Overcoming fear is key to planning ahead

By Dr. Conrad Van Dijk, HFSL Director

Hope for Sierra Leone

Do you live a life controlled by fear? This was a question I had to answer a few years ago. Once I did, I realized that fear is a stronghold, and it works to keep us from our destiny in Christ. I want to share my story of breaking the stronghold of fear in my life. I hope it encourages you, if fear is holding you back from what God has ahead for you too.

The year was 1988. It was just before Christmas, and I was very busy as is common in the poultry industry around this time. I was relatively successful in what I was doing, but I didn’t feel it. Instead, I felt I wasn’t doing enough, wasn’t having enough impact in my work or ministry, didn’t see the kind of fruit I was looking for. Looking back, my feelings didn’t match the reality of my situation at all.

I was dealing with personal struggles too. I’ve always been introverted and shy. Any time I’d have to go to a meeting or be in a group setting, I would worry about it. So this compounded my struggle.

It was then that I was introduced to the teachings of Mark Virkler, and the concept of communion with God through listening prayer.

His process to prayer was based on the biblical notion that God still speaks to his children, and involved simply asking God a question, writing it down, and waiting on the Lord in expectation of an answer.

You would think this would be an exciting exercise. But fear showed its face again. For the first 10-15 minutes, I saw and heard nothing. Troubling questions began to enter my mind: “What is God going to ask?” “What if I don’t like what he says?” These and other worrisome thoughts nagged at me.

And then I had a simple, clear thought that I know was from the Lord: “Your life is being controlled by fear.”

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The thought reminded me of a teaching I heard many years ago on strongholds. I suddenly realized that fear had a stronghold in my life, and God was telling me that it was time to deal with it. So that night, I confessed my sin of fear and worry, and asked God to forgive and cleanse me. I had to repeat this confession every time I came upon a situation I was fearful in, but as I was diligent to do this my fears subsided over time.

Five months later, Anna and I went to a Christian retreat at the University of Waterloo. The night before it started, I had a dreamthat I would talk about my fear at the retreat. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to! There were many speakers that weekend so there were few opportunities to share.

But on Sunday the pastor offered a time of testimony right in the middle of the church service. Four others shared their stories, but I hesitated going up. As they finished, I still stayed in my seat. But rather than continuing, the pastor said, “we’re just going to wait a bit longer.” I knew this was my chance. So I went up and shared. And as I did I found it so helpful and therapeutic, not only talking about my fear but also doing something that pushed me past fear.

Now I share this story when I visit communities in Sierra Leone to encourage them to overcome fear.

I know that fear can be a stronghold for people. It was for me. I see much fear in Sierra Leone, and when we are bound up by fear we are allowing a power weaker than the Holy Spirit to hold us back. The people of Sierra Leone struggle with planning ahead because of a stronghold of fear, and I can sympathize because I saw how fear held me back too.

But the Bible teaches that faith can overcome fear when it is rooted in Jesus Christ. And as the transforming power of the Holy Spirit spreads across Sierra Leone, strongholds of fear will break, and life and freedom will emerge. It is my prayer that this year many will step into the freedom that Jesus came and died for.

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