Clinging to the Truth
About the Guest
When is fear an appropriate response? Today author Grace Fox describes the difference between constructive and destructive fear and tells how her own life was controlled by fear until she began embracing the truth about herself found in God’s word.
When is fear an appropriate response?
Clinging to the Truth
Bob: It’s one thing to be afraid when you hear a strange noise in the night in your house or when a copperhead snake slithers across your path. But it’s something altogether different to be afraid of what people are going to think about you. Here’s Grace Fox.
Grace: The fear of man can be something that can really hold us captive, because that can really dictate how we look at ourselves and how we respond to life and we’re afraid of rejection with that, right? What if they reject me, if I’m honest with somebody about what I’ve been? But you know, God is so merciful and he is so good, where he will look at those things from our past and see how he can use them to help somebody else who is still struggling in the same way.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how we can renew our minds so that we’re not held captive to a fear of man.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, some fears are irrational. It’s just a fear that -- you really shouldn’t be afraid of it; it’s just an irrational fear. But there are fears that come into our lives that it makes sense to be a little afraid of the circumstances around us. Don’t you think?
Dennis: Yes, absolutely. I’ll never forget going fly-fishing one time in the Rockies and I was wearing my waders and I was walking up a trail that was covered with weeds about two-and-a-half feet high and lying across the path was a rattler. It would have been stupidity, foolishness to have not screamed and yelled and jumped like I did. I didn’t keep going up the trail. Fishing is wonderful, but you know what? That fear is the kind of self-preservation that says, “Stay out of the street. Don’t go in that dangerous place.”
Bob: Fear is not all bad, is it?
Dennis: It isn’t. It is a God-given emotion that like a red light on a dashboard of a car tells you that something is wrong. It’s how we respond to it and what we do at that point. We have a guest with us, Grace Fox, who has written a book, Moving From Fear to Freedom, who joins us for another day. Thank you, Grace, for coming back. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Grace: I am so thrilled to be here.
Dennis: She is from the grand country of Canada. She and her husband head up a ministry there. She has been married since 1982 and has three children and three grandchildren. I want to take you back, Grace, to a time when you were in college and you skipped a senior retreat by faking illness. Why’d you do that?
Grace: It took me years to be able to figure out why I did that, but I’ll tell you what happened. I had been engaged to be married to somebody else, and that person decided that he became attracted to a different woman and so I was engaged and I got dumped, and I was going through all of that rejection stuff. So, for months I’d been processing that, and I never told anybody of the pain that I was feeling inside about that.
So the senior retreat came around in the springtime and it was a big deal at that place. The biggest event of the senior year and my girlfriends were all so excited about going and planning all the fun that they were going to have, and I faked illness.
I checked into the infirmary, and I remember my best friend saying, “Grace, just come. You can rest there.” I just said, “I’m so sick. I just feel so sick. I just can’t go.” So that’s where I spent the weekend of the senior retreat, in the infirmary, faking illness, because I was afraid of being rejected again. I just didn’t want to put myself into a social setting where there could be a possibility of being rejected in any kind of way at all.
Dennis: Who would reject you at that point?
Grace: You see, I think I was so stuck in my emotions that I didn’t even process that, but I think I was just thinking, “I’m not good enough.”
Bob: You said it took you years to figure out why you’d done it. When you were doing it, were you just thinking, “I just don’t want to be with people?” I mean you were faking it, you knew you were faking it –
Bob: Were you thinking, “I just don’t have the energy to do it, I’m . . .”
Grace: I think there was still so much pain in my life that I had never shared with anybody, and I think again, the fear of rejection: “If I talk to people about how I’m feeling, what are they going to think of me? I’m not a woman who has it all together.” At that immediate point when I checked myself into the infirmary I think it was more putting up a wall of protection around me. “I’m not going to get hurt again; I’m just not going to put myself in a position of possibly being hurt in any possible way.”
Bob: When you surveyed women as you were out speaking at women’s retreats, and you talked to more than 350 women about fears, did this fear of rejection pop up as one of the issues?
Grace: Absolutely it popped up! Over and over again women would say, “I’m afraid that my husband is going to stop loving me at some point.”
“I’m afraid my husband is going to find somebody else who he will find more attractive or more interesting.”
“I’m afraid of spending the rest of my life alone.”
Bob: Even if he’s a good guy and has never given any indication that he’s going to stop loving you, is this one of these irrational fears I was talking about?
Grace: It probably is, but to the woman who’s mucked in that emotion, she doesn’t see it as irrational at all. There’s this subconscious thing of “Maybe I’m not going to be good enough, maybe I’m not going to . . .”
