Face Your Fears
Freedom from Eating Disorders, LLC
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Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course
Face Your Fears
This lesson will equip you to face and conquer your fears with divine help.
I was afraid of food, relapse, a future without the eating disorder, a future with the eating disorder, declining health, letting God do his work, and so much more. It took time and divine strength to face so many fears. As you work through this lesson and identify your own fears, may you open your heart to God’s love and find strength and peace.
Do you look at your plate with fear? Do you panic after you eat? If you’re underweight, are you afraid to gain weight or cut back on your exercise? Does it scare you to think of living a life without your eating disorder? Maybe you fear health-related problems caused by the eating disorder, or not being able to recover. You may fear ridicule of your size. The more fear you have, the harder it may be to eat and gain needed weight. Conversely, the fear may drive you to eat even more. Either way, fear strengthens an eating disorder.
Insights about Fear
There are several ways fear can play a role in your eating disorder.
- Fear is closely related to the desire for control. You may be afraid that you won’t be able to control something in your life.
- You may be afraid of what others think of you. It’s important to you that they accept and approve of you. How others see you seems important enough that you’re willing to hurt yourself for their acceptance and approval.
- You may fear letting up on your standards because you think you’ll go to the other extreme. If you don’t pursue perfection in your performance, you’re convinced you’ll do things in a substandard fashion. Such a thought frightens you.
- The thought of letting God lead your recovery may scare you. What if he takes the eating disorder away and you aren’t ready for that?
- You may feel timid about forgiving someone. You’re afraid that if you forgive, it means what someone did to hurt you was okay.
- Perhaps you feel anxious about trying to move forward in your recovery because you’re convinced you’ll just relapse. It’s scary to think you’ll end up right back where you started.
- Feeling your emotions may terrify you. What if you lose control of them?
- Even letting go of guilt and shame may make you feel uneasy. You reason that if you don’t keep holding your sin or mistakes against yourself, you’ll become callous and flippant.
- The possibility of declining health may worry you.
- Eating disorder fears are often surface fears that spring up out of more deeply rooted worries. You’re afraid of more than food or weight gain. Underneath you may be scared of hurt or ridicule, an unknown future, expressing emotions, or what others think. You might be afraid of loneliness, death, not having enough money, change, commitment, or any number of things. Dig in and be honest with yourself about your underlying fears. But remember that you don’t have to delve into them alone. Ask for help.
- You have a choice. You can live in fear and let it control you or you can face fear and break free from its effects. When fear is in charge, it freezes you in place. Once you can begin to conquer fear, its influence on you will begin to diminish. While facing fear is easier said than done, that doesn’t mean you can’t try it and it doesn’t mean you can’t succeed.
Recognize, admit, and examine your fears with your counselor, mentor, or another member of your treatment or support team. Then conquer them with God’s strength. Here are some suggestions for you.
Tips to Face Fears
- Cling to God’s love. It’s the greatest antidote to fear. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Peel fear off you and toss it away every chance you get. But don’t stop there. Replace it with something far greater—God’s love. Search for verses, quotes, and songs about God’s love. Drink in their meaning and bask in God’s love. Here are a few verses for your list.
“You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me” (Ps. 86:5-7).
“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Ps. 103:8).
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).
“…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).
- Recognize that some of your fears may be based on lies. For example, if you typically don’t eat enough and you’re afraid that eating a meal with normal-sized portions will cause you to lose control of your eating, realize that isn’t true. Who says you’ll lose control of your eating if you begin to eat healthy? Who says that making healthy choices will lead you to an opposite extreme? It doesn’t have to be that way. For each lie that you recognize that feeds one of your fears, think of a corresponding truth and focus on that instead.
- Trample your fears. Sometimes you may need to feel the fear, but do it anyway. Then, when you confront a fear and find that the dreaded result you expected doesn’t occur, use that experience to help you face the next fear.
