The Answer to Fear
This post originally appeared on My Collision with Christ as a guest post, as part of a 7-week series on fear. You can find that series by clicking here.
Here are a bunch of things I’m afraid of right this minute:
- That I can’t write a real thing that will help real humans because I’m not a real writer
- That I’m too big of a sinner to ever be qualified enough to tell anybody else what to do with their Christian life
- That I won’t ever figure out my real calling, or worse, I don’t have one
- That I won’t ever get to be a mama, a huge dream of mine since childhood
- That a lot of people secretly don’t like me and just pretend they do
- That I’m not thin or pretty enough
- That I misheard God and I’m missing His will for my life
- That heaven will be boring
- That I’m always doing the wrong things
- That my mouth is too sassy to be a good, sweet Christian girl
- That I’m just too much and not enough at the same time
- That I’m too big of a mess for God to fix
Just in case you were thinking, friend, that I am writing this from the other side, having come through the fire and now I am healed of all fear and totally free of all of this, and now I can instruct you on the way out and fix your mess in three easy steps and four payments of $19.99, I’m not and I can’t. (I just don’t have that Billy Mays swagger, may he rest in peace.) But I can sit here in the middle of the mess with you and maybe we can figure it out together. Maybe the answer is somewhere in admitting I don’t have the answer – and none of us really does – but Jesus. Let’s run toward Him together.
I grew up without my dad. I’ve never met him, heard his voice, or been the recipient of one of his hugs. He has never sent me a birthday card, called me on the phone, helped me loft my bed in college, or taught me how to change a flat tire. Instead, before I was born, he decided I wasn’t worth sticking around for, so he walked out on my mom and me before I drew even a single breath. As a result, I have always been afraid that maybe I am more leaveable than lovable. That maybe anyone who I let love me would eventually figure out that I’m not worth it and skip out, too.
Sometimes I wonder if fatherless people don’t walk through this world a little more afraid than those who have fathers. If children build their lives on the foundation of their parents, it makes sense that mine has always felt a little wobbly. When one of the first people who is supposed to love you unconditionally decides to opt out of loving you at all, a specific kind of fear starts to seep into your bones. You become afraid that something in you is so broken, so worthless, so sideways that you just aren’t like other people. You become afraid that you’re not a valid person at all, that maybe there is no place for you anywhere. You perpetually feel like you don’t belong. You walk a little more carefully through your life, like at any moment someone might catch up with you and tell you the jig is up, you got here by accident. You weren’t invited. Just go away.
Fears like these are the number one things that steal my joy and peace. I’ve lived with them, in them, and through the lens of them my whole life, including my life with Jesus. It’s only now that I’m realizing fear has been kind of an idol for me. I know that sounds nuts, but we don’t always want our idols or choose them – sometimes they just sneak in there and we don’t realize we’ve been worshipping something other than God until we find ourselves joyless and lost, unshowered and depressed from letting something else steal the reins of the only precious life we have. And if you’re like me and fear is the thing you’ve accidentally handed over control to, it can be extra tricky to spot. You and I don’t desire fear, like people who have made idols out of money or sex or power. We don’t actively invite it in, lust after it, or even seek it at all on purpose, but here it is, controlling us anyway. How can something we don’t even want be our idol?
It starts by making little, harmless-feeling decisions for us. Things like, I don’t want to be a part of a church community because it is scary to open up to people and live vulnerably with others. I might get hurt. Or, I don’t want to visit my grandmother in the nursing home because it’s uncomfortable and awkward. We allow this, because it is more comfortable not to fight fear. It doesn’t feel like fear, it feels like certainty and safety. I think this sort of relational fear might affect people of my generation and younger more acutely than in prior generations, because we have screens to hide behind when we absolutely have to engage with others: text messages instead of phone calls, Instagram and Snapchat instead of coffee dates, eating in front of Netflix instead of family dinners.
Here’s a hard truth that kind of stinks: one way to get a little less afraid is to do the thing you’re afraid of anyway.
Yes, you might feel weird being the new kid at a new church or small group. Let them get to know you anyway.
Yes, you might get stuck in an awkward moment with your grandma. Go anyway.
Yes, you might get left and hurt and heartbroken. Love anyway.
I’m learning to embrace the anyway. It’s not easy, but it is simple. I know – it’s not fair. All the stories we read growing up about a hero who faced her fears instead of hiding from them were true. I would very much prefer the hiding route. Fix it, Jesus.
But every time we choose love over our fear, we look a little bit more like Jesus. Each time we go with love over fear, we chip off another piece of the idol to safety and comfort that fear has built in our hearts. Every time we gather up all our brave and choose love, we are allowing God to carve out a new heart in us in which love is bigger than our fear. In which love always wins, and fear is powerless.
Here’s what else I know: looking our fear in its lying face and choosing to worship Jesus instead is worth it. Over the years, I’ve worn my emotional brokenness like a shield, a badge of honor, and a doctor’s note, but most often I find I wear it like a nametag. Fatherless. Broken. Worthless. But my real Father, y’all? He has a different story to sing over me:
Worthy. (Luke 12:7)
New. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Wanted. (Isaiah 43:4)
Remembered. (Isaiah 49:15)
His. (Isaiah 43:1)
Loved. (Romans 5:8)
Brave. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Yes, brave. As in able to overcome my paralyzing fears, and shake them from my feet like so much dust. Because the thing is, I do have a Father – one who planned for me, intended for me to be here, and breathed me into existence for the purpose of being wrapped all my days in His love. And my Father has not given me a spirit of fear, but one of power, one of love, and of a sound mind. So when my mind is not sound and my spirit is trembling, I can run to the storehouse where He keeps His extra power and love and strength and all the brave I need. He is always faithful when I run out. He always helps me with all the anyways.
I wish I had the answer to fear. I’ll be honest with you, friend, it’s not always as simple as praying the fear away. I wish it was. Sometimes the fear is stubborn and sticky and doesn’t want to shake loose. Sometimes it stares into my eyes and demands I answer its constant question: What makes you think you’re anything worth anything?
And all I can do is keep whispering the only answer I know: Jesus. And though my fears roar and threaten, I will keep singing it anyway.