Does fear have a stranglehold on you? If it didn't prior to the last few years, you could understandably be afflicted now.
For me, being fearful came naturally. My dear mother was a world-class worrier and was fearful of a myriad of things. Difficult experiences in her childhood undoubtedly fed those fears. Sadly, her anxieties personified the definition of fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real,” and much of her 90 years were lived protectively and in self-induced isolation because of her trepidations.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on some significant blessings in life I would have missed if I had allowed fears to hold me captive.
First and foremost, was my fear of becoming a mother. I felt relatively confident and capable rising the corporate ladder in my IBM career. But becoming a mother? That was another ballgame. I never much liked babysitting (maybe it was the experiences of babysitting hellion middle-school aged boys that did me in), I was worried about my age and my husband’s age and health, and I hadn’t seen a foolproof instruction manual for raising a child successfully. I felt inept and completely unprepared for the role.
Finally, after several years of intense prayer, encouragement from a dear friend and many “pros and cons” lists, I felt a strong push from the Lord to trust Him and become a mother. I’m so thankful that I said “yes.” I can’t imagine how different my life would be without the gift of my daughter, Anne.
In 2012, I overcame another mountainous fear and took a mission trip to Uganda with 15 total strangers. I was the oldest person on the team, and in advance of our scheduled departure date, I "helpfully" contacted our leaders to update them about the latest State Department warnings about traveling in Uganda. Thankfully, they were patient with me, and again I said “yes” despite my fears. Today, some of my dearest friends are those I met on that Uganda team.
The following year I faced the fear of being interviewed by an Emmy Award-winning local TV reporter. Again, I hemmed and hawed and told myself that I needed to lose more weight or become a better speaker before saying “yes.” But again, I felt a strong push from God to trust Him and agree to the interview. The doors that one interview and the beautiful, resultant story have opened are too numerous to count. And, I now consider that reporter to be a special friend.
More recently, after moving into a new neighborhood (where, again, I knew no one), I was invited to join a small group which met weekly for Bible study. In early 2021, most people I knew were only connecting with others via Zoom. This group, however, realized the importance of gathering in-person. My natural inclination was to stay safely huddled in my home. A friend challenged me and reminded me of the importance of building relationships, so I decided to begin attending. We gathered, side by side, week by week. After a year of meeting with this group, I can’t imagine life without these special and loving new friends.
Would I have been “safer” in every instance if I had listened to my fears? Absolutely. Could bad things have resulted each time I said “yes?” Unquestionably. But is my life immeasurably better, fuller and richer because I didn’t let fear win? 1,000,000% YES! Interestingly, the greatest benefit from each of these decisions was the relationships that resulted.
I get it. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in life. When you take risks, you can get hurt. I certainly have. And the older we get, it’s natural to become more cautious. Sometimes, that is due to wisdom. But sometimes, the real culprit is fear.
What about you? Have the last few years caused you to isolate yourself or become more fearful? Have you found yourself saying “no” a lot? If so, your reaction is perfectly normal.
Here’s the formula I’ve found to be helpful for stepping outside of my comfort zone. Perhaps it might be an encouragement for you, too.
-Listen to those inner tugs when drawn to something new/different/risky.
-Try to avoid knee jerk “no way” reactions.
-Pray about the decision. And don’t just ask…take the time to listen for an answer. I've often found that I receive confirmation in multiple ways.
-Process the decision with (a non-fearful) someone you trust.
-Don’t just ask yourself “What's the worst thing that could happen if I say ‘yes?’” Also ask yourself: "What good things could come from my saying 'yes?'" And "What might I miss if I say ‘no?’” Asking those questions helps me recognize when fear has knocked at my door and is trying to hold me captive, oh yet again.
-Reflect back on your own victories over fear. "Remembering" always helps to build my courage muscle when my knees are feeling wobbly about a new challenge.
Many years ago, a speaker shared this piece of wisdom: "All the juice is outside your comfort zone." At the time, I wasn't even sure what he meant. But as I have taken steps outside my comfort zone in various aspects of my life, I've realized the truth behind his words. Juice, indeed!
I hope that as you begin the second half of 2022, that's you'll say yes to something that stretches you. Kick fear in the face. You won't be sorry!
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”