Why Are You Afraid?

Don’t answer right away. Think.

I thought my biggest fear had changed over the years, but the more I consider the question, the more I realize that everything stems from this one fear.

Think about it... why don’t we like to speak in front of people? Why don’t we like to make a mistake? Why are we afraid of confrontation? These basic fears are so intertwined that I don’t know how I’ve missed it all these years.

All of these fears stem from a fear of letting people down. Someone is going to learn you are not as perfect as they had believed you are and you’ve already convinced yourself that is going to make them angry and there is going to be a lot of pain involved.

I don’t say this lightly. In fact, I think it’s terrifying. It is this fear of letting someone down that keeps us from stepping boldly forward sometimes. So much so that we are sometimes completely crippled. Knowing you have disappointed someone, lost their trust, is as great a punishment as any physical pain you may have ever experienced.

All photos courtesy of unsplash.com

When my son was five years old, he just knew he wanted to be an actor. A children’s theatre company came to town every summer and auditioned hundreds of children (or so it seemed to my son) to work with them for one week and then be a part of the production at the end of that week. So naturally, when they came to town, my five-year-old was ready. We signed him up and sat near the back of the auditorium until his age group was called up.

“Ok! They’re ready for you!” I said with all the excitement of a potential stage mom.

My son’s facial expression turned to horror. He fell into the aisle and screamed at the top of his lungs, “PLEASE don’t make me do this!!”

I admit that at that moment, my thoughts were not about my poor son on the floor struggling with his fears. MY thoughts were on what people must be saying about the pushy mom who wanted her son to be famous. Yup! I was just as afraid in that moment as my son. It was his 9-year-old SISTER who picked him up off the floor and assured him that it would be ok.  Now that the awful event is behind us, it’s funny to realize that my fear of looking like a “bad” mom turned me into a bad mom.

My son and I were both haunted by that moment for the next five years. An opportunity to audition for a local theatre program came up. He found out about it and came to me. “I have to do this,” he said. It wasn’t about getting a part for him. It was about the audition. He was ready to face the one thing he believed was holding him back.

So he memorized a little poem and walked into an audition that led to one part that led to eight more years on the stage.

I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

And isn’t that what we’re afraid of? Whether it’s the disapproving glance or the anger or the outright ridicule... it is the fear of these forms of punishment that freezes us. We are so caught up in the fear that we forget about love.

 

I say this to myself as much as I say it to you.... If we could just grasp the simple fact that our God loves us and because of that we have nothing to be afraid of, we would be able to give him room to perfect us. Oh, and he’ll be doing that our entire life because we are not perfect, but we have a perfect God who wants us to be just like him.

But the truth is... this is easy to forget.


Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
— Matthew 14:28-31

When you have homeschooled for a while, you somehow become the expert and everyone starts asking you questions. I have an answer for every question, but in the back of my mind are the memories of all the mistakes that I wish I had never made. So I don’t feel like anything close to an expert.

So when I’m answering questions, I’m not thinking about the God who loves me, I’m thinking, “I’d better be really honest or I’m going to screw up this mom’s entire homeschooling career.” I know. That’s implying I have incredible power. But you’ve thought that way about your words — your advice — too. Admit it. And THEN, when they choose not to homeschool after a conversation with you...

(Because everyone else’s decisions are entirely my fault, right???)

These are the fears that build up in my mind. And I punish myself with every negative event that could possibly happen in the next few minutes.

So when you read the words of 2 Timothy 1:7, Self-control takes on an entirely new meaning: For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

I have got to learn to control my thoughts as well as the urge to drop to my knees and cling to this parent and cry, “Please homeschool or I will feel so worthless!”

That’s extreme, but you’ve been there. You’ve given the advice you wished someone had given you. And then the person’s choice was not what you’d hoped for. So now, “I will never give advice again,” you think.

But God doesn’t want it that way. He told Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

The Lord is with you....take comfort in that. God did not design us for prolonged bouts of fear. He designed us to walk with Him.

I’m tired of being hindered by fear when I know an awesome God who designed me to be strong. I’m tired of feeling that heavy rock in the pit of my stomach. I’m tired of pressure that makes me feel like I can’t catch the next breath. I serve a God who is bigger than those dark places I have let my mind rush off to.

So let’s make an agreement. The next time we are frozen by fear, let’s look ahead into the unknown and say, “God? You commanded me to be strong and courageous. You’ve promised you are with me.” (He already knows it. You are saying this so you have to hear it from your own lips.) Breathe. Step forward. Breathe again.  Do not look at what anyone else is doing. Focus on the one who told you to step forward.

He is bigger than your fear. He is with you.

When you discover that you have stepped past the fear and into the task he asked you to do, you will see WHY he needed you — specifically you — to step forward into this next moment. Let’s promise each other that fear is not going to force us to miss it... whatever God has waiting for us.

So over the bridge I go.

Breathe.

Step forward.

Listen.

Breathe.

Step forward.

Hold on... He’s there.