A husband might say, “I love you, I love you, I love you” as many times as he wants, but if a woman has been hurt in the past like that, and she has that sense inside of not being good enough and “I got burned once, I might get burned again,” then it’s going to take a long time for her to truly trust again.
Dennis: You’ve really described Barbara when we first married. She had some old tapes playing – that was back when there were tapes -- tapes that played . . .
Bob: Are you sure these weren’t 45’s playing?
Dennis: Uh, they weren’t 45’s. They were tapes. It could have been . . .
Bob: Eight tracks.
Dennis: . . . eight track tapes, but . . . . You know, we’re laughing about it, but for her, just exactly like you described, Grace, she really wondered and was really afraid, would I stop loving her? Over the next fifteen years in our marriage, that really became a theme of our marriage: Did I love her? Did I accept her? Would I reject her?
Actually a message came out of that in our marriage. We wrote a book together called Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem. Barbara did a lot of building in my life in areas where I felt deficient and I needed to be believed in and built-up and encouraged and have the truth spoken to me by her.
But I also loved her and loved some of that fear out of her enough to be able to put a book together and talk about twelve building blocks that, really a husband and a wife, if they properly understand, can begin to build into their spouse’s lives.
One of them was unconditional acceptance. It was communicating “I love you even though;” “I love you in spite of;” “I am committed to you.” “I’m not going anywhere.” “I’d marry you all over again.”
Bob: Yes, but see, Mary Ann would say, “I know you’re not going anywhere and I know you’re committed to me, but what I want to know is not are you here because you’re stuck. I want to know are you here because you want to be?”
Dennis: Right. “Do I have value?”
Dennis: I think those are the tapes that play: “Am I worthless? I’ve been rejected in the past. Do I have value? Am I a person that is esteemed?” The concept of building another person’s self-esteem today is not a buzz word but it is still a core human need to feel like you truly are loved because of who you are and in spite of who you aren’t.
Bob: That you have worth and value.
Grace: Yes. Well, I can totally relate to what you were just saying about Barbara because years into our marriage I had that sense that maybe my husband would find somebody else and replace me. I think that’s because that had happened to me before. My husband never gave me any reason to doubt his integrity, ever, ever, ever.
The issue was with me, and that I was afraid to look back and to acknowledge what had happened in my past and the hurt that I had experienced because it was so hurtful to look back and to admit that to anybody that “I was rejected. Boy, maybe there’s something wrong with me. She was prettier than me,” or whatever. “There’s obviously something wrong with me.” So I carried that with me.
At one point about ten years into our marriage, I finally, at a weekend retreat for married couples, had to face that and I came to that point of being able to say to my husband, “You know, when you say you love me, I hear it, but I have a hard time absorbing that. So when I say ‘I love you’ back I’m saying it but it takes me a little while to actually get those words out because I’m afraid of getting hurt again, because somebody else said he loved me but he walked out on me. What’s to prevent you from doing the same thing?”
So to be able to really get that out and to finally acknowledge the hurt that I’d experienced before, which was hurtful again to revisit that, but I believe that it’s important when we’ve been hurt in the past in some way to be able to get to that point of acknowledging it and what it did to our lives. That’s often the first step in healing and moving forward past that fear of rejection again.
Dennis: This is part of your assignment as a man or as a woman to love that other person’s fears out of them. They may never be gone totally, but your assignment is, back to I John 4: “Perfect love casts out all fear.” It doesn’t say “some fear;” it says “all fear.” Now, God’s love does that perfectly. Our assignment is to do that with another human being.
Bob: Now, didn’t you ever find yourself though getting to the point where you’re going, “Look . . .”
Dennis: “Get over it.”
Bob: “I’ve told you I love you.”
Dennis: Sure. Yes. And that was one of the big deals, Bob. I actually had to say to Barbara one time, I said, “Look, when you don’t believe me when I tell you I love you, you need to realize I’m feeling like you’re questioning . . .”
Bob: “You’re calling me a liar!”
Dennis: Yes. “You’re questioning whether I’m telling you the truth. You can choose to believe it or not.” That sounds cold and calculating, but at some point, and I don’t remember if it was ten years, 15 years, but at some point in there the message does get through. It did get through.
Bob: But there are a lot of guys who will just go, “I’m just going to quit saying it. I mean, I’ve said it and I’ve said it and I’ve said it. I’m just going to quit saying it if you’re not going to believe it.”
Dennis: That’s not the right thing to do.
Bob: No, because the roots grow down deep and it takes a lot of pulling to get some of those roots out, doesn’t it?
