It has always been an enemy in my life. The Bible calls it the spirit of fear as if it has a personality and can attack at will. It has certainly felt that way for me.
I remember struggling with all kinds of different things to fear through the years. When I was younger, I was afraid of the dark and spent many nights under my covers full of sweat from fear of what might be in the darkness. My love of horror movies only made things worse. I had fears of the supernatural especially. I always felt I was being watched.
As I got older, the fear was of someone discovering my secrets and thoughts. The fear of what people thought really got to me and limited me from doing a lot or speaking up or stepping out into something I wasn't familiar with or taking risks in front of others.
I was timid and tended to blush a little if called on.
I always wanted to be bold and say the right things but it just didn't come naturally to me. I'd rather hide in the back or in the crowd so no one would pick me out.
There was a level of shyness that socially acceptable and normal but when I started to struggle with social anxiety at 19, it was completely different than shyness. This was torment and phobia. If you've ever watched a show of someone who is phobic of something like spiders or clowns, you can see that there is sheer terror on the individuals face when they come face to face with their foe. Well, for me, it was people. It was everyone and they were everywhere! There was a time where I didn't leave my house or talk to anyone much. I couldn't even go to the grocery store for fear that the cashier would speak to me.
How can you go about in life with terror of people? no one was attacking me or saying anything bad to me most of the time but I felt threatened every time I had to talk to someone. I had slowly made friends again but even with them, I was limited in my comfort level and openness.
When the panic came, I would sweat, blush and tremble and sometimes even felt lightheaded. I wanted to get out of the situation no matter how or what I had to do or say, I felt a need to get away from the social situation or person(s). I would often ask myself, what in the world am I afraid of? what's the worst that can happen? It was unreasonable fear and I knew it but I was held captive to it regardless.
People with social anxiety don't feel at ease around other people and don't like being the center of attention. It's hard to enjoy life when your on alert all the time. They aren't comfortable speaking up or sharing their thoughts with ease. They can't just "shake it off" and not be afraid. The feeling of fear is real and overpowering many times and making us say or do things that may seem odd. Sadly, along with social anxiety comes an intense fear of man, which God warns us about in His word.
25 The fear of human opinion disables (or ensnares/traps);
trusting in God protects you from that.
In the beginning of my relationship with Jesus, I prayed a lot about my fears of people. I wanted him to take it away instantly but it wasn't happening. I remember one day as I was praying on my knees in front of a large window. I was praying for help with my anxiety among other things and I said, "Lord do you hear me?" As I looked up to the sky through the window, I saw a cloud that had been PERFECTLY formed into an ear. I knew the Lord was telling me that he heard me. I was comforted. God wasn't choosing to heal me instantly and I didn't know why but I had to just keep moving forward.
Soon, I was learning about my first assignment from the Lord. He wanted me to start a Bible/prayer group in my workplace. I was so afraid. But I also knew that Jesus was telling me to do it. I struggled for a couple months and resisted but eventually I started to see that Jesus wasn't stopping from asking me to do it. So I was driving to work one morning and I said, "okay Lord, I'll do it but you have to go with me." As soon as I said those words, the music in my car changed, the hair on my arms stood up on end, tears started coming out of my eyes and the sky began to change in front of me. Something supernatural was happening and I was in the middle of it. My eyes had tears rolling out of them but I wasn't sad or joyful, as I looked up into the sky that looked glorious at this point, I saw Jesus. It's very difficult to explain because it wasn't with my human eyes, I could sense His presence that He was revealing Himself to me very powerfully in that moment. Even though I could not see him with my human eyes, I could see Him with my spirit eyes and he was more real to me than the car I was sitting in or anything around me. I didn't even know I had spiritual eyes! But the spiritual world was so much more real than the world I could see. The music in my car was heavenly and I can't even remember seeing the road in those moments. It was in the morning with traffic as I was going to work on the highway and I can't remember it that moment. As this heavenly moment began to pass, I praised God and I reached for a Bible that I had in my car. I pulled it out of the side door and threw it on the passenger seat. It fell open to a page in Acts which revealed a bright red sentence spoken by Jesus, it said this,
Little by little, God has drawn me to speak to more and more people. Not always easy on my part. I remember the first time I was asked to speak before the church about a healing I had witnessed. The pastor asked me if I would share the following week, I said yes, went home and collapsed on my bathroom floor in tears. I was shaking violently with fear and crying silently. The terror of having to speak in front of people was overwhelming.
Another time, I was about to preach the Gospel before a group of kids, only I didn't know it would be in an auditorium with over 100 middle school kids. When I opened the door and looked, I considered running the other way! But I shared the Gospel and we had many salvations that day, surely it was the Lord drawing them since I don't even recall what I said. I love when God works supernaturally because then I don't have to worry about being "enough". He is enough for any situation.
I believe that struggling with social anxiety has made me dependable on God. I'm great with that because He is faithful. It's been tested in my life and He has never failed me or left me in a bad situation. I can trust Him fully, every single time.
Even when I don't think something went well, God uses it.
I would encourage you to find a believer in Jesus Christ that you trust and is sincere in their faith and confess to them that you are struggling with social anxiety, then have them pray over you. I believe that what has helped me is trusting in God's leading to speak and overcome fear and also to have people of faith pray over me to demolish that fear. Do not disregard that this is a battle that needs to be fought in the spirit realm, through prayer and renouncing the spirit of fear.
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.- JAMES 5:13-18
As I have trusted in Jesus and followed Him, He has set me free from the
captivity of social anxiety. Am I 100% healed yet? No, I still
tremble at the thought of speaking sometimes but I know who is with me,
standing right by my side and He will never ever leave me. I am not
completely healed yet but I not where I used to be. God has a plan and
it is a good plan. It's not me I have to put my trust in at this point,
it is in Him and He will not fail me..... or you.
A great resource for more equipping to look into is http://www.kylewinkler.org/
strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an
inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only
be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to
all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to
the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”