Living in a Scary World -- 3 Ways to Take Control

“And then the ugly, old troll said to little Billy goat gruff, ‘Who is that tripping over my bridge?’” 

Determined to entertain my granddaughters without turning on the television, I was retelling one of their favorite stories. I raised my hands like claws and contorted my face into my best ugly, old troll impression as I rasped out, “Whoever it is . . . I . . . am . . . going . . . to eat you up!’” 

My youngest granddaughter, Caroline, had been watching my face with wide eyes during the whole story. When I crouched down to imitate the scary troll, however, my dramatization was simply too realistic for her tender little heart. Her bottom lip poked out, and her smile turned upside down. When her eyebrows scrunched up, I knew she was just seconds away from bursting into tears. 

“No, no, no.” I said, scooping her into my arms. “Don’t cry. The ugly old troll isn’t going to eat little Billy goat gruff. His big brother’s going to come along and rescue him!” I hugged her tightly and planted a kiss on her head. “And they’ll live happily ever after in the meadow eating grass and growing fat.” Another hug and a few more kisses calmed her fears, and soon, all was right with the world again. 

As I reflected on the experience, I realized Caroline isn’t the only one who’s frightened by scary stories. I am, too. Every day I hear of acts of terror, heinous crimes, and unforgivable sins. News streams churn with graphic details and up-to-the-minute coverage. Facebook posts share sad stories of loved ones battling cancer, marital break ups, and local crimes. And if that’s not enough, Live PD provides “entertainment” by riding along with law enforcement officers as they patrol my city. Just what I need – irrefutable evidence that criminals are alive and well and stalking my neighbors. 

We live in frightening days, but we don’t have to live frightened lives. And we are not victims to the things that make us scared. With a little planning, we can not only conquer our fears, but avoid most of them. 

Here are three suggestions: 

1. Filter your news coverage. 

Don’t watch continuous news coverage. You don’t have to click on every video that comes across your feed. While it’s important to be informed, we don’t have to allow ourselves to be inundated with scary stories or graphic film footage. Most of us are over-saturated with information and would do well to limit the time we spend watching the news. For me, the five-minute radio news on the way to work in the morning is plenty. It briefs me on the top stories in the world and in my area, but doesn’t give too many details. 

 2. Choose your recreational reading material carefully. 

Some of my friends like psychological thrillers and murder mysteries for bedtime reading. “I was so scared after reading that book,” one friend told me, “I slept with the light on for a week.” Filling our minds with sadistic, gruesome tales provides rich material for our subconscious (and conscious) minds to work with. Before we know it, we’re checking behind the shower curtain and seeing intruders in every dark corner. 

Philippians 4:8 provides a plumb line for what we allow into our minds. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.” 

3. Skip the horror movies, graphically-violent, and dark-themed television shows and movies. 

My husband enjoyed watching NCIS when it first came on Netflix. Sometimes I’d watch it with him. While I found the investigation/mystery component fascinating, I noticed I tended to worry a lot more about my naval officer son-in-law after watching it. I know his assignment puts him in harm’s way, and I pray daily for him, but watching the show planted a whole new set of fears in my mind. 

Romans 16:19 tells us to be wise about what is good, and simple concerning what is evil. This verse, paired with Philippians 4:8, confirm that we don’t need to know everything about the dark deeds people commit against one another to stay safe. Some education is necessary to protect ourselves, but graphic details breed fear rather than enlightenment. 

If you, like me and our little Caroline, tend to be frightened by the things you read and hear, why not try a Philippians 4:8 experiment? For one week, filter your news coverage, choose your recreational reading material carefully, and skip the scary movies and television. Choose instead to fill your mind with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Read a Christian novel, watch an inspiring movie, or spend some time in God’s Word. At the end of the week, assess your fear level. I’m confident you’ll see a positive change. 

Now it’s your turn. Do you struggle with fear? What steps do you take to combat it? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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