The word “fear” is one Christians are guilty of using a lot despite it being something we are commanded to never choose in our lives.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 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.” (Joshua 1: 7-9)
Over the years I have experienced different kinds of fear. There is the nervous fear you can have before you talk to someone important like your cute crush or intimidating boss. Then there is the anxious fear for an approaching event like taking the SAT, graduating college, or interviewing for jobs. There is also the fear of the unknown, fear of commitment, fear of undesired circumstances, or fear of spiders (guilty)…the list goes on and on.
However, I have also learned there is one good kind of fear. When I think of the time I was most afraid, I recall my moment with this fear.
I stared at my nervous parents waving from the other side of airport security. I tried smiling as I waved my final goodbye, but tears fell instead. I turned to walk to my gate and thought, “What the heck am I doing?” I was heading to Haiti to work with an international relief organization for five months. It was what I had always wanted to do. I saw the opportunity, submitted the application, interviewed for the position, and boarded the plane all within a couple of months. Yet, nothing made it feel so real as when the plane landed in Port-Au-Prince. There was no going back.
The fear I felt as I wandered through the airport was a strange rush of excitement, nerves, worry, and peace. I think it is a healthy fear, and here is why. It is a fear one feels as he/she embarks on something completely new and out of his/her comfort zone – which is exactly what the Lord calls us to. I think if you are considering something that seems so wild it scares and excites you simultaneously, then you are doing something right. However, if you listen to the whisper of fear rather than use it to propel you forward, you are not being the strong and courageous child God calls us into.
Before I boarded the plane I spent a week in training for the international field. We heard horror stories of possible outcomes if we were not careful in dangerous situations. We role-played car hijacks, abductions, and interrogations all from the side no one wants to be on. Over the course of those days I questioned my sanity a few times. “Why am I putting myself in this potentially dangerous situation?” But I never once questioned if this was what the Lord had for me in the next five months. Rather than seeing my worry as a warning sign to turn around and stay in America away from tarantulas, I leaned in to Jesus. I thought about people in the Bible I grew up reading about who did not stop to consider their fears, but in faith, stepped into what God was calling them into. They knew who God is and his surpassing power, and they knew he was on their side. That was all they needed to know. Consider what would have happened if Esther did not bravely approach the King, or if Noah had listened to others and not built to ark, or if Moses did not return to free the slaves? What would have happened if they chose to listen to fear rather than God’s voice? No redemption, no freedom, and a lot of destruction.
I think fear can be a good thing. When I think of times I was most afraid, I realize amazing faithfulness from the Lord always followed. If you do not feel at least a small dose of fear about something, maybe you are playing it safe. If you are not uncomfortable in an area of your life, you are comfortable. Being comfortable is fine, but it can make us miss the “more” God created us for and offers to us. When we are made for more, why would we not run to it?
When my friends share they are afraid to jump into the unknown, I tell them they are on the right track. As long as you choose trust in the Lord rather than trust in your fears, fear can be a sign you are on the verge of something great. The unknown means we do not have a plan, so it will require complete trust in the Lord. Complete dependence like that is wild to humans. We want a map, schedule of events, and a list of possible outcomes before we begin something new. This kind of trust seems unnatural, but in reality, we were created for this kind of communion with God. Wholehearted trust. Our human hearts tell us it is risky, but our faithful Creator whispers, “This is what I created you for.”
Fear of a crazy idea God is calling you to means you are stepping out in faith. It means you are answering the call on our lives for something deeper, something more. I am thankful every day for listening to God’s voice that led me to my season in Haiti. When I look back at the moments I have been most afraid, I remain thankful because God always showed up. He remained faithful in my fearful heart, he honored my trust in him, and he gave me exceedingly more than I ever imagined.
words by Lauren Grindstaff and photo by Cate Willis