How do we overcome feelings of doubt and fear.
Our human experience in our second estate provides the opportunity for us to experience attributes that we would not be able to in any other way. Doubt and fear are two attributes we will experience in this life, and fortunately, our Savior has provided a way of escape — opposites — to overcome fear and to overcome doubt. From my perspective and experience with these two attributes I find the principles to overcome are the same for everyone; although, how we go through and how we experience these principles will be unique to our strength and weaknesses that we currently have at this time in our lives.
The principles that are the same for us are as follows:
1) The enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ
2) The ability to exercise faith and hope in the face of doubt
3) The ability to exercise courage in the face of fear
Alma’s teaching regarding planting a seed that relates to overcoming fear and doubt:
1) Awake and arouse your faculties to an experiment and exercise a particle of faith (remember without hope we are not able to properly exercise true faith) to plant a seed
2) Let this desire to overcome work within us to give place in our hearts for a portion of God’s word (this is the Holy Spirit)
3) We do not cast this desire/belief out because of our unbelief (doubt and fear), by resisting the Spirit of the Lord that has been given place in our hearts
4) Promise – It will enlarge our soul. It will enlighten our understanding. It will become delicious to us. The seed of faith, hope, and courage will grow.
5) Continue to nourish our faith by following the same principles provided, a cyclic cycle. A pattern of obedience that receives knowledge based upon true principles.
Before I left for my mission I experienced anxiety to a level I did not enjoy. In specific circumstances and situations I would loose breath. I would turn beet red. I would begin to sweat, and a number of other emotions. When I decided to serve a mission I realized the cold hard fact that I would experience this emotion over and over again. I also realized that if I wanted to find any success that I would need to overcome these feelings of anxiety, doubt, and fear. This is where I realized the pattern of line-upon-line obedience, and line-upon-line knowledge and that God doesn’t remove our fear anxiety, but teaches how to overcome it in order to become like him.
The first impression I received when I began to exercise this particle of faith, and allowed this desire to work within me, was given in the Book of Ether (Book of Mormon). We are given this knowledge, not just a hope, but knowledge, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
At this moment, I had a choice given to me as knowledge was received by the Spirit of the Lord: 1) I could choose to resist the Spirit and this knowledge, or 2) I could accept what God had given me and continue to nourish the seed now planted. I believed that the source of my anxiety (fear and doubt), its root, was knowable, and that God could allow me to see what its root cause was and then overtime overcome it. The words found in Ether was the first nourishment, the first source of knowledge to overcome.
On my mission, I experienced everyday the second principle. The second principle is to exercise faith to “act” upon the knowledge we have received in order to receive more knowledge. This acting allowed me to understand that one of my root causes of my anxiety is that I desire to “please” everyone, and my fear was that if I said something or did something that would not please someone. This was the first experience of knowledge, that I felt through the Spirit, which then I would remind myself everyday I am here to please God, not man. I discovered that this seed began to grow, it began to enlighten my understanding, and I valued it (it became delicious) because I was now able to accomplish things I truly disliked — bearing my testimony.
In time, as I acted (I did not resist the Spirit of the Lord), I came across another quote (not scriptural) that I have loved and continue to teach, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” This was the next principle, teaching, the Lord brought to my heart and mind as I nourished the seed planted (to overcome my unique and personal anxiety). The more I did something, the less I would fear it, because it would become a habit and natural to me. In light of the previous principle, “I am here to glorify God, not man.” So despite how I felt, anxious and fearful, I acted against those feelings and put my trust in the seed planted.
As I acted with this new knowledge, the Spirit of the Lord increased my understanding once again and I came across this quote that furthered my path to overcome, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but courage is what we do in the face of our fear.” I then again acted upon this principle, knowing that when fear crossed my path I would now seek to act in courage knowing once again that if I did the thing I feared that the death of fear is certain, and that the death of fear is certain when I act with courage in the face of my fear.
At the end of my mission, I discovered that over two years of acting and knowledge that the Lord allowed such growth that I no longer feared bearing my testimony. I no longer feared giving a talk. I no longer feared speaking in front of people despite the reality that I still sweat, I still turn red faced at times, and my heart races. When this occurs I remind myself of the nourishment God gave me through his Spirit that I did not and will not resist. As I did this I would find that my heart would begin to relax, the sweat would stop, and I would be able to feel the heat from on my face to lessen.
Over the next two years, the Lord continued to help assist. The odd irony of our natures still puzzles me. Over the course of two years I could now speak, bear testimony, give a talk without having a hard time, but social groups or simply being asked at work to introduce myself would cause the fear and anxiety to race. I remember one time working at the MTC, and we were asked to introduce ourselves. I did not like to stand up, and asked if I could sit down. She said it didn’t matter, so I sat down, and with short breaths I was able to introduce myself. Once again, I was reminded of Ether 12: 27 and the other principles taught but these didn’t help this scenario. So I begin to plant another seed in light of this knowledge, and acted once more to overcome this also.
I was so nervous with these types of situations that I now found myself in, that I would wear three shirts to keep the sweat from passing through the third layer of clothing, because I would get so nervous. Once again, I followed the same principles, and line-upon-line obedience, and line-upon-line knowledge was given. One principle of knowledge was actually from Mrs. Roosevelt who said something to this nature, “People have as much power over us as we are willing to give them.” Lights went on in my heart and mind, and I began to act with that knowledge. That in small circles why I was so nervous is that once again I was given power, or allowing the group to have power over me. I began to repeat to myself in small groups that they did not have power, I did. Overtime, once again, standing up to introduce myself was no longer a fear of mine, and the death of fear was certain — in that thing — as I acted in obedience and knowledge to what the Lord had given me.
Not all knowledge that progresses us is serious, and some things are actually humorous. I mentioned how I would wear three shirts in order to prevent my nervous sweat from my armpits to bleed through the third layer. One day I was out on a date, and I forgot to wear my third shirt. The young lady said the following while we were swing dancing, “Wait, your not pudgy”?! Now, for a person who has always been athletically built through hard work, to be called “pudgy” was a slight pain coming from a woman I was interested in. I realized she called me pudgy because having three layers of shirts (even during mid summer), the three shirts prevented and made me look pudgy. After this knowledge, I never wore three shirts again and found that I was no longer sweating through two shirts. To this day, I still smirk at knowing that this little experience was one experience that lifted me above my fear, doubt, and anxiety.
What I have shared is my unique experience, and my unique anxiety. I understand that others will have their own unique fears and doubt. I also recognize the principles I have shared are true and are eternal and can be applied by anyone who has a desire to plant a seed, to exercise that desire, and that they don’t resist the Spirit of the Lord as God seeks to teach them principles that will strengthen them.