Legendary Greek philosopher Socrates is credited with saying, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
There are so many reasons that knowing who you are creates positive interactions in life. The more you are in tune with your values and priorities, the better you are able to express who you are, achieve fulfilling goals, and reach a level of inner peace and happiness.
When you know yourself, every decision that you make will be more stable and consistent. From a small decision like what to order at a restaurant to big decisions about a career, you will have principles upon which to apply to life’s challenges. Understanding who you are gives insight into self-control and discipline, allows you to tolerate others with more empathy, and grounds your beliefs to resist the pressures from society.
Not long ago, the inc.com website listed eight mental habits to help defeat fear, worry and anxiety. Four of the eight were techniques grounded in knowing the values and priorities within. The article suggested to acknowledge your feelings, to accept the fact that some items are out of your control, to be aware of your intentions, and to practice self-care. Your well-developed character inside strengthens the ability to deal with the unforeseen.
We have been looking at ways that we can overcome the feelings of fear and anxiety in our lives. Even in times of turmoil and uncertainty, there are a handful of things that can strengthen our ability to heed the angelic message to “Fear not!”
First the Bible suggests that you should know your enemy. In an ever-changing set of circumstances, our enemy is not a pandemic or a political party, but a spiritual foe. Next, we are to lament the circumstances. People of faith are moved from within when society wanders away from God or when natural disasters take their toll on human life.
Today, we are encouraged to know ourselves. Let’s look at a handful of biblical principles that can help us better understand who we are.
First, spend time thinking about things that are bigger than yourself. There are two issues that are involved in that simple request — time to think, and issues beyond yourself. The hectic pace of so many squeeze out the time to think, to contemplate, and even to enjoy life.
After the tragedies that came upon the life of Job, the Old Testament character cried to God, “How many are my iniquities and sins? Make known to me my rebellion and my sin” (Job 13:23 NASB). What we know of the character of Job appears that he was blameless, but he still pondered his involvement in his circumstances. Had he not been properly prepared? Were there things that happened because of his neglect? Like us, Job struggled with why bad things happen to good people.
The Psalmist writes, “Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4 NASB). Be humble as you consider your circumstances. Allow yourself quiet time, time when you and God are alone — that He is not competing with family responsibilities or with the outcome of the football game. Give yourself a chance to be still and think.
The composer of Psalm 77 writes, “I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, and my spirit ponders:” (Psalm 77:6 NASB). Remembering my song seems to speak to remembering who you are, what song your personality is singing. Know yourself — and think about it, meditate upon it, and allow your spirit to ponder it.
Am I afraid because of wrongs that I have done?
Next, realistically consider your strengths. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you should (Romans 12:3), but don’t underestimate your abilities and gifts. Paul finishes the admonition in Romans 12 by saying, “think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has given.”
When we are trying to overcome fear and circumstances, two things are at play. God has given talents and abilities to each, and those may enter into overcoming circumstances. But God has promised to be at work in our lives (Romans 8:28), and allowing His involvement to lessen our fear is a response of faith.
Strengthening our faith will lead to lessening our fears.
Third, look at the items that consistently cause you to fear. Is it the fear of the unknown? Does it center on items that you cannot control? Many times we are fearful of circumstances, but when we get through it, we realize that it wasn’t as big an issue as we thought. Perhaps it is the fear of fear that we fear, and really nothing else. Understanding that becomes easier to manage.
Paul poses an interesting question in Romans 8. He asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:35 ESV)? While he doesn’t specifically use the word, fear is cast out by perfect love (1 John 4:18). Fear causes us to wonder where God is during bad times. Fear is a tool used by Satan to drive a wedge between us and our God.
Paul answers the question in the verses that follow. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Romans 8:35 ESV). “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37 ESV).
The things we perceive as fearful actually do nothing to our relationship with God.
Finally, keep God in His proper place — in your life and in your circumstances. The Psalmist writes, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens. And His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19 ESV). Nothing that happens catches God by surprise. He holds your hand as you walk, even through a pandemic.
The more you know yourself and build a solid foundation of a biblical perspective on your life, the easier it will be to manage the fear and anxiety within.