I know what fear is. I spent 22 months incarcerated in county jail and Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility Prison. Fear was overwhelmingly real to me. In fact, I had allowed fear to hold me in captivity in my soul, long before I was confined behind concrete walls. I was unexpectedly widowed after 14 years of marriage, and I miscarried our child. I quickly began to feel as if I were drowning in my fears. Those fears led me to make irrational and unsafe choices—whose consequences sent me to that place called “prison.” But, ironically, I learned that overcoming fear is possible while I was there.
Here’s what God’s protective love taught me when I was in prison.
Looking back, I can see that my greater moments of overcoming fear came when I accepted that Jesus was a trusted friend and was truly present with me in my pain and my questions. It was like Jesus opened the door to my darkness, walked in, sat down beside me, and reached out His loving arms so that I could have peace and hope. It was then that I began to understand that I could overcome fear even without my situation or circumstances changing at all.
Fear is a dark shadow that can consume us and imprison us all. But while we may be afraid, we don’t have to become a prisoner to fear. Isaiah 41:10 NIV gives us several ways to overcome fear: 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. When I read this verse, I could feel God’s presence in and around me and I heard His unfailing promise. When I was in prison, these words I wrote were the weapons in my battle of overcoming fear.
- “I am with you.” He was by my side when my husband died, when I miscarried our child, even behind bars, and in my aching loneliness.
- “I am your God.” He watches over me, caring for me in everything I do.
- “I will strengthen you and help you.” He gives me courage and strength to face pain and loss I never wanted to face and never imagined that I could. He holds me up in my weakness and brings me out of my hopelessness.
- “I will uphold you.” He is the solid foundation underneath me and the strong, loving arms that never let me go.
When I was in prison, I realized that I couldn’t experience paralyzing fear and genuine faith at the same time. It was impossible. So I cried out to God like David did in Psalm 56:3 NIV, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” I brought all my fears to Him and asked that He destroy the grip they had on my life. I asked Him to carry me through all the dangers and fears in my life and to replace all my fears with faith in Him. I asked that the reality of His presence give me courage in overcoming my fears. I asked Him to forgive me for foolish choices I made while clinging to my grief and despair.
I overcame my fearful thoughts and the pattern of fear by renewing my mind with God’s Word and surrounding myself with other sisters in Christ who knew the truth and walked in it. When fear started to creep back in, I had a small group of ladies who could point me back to God’s truth and love me right where I was. Now, I am able to pour God’s love back into others, knowing that I have victory in Christ over the fear in my life. Through my journey of overcoming fear, I realized that fear keeps us from taking action steps that win spiritual battles. Fear clouds our judgment and keeps us from making sound, rational decisions. Fear never comes from God.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
I had let fear run my life. I had to make a choice to believe God’s truth instead, that He is with me. He is for me. And He forgives me. God’s perfect love can release you from every prison of fear and redeem you with His perfect love, too.