Heights, snakes, clowns, storms, spiders, mascots, wasps, needles, dark rooms. You name it, and there’s a pretty good chance I’m scared of it. I have always been a scaredy-cat and growing up I let my fears hold me back from a lot.
My fear of heights kept my feet firmly planted on the ground while my family walked across a bridge in Colorado, it anchored me to the bottom step of a tower on a field trip while all my classmates ran around me, and it made me give my little sister the top bunk bed because I couldn’t fathom the idea of sleeping so high up.
Recently, I’ve been facing this fear. I started by climbing my first tree. My heart nearly beat out of my chest as I looked down at all of the branches below me, but when I made it t0 the top and looked out at the amazing view I was so disappointed in myself for how many years I had let my fear keep me on the ground.
This doesn’t mean I’ve conquered all of my fears. There are still a lot of things I’m scared of, but I’m working on not letting them have control over me. I have learned that you can be scared of something and do it anyway.
Some of the best things in life start with that first climb up the tree. Your palms may be sweaty and your heartbeat slightly irregular, but facing your fears and stepping outside of your comfort zone is always worth the risk.
Not Letting Your Fears Hold You Back
The very first time I showed up for a campus ministry event I pulled into the parking lot, but I didn’t get out of my car. I was so scared to walk into a room full of people I didn’t know, so I just sat in the driver’s seat debating going inside.
I look back on this moment a lot and know that it has defined my life. One of my biggest blessings is my church community, and if I had made the decision to pull back out of that parking lot and allowed my fears to control me, I never would’ve found my community.
I thank God every day that I worked up the courage to go inside that day. While I would love to sugarcoat it and say that it was really easy and all my fears and anxieties disappeared after that initial first step, I can’t. I found a seat by myself that day and then I slipped out the door as soon as it was over.
I read back on my journal from this period where I wrote, “It seems like I keep stepping outside my comfort zone, yet I keep winding up standing alone, searching for a face in the crowd I know well enough to make simple small talk with while everyone else is laughing and talking with all of their amazing friends. I take a risk and get out of my car, out of my house, out of my comfort zone, and am met with opposition. I’ve never felt more gut-wrenchingly alone.”
If you didn’t pick up on it already due to my melodramatic emotions, I was really struggling during this time. I couldn’t understand why my one little step outside my comfort zone didn’t automatically gain me 20 new friends.
But I showed up again the next week, and the next week, and the next. Getting out of my car each time no matter how badly I wanted to turn around and sprint full-speed back to my comfort zone.
Now, nearly three years later even with so many familiar faces and friends waiting inside, I still occasionally struggle to make that first step. The devil can so easily fill my mind with anxieties and fear because he wants to keep me separate from my community.
Living Out God’s Purpose in Spite of Fear
In the past my fears have not only held me back from living life to the fullest, but also from following God’s will for my life.
One instance of this that I think back on often happened a few years ago. I was carrying a couple of bags of groceries out to my car and I saw a little old man struggling to put his groceries in his car. I had this little voice in my head prompting me to go help him, but I pushed it out with fears of offending him by making him think I thought he looked weak, old, and in need of help from a teenage girl.
Looking back now, I know that little voice was the Holy Spirit. I feel it often, planting little ideas in my head to send someone a nice text message, to offer my help, and to follow God’s will in a multitude of ways. I have been working on tuning my ear to His voice and following it regardless of my fears.
One of my biggest fears stems from the notion that the goodness of our actions is measured by the outcome. This is such a toxic and selfish idea because it makes us feel like a good deed is only a good deed if we gain something positive from it.
Truthfully, a lot of my attempts to follow God’s will have gone poorly. Once I was walking out of a coffee shop with a warm fresh muffin and noticed a homeless man on the street on my walk back to my car, so I offered him my muffin but he refused it, saying he only wanted money. I set the muffin down and walked away despite his angry exclamations.
It felt like no good came from that conversation. I didn’t gain anything positive from it, and he certainly didn’t either. But I know that following God’s will was the right thing to do regardless because even if I didn’t see anything beneficial, God can still use it for His purpose.
We have to put ourselves out there and follow God’s will regardless of whatever immediate reaction that we receive. In order to not let my fear rule over this, I’ve been concentrating on this quote from Mother Teresa;
“Everyday you have to say, ‘Yes.’ To be where He wants you to be. If He puts you in the street, if everything is taken from you, to accept to be in the street at that moment. To accept whatever He gives, and to give whatever it takes, with a smile. This is the surrender to God. To accept to be cut to pieces and yet every piece to belong only to Him. To accept all the people that come, the work that you happen to do. And to give whatever it takes. It takes your good name, it takes your health, it takes… Yes, that is the surrender. You are free then.”Mother Teresa
This has really helped me surrender my fears to God by asking Him to place me where He wants me and knowing that even if my every fear comes to life, that I am His.
Some days are so amazing I wonder why I ever feared in the first place, and other days it feels like my worst nightmares are a reality. But I no longer fear those days, because I know that God is with me in the good and the bad.
The situations we face may be painful and hard, but it is these times of struggle when we gain a deeper trust in God. Through these hardships, He brings us to the other side and strengthens us for the next obstacle so we no longer have to fear.
God Will Use Us Regardless of Our Fear
We can learn a lot about fear through the life of Moses. When God revealed His plan for Moses’s life, Moses responded with doubts, excuses, and worries.
I think God’s response speaks so much truth into His love for us. He doesn’t yell at Moses for being timid and afraid, but He shows Moses that He understands his pain and depth of trauma that instilled those fears in the first place.
God listened to Moses’s point-of-view and acknowledged his excuses, but He didn’t allow him to stay stuck in his fear. He loved Moses too much to allow him to continue to be defeated by his anxieties.
God first showed him that He would be beside him the entire way to help him. He told Moses, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12), and “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12). God’s desires to come alongside us, calm our fears, and empower us to accomplish His will.
There is no doubt in my mind, that just like with Moses, God will ask each and every one of us to face our fears for His mission. In response, we have to make a commitment from within to follow God despite how we feel inside, to keep pushing forward until our fears subside and no longer control us.
Making Your Faith Bigger Than Your Fear
Ever since I was little whenever I’m scared, I’ve always sung the VeggieTales song “God is Bigger”. When I hear a creepy sound while I’m trying to fall asleep or am home alone while it’s dark out I simply sing, “God’s the biggest and he’s watching all the while. So when I get scared I’ll think of him and close my eyes and smile!”
As silly as it sounds, this has truly helped make God bigger than any of my fears. But putting your faith over fear isn’t always that simple, and it requires a lot of trust in the Lord.
In order to put our faith in Him wholeheartedly, we have to know Him. When we know Jesus, we know we can trust Him.
In my personal journey of growing my relationship with God I have learned that the biggest key to letting go of my fear is knowing that there is nothing to fear.
All of my biggest fears – snakes, heights, storms, and many, many other things – all ultimately stem from a fear of dying. But why should I fear death when it means I will finally get to be face to face with Jesus.
When you truly get to know Jesus, you begin to realize what a joy that is. He becomes the ultimate desire of our heart, regardless of any fears or anxieties that might overcome that.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”Psalm 27:1-4