Grace: I would say to the husbands, just be gentle with your wives. You know when Scripture says, “Women, respect your husbands and husbands love your wives, “that’s what that loving is all about. Be persistent in that and keep assuring her that you value her through your actions, and your attitudes and your words. Find out what her love language is, and just keep applying that and applying that and applying that and be patient.
The thing that the woman can do though, I mean there are things that we need to do as women as well if we’re struggling in that area – the fear of rejection and inadequacy – is to stop believing the lies of the enemy, because the enemy is the one that is saying, “You’re worth nothing. Somebody dumped you before so there’s something wrong with you.” That’s the thing: there’s something wrong with you.
Dennis: Or the enemy accuses you of your past and the mistakes you made in the past. When you married Gene, you actually made a choice on your wedding day that showed some of the emotion that you brought into your marriage to him, in the choice of your wedding dress.
Grace: Oh, yes. Yes, I remember that, because I went out and bought my wedding dress and I bought it to be champagne-colored. I thought I didn’t deserve a white dress because of some choices that I had made in my earlier dating days. Those are choices that I regretted so I thought, “I don’t deserve to wear white.” So when people said to me, “Oh, a champagne-colored dress. That’s interesting. Why didn’t you choose white?” I just said, “Well, because I look better in champagne.” So I lied about that, and dug my hole of guilt a little deeper by doing that yet as well.
Bob: So here you are standing on your wedding day in a dress that is the one your conscience would allow you to wear, and yet it’s a statement in front of everybody that you’re not wearing white.
Dennis: Well, and it’s also a statement that she’s not believing the truth that Jesus Christ died for all those sins and cleaned you up.
Dennis: At that point, that was probably a picture of your soul, of where you were struggling with believing the truth about what God said about you.
Grace: Yes, totally. I grew up in a Christian home. I grew up knowing these truths in my head, but, you know, Sunday school theology just didn’t line up with me in real life, I guess, as a young adult like that when I got married. It’s taken me a long time to process all this. Part of writing the book was healing for me, I think, although I realized still how painful some of those things were for me in the past.
I’ve had women say to me after retreats, “You know, I wore a champagne-colored dress too, and I didn’t tell anybody else why I picked that color dress either.” I realize that a lot of women are out there dealing with stuff from their past, and some deal with it in different ways.
One thing that I do at a retreat often when we speak of this whole issue of our past and feeling valued or whatever, not wanting to face those ghosts of our past because it’s a frightening thing to have to revisit those things sometimes – often there will be a cross at the front. We’ll have women write out some of those things that they’re struggling with, the things that they don’t want to revisit from the past that are hindering them from moving forward into emotional wholeness, and they will write things out on a piece of paper and then nail it to the cross.
You know, what’s an interesting thing for me as many, many times the papers that they put on the cross are still folded over, which tells me that they know in their head that they are nailing this to the cross because Jesus took it to the cross for them once for all, but they still don’t want anybody to find out. There’s only been one retreat that I’ve been at where I noticed that on that cross there were a number of those little papers that were nailed wide open. They didn’t care if anybody saw what was written there, and I thought, “That tells me that they’re okay with other people knowing, that they’re not afraid of that fear of rejection any more.
Bob: Which ultimately comes down to a fear of man. The Bible talks about fearing God and not man. It’s one thing to be appropriate in what we share or in what context we share it, or who knows what, but when we are controlled by a fear of man, that’s not a healthy place for us to be, is it?
Grace: That would be an unhealthy fear, because that can really dictate how we look at ourselves and how we respond to life. Yes, the fear of man can be something that can really hold us captive.
Grace: Again, we’re afraid of rejection with that, right? What if they reject me, if I’m honest with somebody about what I’ve been? But you know, God is so merciful and he is so good, where he will look at those things from our past and see how he can use them to help somebody else who is still struggling in the same way.
Dennis: You know, I’m thinking just of where everybody is living today and we’re talking about the fear of rejection and we’re talking about the fear of dealing with our past and coming to grips with that, but Canada and America right now are going through a recession, some tough times economically, where almost ten percent of the population is unemployed. It’s those moments that strike at the core of the heart of a woman who is all about security and in need of being reminded of God’s provision and the truth about how he’ll protect them.
Bob: Were these financial fears - was that one of the stacks in your living room as you sorted through the responses from women?
Grace: Yes. Absolutely. I can totally relate to the fear of financial insecurity, because we are missionaries on faith support. We’ve actually been on faith support for eighteen years. I feel like we’ve been to the brink and back, at times wondering how we’re going to make ends meet at the end of each month, but God has been faithful every month. We’ve never been able to figure out his strategy. He’s kept us guessing, but he’s always been faithful.
