Ordinary people, doing ordinary things, on an ordinary day, lost their lives in a supermarket due to a mass shooter. It’s hard to imagine that going to a store to buy your child’s birthday cake could end in your death. It did for one man. When the unthinkable happens, it frightens us all. Yet, we can’t allow fear or any other negative emotions to take hold. Why? Because we live in a world in which bad things do happen to good people. So we need to know how to cope without being overwhelmed by fear, anxiety or worry.

Get perspective: 

As horrific as mass shootings are, they aren’t as common place as media make us feel. Now, any loss of life is tragic, so please don’t think I am being insensitive to the victims’ families with what I am about to say, but the likelihood that you will be a victim of a mass shooting is the same odds as being struck by lightning (0.035 per 100,000 people). You are more likely to die from a car accident or from a disease than die in a mass shooting. In fact, the FBI  data base reported 27 active shooting incidents in 2018. As tragic as each of these incidents was, living in fear that you will be next, will steal your peace and joy. Just because something CAN happen, doesn’t mean it will. For example, you could get hit by a car tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you will. Consequently, don’t live by, what if… God doesn’t want us held hostage by the possibilities of danger.

Acknowledge fear but don’t sustain it

When a shooting happens, it is normal to feel fear. When someone decides to gun down people in a supermarket, that is frightening. Fear is a warning system built into the our bodies as a natural reaction to danger. It is healthy to feel fear in the face of danger. It acts like an alarm and prompts us to action. But once the threat is over, the shooter is caught, fear should subside. Otherwise, you give birth to worry and anxiety.

Fear not...is a phrase that appears in 18 books of the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, angels, prophets, apostles and Christ himself announced that we are not to fear. Fear is a chain reaction in the brain that isn’t consciously triggered, but can be consciously extinguished. You can learn to turn off the fear response. Begin with the truth, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

Don’t avoid going out

When there is a shooting, a natural response is to identify with the victims and think, “That could have been me.” In fact, a 2019 survey by the American Psychological Association found that not only are Americans stressed by these shootings, but they also want to avoid going out to certain places. The survey also noted that if the shooting settings are ordinary places we go, the mental health impact is greater. In this most recent shooting, the shooting setting was an ordinary place-a supermarket. It’s hard to imagine avoiding the supermarket. We all have to shop for things we need. We can’t avoid stores forever.

The way you deal with avoidance is to do the thing feared. Expose yourself to the fear and move through it. Go to the store to prove it is still a safe place. Once you exposure yourself to the fear and realize nothing bad happened, your confidence will grow. Eventually, you will master that fear.

Take anxious thoughts captive

When anxious thoughts come into your mind, identify them and tolerate the momentary feeling. Then correct the thought with something more reasonable like, “Yes I am afraid, but God is with me and will get me through this. I can handle this.” Change your thought to decrease anxiety. Don’t allow your thoughts to wander into the worried waters of negativity. Think of anxious thoughts like spam that comes into your computer inbox. You don’t control the spam, but you can choose not to open it and then delete it! Don’t click on worried thoughts. Look at them in your inbox. If they are filled with  doom and gloom, think on something positive. Take your thoughts captive, grab those negative thoughts and replace them with the truth of God’s Word.

Practice Relaxation 

Teach yourself  to relax and calm down your body. Practice deep breathing, deep muscle relaxation or any calming method that requires your physical body to relax. This is key to break the cycle of fear. By practicing the opposite of tension (relaxation), you can train your body to relax and turn off that fear response. But you have to practice calming your body. For example, if you find your heart racing at night, take some really deep breaths, concentrate on those breaths and calm down your body.

Limit media exposure

If listening to media reports prompts fear and anxiety, stop watching or listening. Watching trauma prompts fear and anxiety. Know what triggers your  worry. Then, turn it off.  Instead, think on these things: Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Phil 4:8).If that doesn’t describe the news or social media, it’s not helping.

Use your support system

One benefit of church attendance is being with people who can pray with you in real time. The same is true about being in a small group. In those settings, we are strengthened in our faith. I said in my book, Letting Go of Worry, it would be normal to worry if there was no God. As the subtitle says, God has a plan for finding peace and contentment no matter our circumstances. When you are with others believers, they will encourage you.

Meditate on God’s truth:

Fear not….God answers prayer

Fear not….God loves us.

Fear not…God will guide us

Fear not…God is with us.

Greater is He that is in us, then he that is in the world.

Acknowledge that every day we face numerous possibilities of harm. Yet our lives are in God’s hands. He orders our steps, knows us intimately and directs our paths. His perfect love casts out all fear. Pray against fear. It is not from God when there is no danger in front of you.

Live a faith-centered life

Finally, in calming any fear, we look to our faith. God is with us, a present help in times of trouble. He tells us to cast our cares on him. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. These are not empty words. God invites us to give our fears and anxiety to him. He has all things under his control. Nothing happens away from his watchful eye. And he invites you to pray for protection and keep your mind stayed on him. In all things, look to the Lord versus your circumstances. He will keep us in perfect peace.

 

For more help letting go of worry, fear or anxiety, Letting God of Worry

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