Discouragement. It stops progress—especially progress overcoming temptation, doubt, and fear.
- Will I ever get over my anger towards that person?
- Can God really love a person who has failed as miserably as I have?
- Will I survive the loss of my loved one?
- What will happen to my loved ones if I die?
- Will I ever get a job?
- What if we can’t pay the mortgage?
When temptation, doubt, and fear persist, perseverance can seem futile. In the forty plus years I’ve been a Christian, I’ve seen many discouraged people give up trying to prevail in difficult circumstances.
But that’s not what God wants. In fact, perseverance is one of the qualities God wants to grow in us:
Make every effort to add to your faith … perseverance
2 Peter 1:5-6
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up
So here are five ways to chase away temptation, doubt, and fear.
1. Treat Temptation, Doubt, and Fear like Crows
Once upon a time there were two farmers. Each had five sons. One year both farmers planted a field of corn.
The First Farmer
When the corn began to sprout ears, the first farmer heard cawing, looked out the window, and saw crows descending. He shouted, “Boys, crows are after the corn. Quick! Let’s chase them away!”
The farmer and his sons ran outside yelling. One banged on a metal trash can lid. Another waved a rake in the air. One fired rocks with his slingshot. Finally they succeeded in chasing the crows away and returned to the house. They wiped their foreheads and drank tall glasses of sweet tea.
But soon, the farmer looked out the window and saw the crows returning.
“Bad news, sons,” he said. “The crows are back. We’ll have to take shifts to keep them away until harvest.”
So they each took shifts chasing away crows until the corn ripened. They harvested the corn and had plenty to eat and sell.
The Second Farmer
Now the second farmer likewise heard cawing, looked out his window, and saw crows descending on his corn. He called out to his sons and they too ran through the rows shouting. They banged on a trashcan lid, waved a rake, and fired rocks with a slingshot. When the crows finally fled, the farmer and his sons returned to the house and drank icy lemonade.
But soon, this farmer, too, looked out his window and saw the crows returning.
“Bad news, sons,” he said. “The crows have returned. We don’t eat this season.”
Of course, no sensible farmer would simply give up. But we are like that second farmer when we don’t persevere in our struggles against temptation, doubt, and fear. These are like crows in our spiritual lives. We need patience to prevail.
2. Set up Guards against Temptation, Doubt, and Fear
Paul told Timothy to “guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’” (1 Timothy 6:20). Just as the persistent farmer stationed his sons in shifts to guard his corn, so we can station truths to guard our hearts. Here’s how my husband and I do it.
Create a Truth Journal
A truth journal can be a notebook, a piece of paper, or a file on a smartphone. In it you write out what’s true from God’s perspective about your situation. Each truth is like an armed farmer’s son. Here are examples:
- I am a dearly loved child of God. He is training me to do his will and I am learning to overcome _______.
- God will work _______ out for my good. He sees the big picture. I don’t. Therefore, I can trust him that he knows best.
- God loves my family even more than I do. I can trust him to care for them.
I like to number each truth because it encourages me to see how many truths God is working into my life through my current difficulty.
Take time to read your Bible every day. Begin by asking the Holy Spirit to guide you to verses that will help you see what he wants you to know and do. Additionally, use a concordance or ask your pastor for verses that suit your situation. When you find encouraging verses, write them out in your truth journal. I number these, too.
Here are some verses to get you started.
- Discouragement: Philippians 1:6; 2:13; Romans 8:37-39
- Temptation: 1 Corinthians 10:13; Matthew 5:6
- Doubt: 2 Corinthians 10:5; Proverbs 3:5
- Fear: 1 Peter 5:7; Hebrews 13:5
- Assurance of forgiveness: Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:9
- Assurance of salvation: John 1:12; 3:16-17; 5:24
Use the Truth Journal
Keep the truth journal handy at all times. Every time crows of temptation, doubt, and fear return, read the truth journal until you find the truth that helps. Loop it in your mind until the temptation, doubt, and fear flee.
3. Don’t Call Crows
That is, don’t do things that invite temptation, doubt, and fear.
- Temptation: Put parental filters on your television and computers.
- Doubt: Don’t “test your faith” by frequenting atheist sites.
- Financial fear: Avoid window shopping and reading magazines with glossy photos of things you can’t afford right now.
- Anxiety: Turn off the news.
Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). He was using hyperbole to get across the point that we need to take drastic measures to get rid of stumbling blocks.
4. Pray with Hope
Draw near to God through prayer.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Pray each line, then personalize it. This will help you care for all aspects of your spiritual life.
Pray Psalms of hope. These teach you to remember God’s past care, focus on the eternal view, and give thanks for God’s current care. Pray a line or stanza, and then personalize it. Use Psalm 119 for temptation; Psalm 73 for doubt; Psalm 71 for fear; and Psalm 51 for repentance.
Sing worship songs, especially before bedtime. These remind you of God’s love. They help you “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). When you remember that eternity will end all evil and bring final healing, peace will calm you. Additionally, the rhythm of music and poetry can stop frenetic thoughts.
Serve others in a way that gets your mind off your temptation, doubt, and fear, and onto helping others. For example, feed the poor, help a widow, or volunteer at church.
Helping those in need can reset your thinking. “Nature loves a vacuum,” and filling your mind with positive thoughts about serving can prevent negative thoughts. Seeing what someone else needs to do to get out of a predicament can help you see what you need to do. Helping others gets your eyes temporarily off yourself. Besides, God rewards our efforts to serve others. It’s a win-win.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.