Recently when I taught at Northwoods Church, I was asked to share my paintings that I taught from. As a creative, I welcome the chance to share my art and heart, especially beyond my literal studio walls.
Several years ago, I was struggling with fearful thoughts so I did a piece of artwork about it: as an artist, that’s what I do. It is called Under F.U.D.
F.U.D. stands for fear, uncertainly, and doubt.
My topic? Freedom over fear—notice I did not say freedom from fear. Fear is often a daily component of life. Leadership guru Michael Hyatt said, “We’re afraid of plenty of things throughout the course of our day and lives. We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t.”
When I decided to look up some numbers about fear, I found some scary statistics from Statistic Brain Research Institute.
60% of things feared: will never take place
30% of things feared: happened in the past and can’t be changed
90% of things feared: are considered to be insignificant issues
88% of things feared in relation to health concerns: will not happen
Number of Americans who have a diagnosed phobia: 6.3 Million
It appears by the numbers, I am not alone in my battle with fear. And experience with my friends proves that as well.
Down at the bottom, under the dirt, the gold coin represents us; it represents our time, talent, and treasure. On top of it is a pile of F.U.D. (fear, uncertainly, and doubt). It starts innocently with one question “What if?” What if that spot on my neck is really cancer? What if it’s melanoma this time? I’ve had the other two types of cancer. This one has changed quickly; and this one is dark. My body consents to the fearful thoughts and my skin starts to tingle. Before long, there is a pile-up of thoughts that starts to shake me. Before long, I am literally under a pile of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, oh my. You know, the lions and tigers and bears, oh my! of Wizard of Oz? My version is fear, uncertainty, and doubt, oh no, here we go again!
When I am in that place, give me my blankie. I am so covered up, I cannot do anything. I want to hide and protect myself. I cower. I shut down. I am in an early grave!
That single painting became a series of paintings called, The Story of the Talents.
In the series, I explored what it looked like coming out from under the pile of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. I was tired of F.U.D. covering me up and hold me down. Who wants live like they are in an early grave? I needed to visualize what it looked like to have freedom over fear (in my experience, there is no such thing as freedom from fear because fear in and of itself is not a bad thing).
Courage is the willingness to act in spite of your fear. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather requires fear. There is no need to be courageous if you aren’t afraid of something. —Michael Hyatt
In fact, fear helps us know when to avoid things or people that are dangerous. Fear can signal that we need to adjust our course of action or adjust our thought life. Although fear can be helpful, unchecked fear can become a monster. Unchecked fear turns into a filter that we look through and when it becomes the predominant way we see and relate to our world, we end up buried under a pile of F.U.D.
When I notice fear is becoming a focus in my life, I need to pay attention to what I am thinking about. Am I playing the What If Game again? And like the statistics quoted earlier, am I fearful about the 60% that will never take place; or the 90% that are insignificant; or is it truly something that should cause concern? Concern and worry are different. Worry leaves you playing the What If Game, all the while racking up a bigger pile of F.U.D.
I think author Harold Stephens expresses the difference well.
There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.
When I find that playing the What If Game has triggered a fearful thought-life, as a follower of Christ, I take my thoughts captive to Christ. In short, taking my thoughts captive means to take my thoughts to Him. I allow Him to line up my faulty, fearful thinking, with His truths—not my feelings. If the concern is realistic, not fantasy, I move in the direction of action and do what I can legitimately do about the circumstance.
This image shows buried treasure: our time, talent, and treasure. It is an early death of sorts and not the life that we were created to live. In our fearfulness, we will not step out or step up. Taking chances doesn’t feel like an option when we are buried under a pile of fear, uncertainly, and doubt.
When my young daughter was terrified of swallowing a pill, she cried, “I can’t! I can’t!” I told her, “You can’t yet.” Time passed. She took a first step. And yes, now she can. Those fearful days are behind us.
Maybe you think you can’t. But maybe it is that you can’t yet. I have lived this way and I don’t recommend it! Take a step.
In this image, God, represented by the cloud, begins to take more of a role. God doesn’t get bigger; my fear made Him smaller when I wrongly believed He cannot or will not help me. And experience with my friends and those I have consulted, proves I am not alone. We feel like victims when we think of God as powerless or less powerful than the circumstances.
How do you come out from under this pile of fear, uncertainty, and doubt? When you begin to trust that God cares for you and trust that He will help in your circumstances, you can take a courageous first step of faith out from under the pile. When you do, your F.U.D. begins to shrink. When I had a child, I was reintroduced to The Little Engine Who Could. Like the little engine, we need to believe we can, instead of we can’t. God is there to direct us out from under our fear, and slay our giants.
When I painted this painting, I was in a vulnerable place. And from that vulnerable place, I began to give back to God what He has given to me; my time, talent, and treasure are on the altar. In this place, I am in a great position to seek Him and see clearly. Not only did I surrender my fearfulness, to the One who could truly help me, I surrendered all that I had. Like the Hokey Pokey song, I put my whole self in: I am on the altar. And in this place of surrender, there is freedom over fear. I want to live like Esther of the Bible who said, “If I perish, I perish.” (She said this in order to save her people, knowing her husband, the king, might kill her for approaching him without an invitation.) When I experience glimpses of this place of full surrender and trust, I feel freedom over fear and believe anything is possible.
As an individual and as a community, without all that fear, uncertainty and doubt in our way, we can choose to invest our time, talent and treasure. Everyone benefits.
With regard to our time, talent, and treasure, God’s design is: if you invest well, you will acquire more to manage and invest. This principle is taken from the parable of the talents, which is in part what this series of work was based on (see Matthew 25: 14-30). If you are faithful with what has been given to you, The Owner will entrust you with more. In the image the “talent” actually grew. When we are faithful, He will entrust us with more of what He decides to have us steward. Notice in my depiction, the pile of F.U.D. is completely gone. I am an idealist, that is how I painted it. (Hey, that is one advantage of being the artist, I get to banish the whole pile of F.U.D.!) No pile: blank slate. In reality, the pile of fear, uncertainty, and doubt are never truly all gone, at least this side of heaven. (Sigh.)
This is the final panel of the series. Whereas the previous panel illustrates when we are faithful with a little, He gives us more, this panel shows the principle of multiplication. Rather than a one plus one equals two type of math, it represents exponential growth. Exponential growth is explosive; like planting a single kernel of corn which will produce about 700 kernels on one ear. That is amazing growth.
Exponential growth, for good or for bad, changes environments. While fear stifles growth, freedom over fear facilitates change. New growth happens exponentially and we can change the world around us.
While fear stifles growth, freedom over fear facilitates change.
For the Christ-follower, when we surrender our F.U.D. and partner with God, we create an environment where the Gospel can flourish, and that is truly good news! New growth happens exponentially and He uses us to change the world around us.
I hope that these images might help you to visualize coming out from under whatever F.U.D is holding you back, or keeping you down. God has an amazing journey for each one of us! He is working powerfully in the stories of our lives. I pray you have peace and freedom over fear.
This blog post is adapted from my teaching, Freedom Over Fear. I love to teach and speak using the testimony of my life and biblical principles to help people become unstuck and move forward into the amazing life that God has for us. For information or to request scheduling me, please inquire.
Artwork Under F.U.D. and Story of the Talents by Angel Ambrose. Under F.U.D. has its forever home with a collector and Story of the Talents, a series of five 8″ x 10″ panels, framed in black, can be purchased for $1,500.00.