toward the call in sincerity, you’ll get there but if you don’t, your fields get burned, you get famine in the land and you end up where you were supposed to be in a later season than what God intended for you. No telling what blessing you may miss by not getting on the plane.

    • richpnifong

      There’s a lot of wisdom there Beth – thank you! And thanks for being my friend!

  • Joy Wade

    Fears that result from experiencing trauma (emotional or physical) are the most difficult to get past. To set the stage for my story, you need to know that I have been a believer since I was five years old. I have consistently sought to walk with Christ and to serve Him. I am married to a man who is in seminary as he hopes one day to serve as a pastor. We moved 600 miles away from our families in order to be obedient to be a part of a church God called us to.

    When it comes to overcoming fears, I speak from personal experience. In my life I have been in 2 serious car accidents, the first when I was only 12 years old. I was thrown through the front windshield, broke my neck, had to learn to walk again, feed myself, etc. It could have been much worse,(I have no paralysis) but it took a year to recover. The second did not have as many serious injuries but it still took me 10 months to completely recover physically. Both were caused by someone else being foolish. Both were terrifying. The second took place in 2007 and after it, when in a car, I was a nervous wreck and panicked at the slightest driving challenge. I knew this fear was not trusting God, but I could not help it. It was physiological as much as it was mental. I truly suffered from clinical PTSD. Like you, I too “have given up space to the enemy, and he has built a strong fortress”. I have spent copious amounts of time praying to be delivered from this.

    To add to all this, this past September, under a doctor’s care, I was taking steroids for bronchitis and had what is called an “untoward” reaction. I developed psychosis. My husband was out of the country in Cameroon, and my adult sons didn’t know why I went into psychosis nor that I had been taking steroids. As a result they had me temporarily admitted to a “behavior hospital” (mental hospital). It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I was on a ward with drug addicts who were in psychosis as well as potentially violent. I also had hallucinations due to the drug reaction that were equally terrifying. Now the big picture is that God allowed all of these circumstances in my life. He protected me in that hospital and within 48 hours I improved and was moved to a ward with mentally stable, yet depressed patients. God even used me to lead a Bible study while I was there, and I led my roommate to Christ. The Psychosis would come and go so during sane time periods, my thinking was very clear. By law I had to be in that hospital for 5 days. I was only able to see my family 3 times during that time. Finally after being there for almost 3 days, I was questioned about any medications I was taking (before that time, I couldn’t remember) and the doctor there realized that steroids were the cause. To make a long story short, the psychosis reaction simply had to run its course. After about 2 1/2 weeks I finally stopped having those episodes. But the months since then have been a journey of recovery.

    The memories of not being able to control my brain and emotions were as awful as it was when I was experiencing it. I cried a lot. I’m normally a happy, cheerful and joyous person. My spiritual gift is encouragement, and i had NOTHING to give. I was afraid, I’d never be myself again.

    So what’s the light at the end of the tunnel? Heb. 4:16. The fears of the car accidents and the fears from the psychosis were a continuous battle. But I just kept on pouring out my fears and heart break to the Lord. “Let us draw near” The verb draw in the Greek is in the present tense which means to “keep on drawing near”. In orther words its a continuous action. That passage is specifically dealing with temptations to sin and drawing near to the throne of grace for the strength to overcome that temptation. And that’s what I have done. I knew that I was vulnerable to bitterness (why did God let this happen) and despair. I just keep on drawing near. I still don’t fully understand all of God’s reasons for what has happened to me, but I do believe that He has a purpose for them that is good and for blessing. But my feelings didn’t follow what I believed

    But praying almost continually was not all of what I’ve needed to achieve victory. I’ve needed the prayers of others. Your honesty in this blog, and I assume with those in your life, gives them the opportunity to lift up your burden in prayer. I belong to a church with the most compassionate supportive group of believers. And they have steadfastly prayed for me and encouraged me.

    Finally, I have been seeing a Christian therapist. What I came to realize is that God has gifted certain Christians to be able to help us see where our thinking about God and our circumstances is skewed. She knows specific spiritual and mental exercises that have helped me to grab hold of God’s truth and be set free from Satan’s lies that have imprisoned me.

    I also want to share with you that this time last year we also went through a VERY painful experience of unfair treatment by the leadership in our former church (the very one we moved to be a part of) and had to leave it. So I even understand the specifics of what you have personally experienced on that level.

    To wrap this all up, I AM finally being set free from the bondage of the fears that imprisoned me and interfered with my ability to trust and submit to the Lord. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t come overnight. I am not finished with this journey of recovery but I am much better and I have hope that I’ll one day be completely set free. I know that God can and wants to do the same for you. You cannot overcome this in your own strength. Keep on throwing yourself on the throne of grace, seek the prayers of supportive Christian friends and if the Lord leads, find a good Christian therapist.

    I will be in prayer for you. I pray that my experience will encourage and strengthen you.

    Your sister in Christ,
    Joy Wade

    • richpnifong

      Joy – thanks so much for sharing your story! What God is doing in and through you is powerful – I love how he uses our stories and our weak moments to change other people’s lives and bring glory to Himself. He is reclaiming what the enemy meant for evil – I am still working through some things but I know this will pass – thanks for your encouragement!