- Address the specific fear of failure. You’re going to fail sometimes, and that’s okay. You don’t have to dread it. Instead, you can accept it’s going to happen and consider how to handle it when it does. You can give up or you can learn from it and move forward. You will have the choice after you fail. You always have choices. It may not feel that way, but it’s still true. So, why not just accept that, at some point, you’re going to fail? But instead of seeing it as something defeating, view it as a stepping stone. Turn that failure into something to propel you forward. Failure may seem a little less frightening if you think of it this way.
- Break down your fears and tackle them one at a time. Perhaps you can start with one of your lesser ones. Once you face that fear, use that success to help you tackle another one. Each time you can come out stronger and better prepared to face the next fear. Celebrate each time you face a fear and build on that experience.
- Search the Bible for verses about fear. Read them when you’re fearful to help you counteract the fear; read them when you’re calm to help you remain calm; read them every day to help reinforce the healthy voice in your mind. Find some verses below to begin your list. You’ll notice that each one contains a promise. Who is the God who made these promises? He is the same one now as he was then. He’s the one you can always trust to keep his word.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you’” (Isa. 41:13).
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
- Realize that some of your fears are probably irrational. For example, if your food intake is too low, allowing yourself to eat one more serving of food in a day isn’t going to cause a large weight gain nor lead you to lose complete control. It may feel very real, intense, and even threatening, but you don’t have to let such worries take authority over you. Start by honestly evaluating the rationality of your fears. Examine your irrational fears to uncover the lies or negative thoughts underneath them. Then replace those lies with the truth. You may want to ask for help with this. Someone else can likely be more objective when it comes to discerning irrational fears. For more on replacing lies with the truth, go through the Change Your Thoughts lesson.
- Be honest with yourself. Even if you think you “shouldn’t” be afraid of something, saying that to yourself doesn’t remove the fear. In fact, it leaves it there to control you even more. Try not to judge your fear, but face it instead.
- Confront your fear of recovery. It’s common to be afraid of what life will be like without the eating disorder. It’s been a steady companion for a long time, albeit not a good one. See it for what it is—something that seeks to destroy you inside and out. It may seem that the eating disorder will leave a void in its absence, but it won’t. Consider what it will be like to have a healthier body and mind, the energy to do what you enjoy, the focus you need to minister to others, and the peace and joy that freedom brings. These are just some of the benefits that await you. Do they sound like things to fear?
- Resist beating yourself up over your fears. You’re human, and you’re going to be afraid sometimes. Give yourself permission to be human. Rather than using your energy to criticize yourself, use it to pray and deal with your fears. This will lead you closer to trusting God with your fears. Berating yourself will not.
- Acknowledge fear when you feel it rise up; don’t deny it. If you stuff it in, it won’t just go away on its own. Instead, it will fester and resurface, which gives fear even more control. If you wait for it to dissipate before taking the next step, you may never move forward. It’s better to admit and face the fear than to ignore it. Don’t let fear steal your chance at recovery, derail you, or freeze you in the grips of the eating disorder. You have a choice. You can either let fear paralyze you or you can face it and move forward.
- Try to put fear into perspective. It’s a powerful emotion: there’s no doubt about that. But try to remember that no matter how intense your fear, God’s power and love are even greater.
- Realize that fear is not from God. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Satan would love for you to live in fear. If you’re afraid, you can remain stuck in the eating disorder for the rest of your life, and that would make him happy. But living in fear is not what God has planned for your life.
- Ask the Lord to help you understand and deal with the roots of your fears and to help you relinquish and leave these worries with him. Fear can be stubborn, but you can be stubborn too. Leave your fears with the Lord: time and time again, if that’s what it takes.
- Pray with thanksgiving when you pray about your fears. Maybe you can’t thank him for what happened that instilled such fear, and that’s okay. But you can thank him for his love, his steadiness, or the opportunity to invite him to do his work in your heart regarding your fear. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Like some of the other verses mentioned above, this one comes with a promise. Peace! Doesn’t that sound lovely? Think of what a difference it could make if you could feel peaceful instead of anxious. You can!
- Focus on how God sees you to help decrease your concern about others’ opinions. Examine why what they think seems so important to you. Then confront that fear by concentrating on what God says about you. For more on this, check out the lesson See Yourself through God’s Eyes Inside and Out.
