For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)
To celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary last year, a friend and her husband took a weeklong sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands. Although they hired an experienced captain to pilot the 39-foot Catamaran, my thoughts at the time were, “I’d never do that!” Perhaps I’ve watched too many adventure movies, such as The Perfect Storm or read too many articles about some hapless individual getting lost at sea.
Another friend loves to sail and owns her own sailboat, which she singlehandedly maneuvers on Northwestern Pennsylvania lakes. Sailing, she says, calms her spirit and gets her mind off her worries.
Another friend—also past middle age—celebrated her birthday last year by going skydiving.
I have to admit I envy these women. Not in a jealous way, but in an admiring one. To be honest, my inner spirit whispers, “I wish I could do that!”
Funny thing is, the older I get, the more fearless I become. Maybe it’s because I realize the time I have left on earth grows shorter and shorter, and I’m missing out on too much simply because I’m afraid.
I used to be terrified of deep water, but two years ago I conquered that fear and learned to swim.
I once remarked—feeling brave at the time—that I wanted to bungee jump the New River Gorge in West Virginia. I’ve since changed my mind because I don’t think this old body of mine would take the jerky stop. But now whenever we drive over it, my husband, the big tease, likes to remind me of my boast.
Just like he teases me about wanting to zip line. “Do you realize how high that is?” he points out whenever we see someone gliding on a cable suspended far above the ground. He knows I’m scared to death of heights.
But bungee jumping and zip lining look like so much fun. So I want to conquer my fear. How else to conquer fear but to face it?
By fear, I don’t mean a reckless fear or a “No Fear” attitude. That can be dangerous. Fear, after all, in the right amount, is healthy. It prevents you from doing something foolhardy that you’ll regret.
By fear I mean an unhealthy fear that keeps you from realizing your potential, from enjoying the thrill of adventure, from trying new things—a fear that keeps you in the safe corner, always watching and wishing.
What is fear, after all, but an emotion—a powerful one—that can paralyze us or propel us forward.
The fear the Bible talks about isn’t a being-afraid kind of fear, but means respect and reverence. For example, I’m not afraid of storms, but I respect their power.
Respect is important in conquering fear. Respect means you acknowledge the danger but take steps to minimize it. You prepare. You train. You learn all about whatever it is you fear or want to do. And you don’t adopt a careless, “I’m invincible” attitude.
Young Timothy had a timid spirit, and his fears were keeping him from realizing his God-given potential as a pastor. So his mentor wrote to him, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (1 Timothy 1:7).
The young shepherd David knew he could conquer the giant because he’d conquered wild animals threatening his flock. And he knew God would enable him.
What fear is keeping you from reaching your potential? From enjoying life? Making you afraid to try new things?
It’s time to give that fear to God, forget what’s behind you, and reach for the abundant life God has in mind for you.
You know, I think I’ll add “go sailing” to my bucket list.
Father, I give my fear to You. Help me to embrace the challenges and to live my life to the fullest. Amen.
Extra tea: Read and meditate on 1 Samuel 17:1–50
Even more tea: Research how many times “fear not” or “do not be afraid” appears in the Bible.
(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.