I am afraid to swim in a lake. I’m afraid because I don’t like the feeling I get when my feet dangle below me in deep water. I don’t like knowing my feet can’t touch the bottom. I don’t like that I can’t see the bottom. And my aquarium and zoo visits have revealed to me how big the fresh water fish can get; I don’t like the idea of big fish staring at my feet. But swimming in a lake is fun. I’ve swam in a lake before, and I’ve enjoyed the coolness of the water in its contrast to the warmth of the sun; I’ve loved floating in the wake of a passing boat; I’ve felt pleasure from the sound of laughter echoing across the water from a distance. I’ve been willing to swim in a lake because there are good experiences that come with doing so.
I’m afraid to swim in the ocean. I don’t mind looking at the ocean from the beach or wading in the shallow water at the edge, but I don’t like going in deeper. I don’t like knowing that sharks could be swimming around my feet. I’m afraid of a shark attack. But I’ve swam in the ocean because body surfing the waves and letting the waves crash against me is enjoyable.
I am afraid to swim in rivers. I’ve gone tubing but felt nervous the entire journey down the river. While floating I kept imagining the huge fish swimming below me and snakes swimming towards me. But tubing can be fun. It offers the leisurely flow of the river, relaxing hours of lounging under the trickle of the sun through the trees, and the laughter of friends and family floating beside me. So, I’ve been willing to endure my uncomfortableness with the river for the sake of the positives tubing has to offer.
Even though I have the fears mentioned above, kayaking has been a bucket list item for me for a long time. I finally checked this experience off of my list when I kayaked in Haiti. I was nervous throughout my whole experience, however, because I knew I could flip over at any moment. I kept looking into the water to make sure there were no big fish swimming around beneath my kayak. I became startled when I floated over the edge of a reef—I screamed because I mistook it for a giant fish. Anyone who heard or saw must have thought I was strange; my husband laughed. But I was willing to kayak in spite of my fears because I wanted to enjoy the quietness of the water, the push of the oar against the water’s resistance, and the strength of my endurance as I moved myself from place to place.
I am afraid to drive curvy roads through the mountains. Driving curvy roads when they’re near the edge of cliffs scares me. I don’t like standing near the edge of cliffs, either. I’ve had nightmares of falling off of the side of a mountain. When I was a little girl, my grandfather almost slid off the edge of a mountain while we were hiking. But the views from the top and the edge are more beautiful than from below and afar. So, I’ve been willing to go to the top and inch my way to the edge because the view is breathtaking, and I want to enjoy having my breath taken away.
I’m afraid to stay home alone at night. That’s my ironic fear since I’m a loner—I like being alone. But when I’m alone at night, I feel uneasy. As a young adult I refused to stay home alone at night, but I’ve become more willing to do so without much fuss since getting married. I’m afraid to stay home alone at night because I’m afraid someone will break in and attack me—my greatest fear is of being physically attacked by another human being. But I do experience peaceful moments when I am alone at night. When I am alone at night I’m not obligated to say or do anything to or for anyone. I can pray, read, write, or sit and think quietly. So, I’m willing to stay home alone at night because I enjoy the positive moments being alone allows me to experience.
I am also afraid of the dark. As a kid, I had difficulty sleeping in the dark. As an adult, I get uneasy walking around inside or outside in the dark. I close the blinds after dark because I fear someone might be looking in from the outside. But I have also experienced the peaceful side of darkness. I sometimes go walking outside by myself after dark and have discovered a different kind of beauty when walking by the light of the moon. I feel nostalgic when I see the light shining through the water fountains in the middle of our neighborhood ponds. There is a different kind of quietness that surrounds me when I walk in the darkness. I want to enjoy the pleasant side of darkness, so I allow myself the experience of being alone in the dark.
I have other fears as well—many concern my life in His Spirit and Kingdom. They are fears connected to my fulfillment of His purpose for me. Of all of these particular fears, I’m most afraid of failure and rejection. I question myself, I doubt myself, I second-guess myself, and I lack confidence in myself.
I’ve noticed how my fears are related to self-reliance, and I recognize my need to rid myself of self and do better with relying on His clarity, His faithfulness, and His power. I know it’s possible to do because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He strengthens me in all areas of weakness when I ask, believe, and trust. Trusting God brings indescribable peace—a peace like no other—a peace beyond what I am able to understand. Trusting Him opens doors for which I would never have the confidence to seek to open myself. Trusting Him builds strength to endure things I would never imagine I had the strength to endure. Trusting Him offers unspeakable joy—joy that is full of His glory—a joy deeper than grief or disappointment. So, I keep taking steps of faith into the unknown with Him because I want to enjoy the good things that come with trusting Him.
Fear not... Don’t be afraid... Take heart... Take courage... Be strong and courageous...
These encouragements from God to His people are throughout Scripture.
God does not want me to be afraid. His most important reason is because He wants me to trust Him. I believe, however, that God is also interested in how I experience the life He has given me. If I live according to my fear, I will never experience the full gift of this life from Him.
There are times when caution and avoidance of some experiences are wise and right. But when caution and avoidance are not merited, I have to overcome my fears. If I don’t, I’ll never experience the life that living can offer. Neither will I ever enjoy the fulfillment that comes from living out God’s purpose. Instead, I’ll just die without ever having lived. I’d rather live!