- Loosen your grasp on the need for control. When that desire is intense, it’s evidence of fear: fear that is hurting you. It’s jeopardizing, or even damaging, your health and well-being. Whether it’s food, weight, circumstances, people, or anything else, know that you don’t have to carry that burden of having to control everything. It isn’t your job, and you can break free from that weight on your shoulders. Examine the Let Go of Control lesson for more on this subject.
- Be gentler with yourself regarding expectations. To confront the fear of going to the other extreme, whether it be related to your performance or appearance, relax your standard a bit and realize that there’s a lot of space between where you are and the other extreme. That means there is plenty of room to land somewhere more balanced than where you are right now. You don’t have to be afraid of that place. Dig into the Let Go of Perfectionism lesson for more on breaking free of “all or nothing” thinking. When you can make that change, the difference can spill out into all areas of your recovery. It’s such a vital change to make.
- Find a safe place to let go of your emotions. Actually, you may benefit from several safe places. Certainly, prayer is one of them. But what about your journal, an understanding friend, or creative outlets? Yes, emotions can feel overwhelming and scary, but by using safe outlets for them, you can dilute their effects. Identify, feel, and release your emotions to confront your fear of them. Find more on this topic in the Learn to Deal with Emotions lesson.
Remember that fear has no place at your table. It may rear its ugly head, and it may be convincing, but you don’t have to give in to it. Stare it down as you consume and enjoy healthy foods in healthy amounts. Let fear know that you aren’t going to live under its control, that it has no place in your heart. God has better things in mind to fill that space.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I’m afraid of so many things, and I know you understand that. I also know that you love me beyond what I could ever imagine. Because of that love, I know I can trust you fully. Knowing that, I realize fear need not control me. In your hands, I am safe. Please help me believe and live that truth. Thank you for showing yourself to me and for loving me in a way that drives out my fears.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.1
My Psalm 94:18-19
I had to come to you.
My foot began to slip.
I needed your support,
to hear words from your lips.
You didn’t disappoint.
Your love supported me.
I knew I must have faith
for what I could not see.
I felt anxiety.
It welled up in my heart.
I longed for peace and yet
did not know where to start.
But you consoled me then.
Joy came into my soul.
I found you waiting there,
your love for me to show. 1
“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul'” (Ps. 94:18-19).
- Choose the purpose of your tangible reminder. In other words, what biblical principle, attribute of God, or other practical idea do you need to remind yourself of? To help you apply the principles in this lesson specifically, you might want to focus on God’s love (1 John 4:18).
- Search for verses, quotes, poems, or song lyrics about God’s love. Write them on note cards or otherwise have them easily accessible.
- Choose a tangible reminder. This can be a color, shape, or object. For example, the color red might remind you of Christ’s blood and how he loved you enough to die for you, the sky might remind you to look to the loving God above, or a circle might remind you of God’s love (since a circle, like God’s love, has no beginning or end). The reminder can be whatever you choose. The idea is that it’s something you see throughout the day, so seeing it triggers and redirects your mind to a specific truth or principle. With the collection of verses, quotes, and such, you have something to focus on when you redirect your thoughts.
- While this homework assignment is specifically tailored to love, you might also want to use tangible reminders for other attributes of God. For example, if you feel undeserving of God’s help, you may want something to remind you of his grace. What you want to be reminded of can be anything that motivates you in your recovery.
The remaining features for this lesson, as listed below, are printable. You may download the PDF file here.
Answer Key for Quiz
1Laurie Glass, Inspiration for Your Eating Disorder Recovery, 2015.
All Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Find out about other lessons on the Recovery Course page.
Change Your Thoughts
Learn to Deal with Emotions
See Yourself through God’s Eyes Inside and Out
Address Your Relationship with Food
Invite God into Your Recovery
Let Go of Control
Face Your Fears
Experience Inner Healing
Let Go of Perfectionism
Let Go of Guilt
Let Go of Shame
Deal with Relapses