That Four-Letter Word I Hate

By Shelly Prather

The other day, as I sat on the floor of my ballet class, stretching and releasing the tension in my muscles, I spoke with my ballet teacher.  She shared that there were other women she knew who also love ballet, and have talked about doing it.

“So many people I know say that they would love to take the class, but they won’t,” she stated.

“Why??” I asked.

“Well, they want to lose twenty pounds first.”

My first thought was, Come on! REALLY? They won’t do something that can bring so much joy?? And why?  My head tilted sideways. “Really, they want to lose weight first? Who cares?! They would have so much fun and probably meet their goals in the meantime!”  

That’s the truth though, isn’t it? It’s the truth about something as simple as ballet, but also about so many other things in our lives as well. We want to step out and do something courageous, something that we are drawn to, maybe something that we feel God is calling us to, but something stops us. Whatever the reason may be, there always seems to be a common denominator underneath the “sensible justification” for not doing whatever we are aspiring to do….

Fear.

In one sense, I have really come to hate this word. There have been so many things in my life that I have done, or have not done because of fear. Don’t get me wrong- I am not a beacon of courage. I am not someone who scoffs at challenging things, and runs toward them without shrinking back. I have had my fair share of things that I am afraid of, and have probably said no to, because of that fear. And yes, I think that there are times that fear is a genuine and necessary emotion- one that engages our God-given fight or flight response. It is the trigger that will, in dangerous situations, hopefully keep us safe from impending doom. You know– such as, if a bear is running toward you or you are face to face with a mountain lion ready to attack. And sure, there are other times when you are going to have a healthy fear of things that you know are not good for your overall well-being: fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of not making the right choice in this or that, fear of not taking advantage of opportunities, etc.

But then, there are moments of fear that we have- in everyday, little things- where fear creeps in and robs us of doing those things that we are capable of.  Things we are called to do.  Things we were intended for.  Things that we could possibly enjoy.

I mean, think about it… how many times have you felt a tug to go and ask a stranger if you could pray for them?  How many times have you thought about talking to someone about Christ, but thought, “eh, maybe next time,” or “when the time is right?” Are there things you have wanted to do in your life, or have felt called to do in your life, but fear (or what some of us like to call our “rational selves”) has stepped in, even before you can think through the options, and taken all of those choices off of the table?

This fear can impact your life in small ways, like stopping you from stepping out in courage and doing something like taking a class that you have always wanted to.  But it can be something much more significant. Have you stopped and thought about how even the smallest fears may be affecting your life? I am not stating here that we need to be reckless, and throw caution to the wind with all the things we do in our lives, not at all– but I am thinking of little things… those little things that can make our lives exponentially more powerful- where we can see God, see Him moving, and even just enjoy life a little more, because we stepped over our fear, and stepped out in faith.

Many, many great men and women of the Bible were courageous in the pursuit of their calling, despite the intense obstacles that stood in their way. One of my favorite courageous women of the Bible is Esther. The book of Esther is not that long– just ten chapters, but in those ten chapters, God shows us the courage of a young woman that is epic. I can’t even imagine the feelings that she must have felt during her encounter with the king in chapter five. She had to approach him with the knowledge that she was doing something that was against the law, with very serious consequences. “Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)  She could have been killed, and all of the Jews could have been killed right along with her. Could you even imagine what she was feeling in her body? Her heart? Her mind? Maybe her legs were shaking, maybe she felt like she was going to vomit, maybe she had a lump in her throat the size of a grapefruit when she approached the king, but she stepped out, in courage and faith, trusting that God had a plan– and he did. If you have never read her story, go do it. It’s amazing.

This spirit of courage does not just appear in the book of Esther. It’s ALL throughout the scriptures, and is woven into so many different stories of the Bible. Here are some of my favorite verses among the many that command us to have courage, step out in faith, and trust that God will meet us exactly where we are at….

Psalm 31:24 “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit, not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

When we are on mission for the Lordwhen we have Him at the our center, and we are striving to do his will and bring him glory in our liveswe have nothing to fear. He is there, and will never leave you. He wants to show you just how powerful he is, and what He can do with your weakness. Don’t be afraid your weakness, because it’s in that place where He shows up and shows His strength. “But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10).

So take heart, and step out in courage. Wrestle with the Lord and ask for wisdom in what to do with that thing that you have been putting off due to fear. He’s with you.  He won’t leave you. And his plan may surprise the heck out of you.

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