Dennis: You tell a story in your book of a woman by the name of Ann who got a call while at work that her house was on fire.
Grace: Yes. She’s a friend of mine, and they actually owned two homes. This was the place where they spent most of their summers in a cabin on a beautiful little island, but it was the only structure on this little, teeny, tiny island, so it was impossible for a fire engine to reach there. Any firefighting that would be done would be from a boat, and so by the time they got there everything was gone. Her husband is ill; he is not able to work, so she is responsible for the family business.
It was an amazing story, how, she said, they went back to look at what remained afterwards: just charred embers still smoking. She found a little piece of paper lying on the rail of the kind of wharf that was there on this little dock that they had, and it said, “Count your blessings.” She said, “That’s right. These material things are gone, but we’re still together as a family, we still have our health for the most part,” and how that changed her focus from having this wonderful little home on the island to still having her family, and that’s what really mattered most.
Bob: Ultimately it doesn’t matter what the object of your fear is. It seems like the antidote to your fear keeps coming back to, “What do we believe is true about God?”
Grace: It is, and where we let our thoughts go, because so often the enemy will come at us with the “what if’s,” so if we’re afraid for our child’s well-being, it’s “Well, what if they get hurt? What if somebody beats them up on the playground?” Or “What if my daughter dates an unbeliever,” or whatever that might be.
If it’s the fear of facing the ghosts of our past and admitting the pain that we’ve had, the enemy will say, “Well, what if somebody finds out what you’ve done? They’re not going to love you anymore,” or “They’re not going to want to have anything to do with you.”
Finances is, “Well, what if you don’t have enough to make ends meet? Maybe you need to go get a second job.” We might even put our family life at risk because of that fear of financial insecurity.
It’s a matter of saying, “Wait a minute. Let’s just stop here and say ‘What voice am I listening to? Where is my focus? What am I thinking about? Whose voice is this anyways?’” and then go back to the truth and say, “What does the truth of God’s Word say?”
I believe that so long as we’re warm and breathing we will never be without fearful situations. It just isn’t going to happen because that’s the world we live in. But it’s what we do with those fearful thoughts when they come to mind that makes all the difference.
Bob: (Singing) When I am afraid, I will trust in You . . .
Grace: Amen. I just say, “Write out promises on 3 x 5 cards and put them all around your house if you have to.” You know, I’ve had them on my fridge. I’ve had them by the kitchen sink. I’ve put them by the computer monitor. When I was driving my kids here and there everywhere I taped it to the dashboard of our vehicle because when those fearful thoughts were there I needed to know how to respond, and so I had the truth written out so I could go to it.
Dennis: Well, here’s a verse that a listener can write out on one of those 3 x 5 cards: Isaiah 41:9-10. I’ve often read this passage and quite honestly, need to be reminded of it from time to time. This is God speaking. He says, “You are my servant. I have chosen you and not cast you off. Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Now if a human being said that to another human being, that’d be a nice promise, but that wasn’t said by a person. That was almighty God, firmly stating from the throne in heaven, “Fear not. I am your God. I am with you. I will help you.”
I don’t know what our listeners are facing today, but the broadcast and what we’ve talked about, dealing with fear, undoubtedly has an application to your marriage, your family, your life today. The question is, what is God calling you to do? Believe his Word, trust in him, and cling to that truth, cling to that Word.
Grace, I just appreciate you and your ministry. Keep speaking, I pray, at those conferences in Canada, the Weekend to Remember up there, and may God’s favor be upon your ministry. I appreciate you.
Grace: Thank you.
Bob: And thanks for helping us think through this subject as well. I think it has been good for us to take a little time this week and think about where we are being paralyzed by fear and to look at what the Scriptures have to say about how we are to respond to fear in our lives.
I hope a lot of our listeners will go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to get a copy of the book, Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation, by Grace Fox.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY, that’s 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.” Ask about Grace Fox’s book, Moving From Fear to Freedom and we’ll arrange to have a copy sent to you.
Now let me wrap up the week by reminding you about the special matching gift opportunity that has been presented to us here during the month of December. We’re excited about this, but I’ve got to tell you, we realize it’s going to take everybody if we’re going to be able to take full advantage of this matching gift. So we’re asking you to do what you can do. Go online, make a donation of any amount, and you might think, “Well, all I can do is donate $10.” That’s fine, because with the matching gift your $10 donation is going to be doubled; it’s going to become a $20 donation.
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We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday, when we’re going to talk about marrying well. What can you do during the years that you’re single to prepare yourself and to have the right focus so that when it’s time to get married you marry well? We’ll talk about that on Monday with Steve and Candace Waters. Hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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