Overcoming mind-crippling, spine-tingling fear!
Mind-crippling, spine-tingling, heart-stomping fear – we’ve all experienced it at one time or another. Fears of several varieties take hold of my heart every time I think of interacting with people - especially the idea of sharing my faith with them some day. I am a minister who sometimes feels this way, so I know there are many others who struggle with the paralyzing effects fear produces.
This can be frustrating for Christians who merely want to live obediently to Jesus' call to love God and love their neighbor. This makes disciple-making a difficult, and seemingly impossible, task for many. Where does this type fear originate? How do you keep those fears from taking permanent residence in your life? Here are five ways to handle our fear:
- Pray for courage. Many people count this out as a solution for our fear problem. The reality is, if we truly believe that there is a God, and that he allows us to communicate with him through prayer, why are we not using that as a means by which to overcome? Here is the twist. When you pray it, be ready for it. God has a funny way of answering our prayers, and maybe you need to overcome your fear by being placed in situations where you have a choice to fight or flight (for lack of a better phrase). All-in-all, we should be willing to go to God in prayer asking for courage and confidence in our willingness to share the Gospel message.
- Trust in God's plan. God is already working in this world. He is already working in your neighborhood, at your office, and in our social circles. You just have to find a way that he can work through you in those spaces. Once you recognize what God is doing, it is easy to get plugged into the mission. We have to be willing to trust that God is working in this world and he has a plan to lead every person to him. How is he using you? Well, that is what the point above is all about. Fear held the Israelites back from entering into the promise land (Num. 13), and it can so often hold us back from God's greatness being revealed.
- Take small steps. When we think of being a good neighbor we think of block parties, and being asked to build fences, and having to form mature and on-going relationships with complete strangers. Sure, some of those things might happen over time, but overcoming fear often times takes baby steps. There is a story of a young family who lived in a neighborhood for 3 years before they decided they needed to take the initiative of knowing their neighbors (obviously nobody else was going to do it). They decided they would simply move their backyard (where the kids player, the barbecue was cooked, and the parents read) to the front-yard. A subtle shift that had no result at first. However, over time, others in the neighborhood began to mimic this shift. Conversations were spurred when the ball rolled across the street, neighbors asked about landscaping tips, and relationships were formed. Ultimately, this story ended with block parties, divorce advice, and spiritual conversations. All because of a baby step in the right direction.
- Adopt 'bursts of courage.' Not too long ago, I watched a movie with Matt Damon I really enjoyed — We Bought a Zoo. My favorite scene involved a brief dialogue between Matt and his estranged teenage son. Matt was trying to make a point and to encourage his boy to reach out to a cute, young girl he befriended and made this comment: “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage — 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery and I promise you something great will come of it.” I think there is profound wisdom in this statement. What kind of world would we live in if Christians adopted these 'bursts of courage' in their life, where they were willing to invite someone to church, share a Biblical principle, or offer a word of encouragement to those they interact with in this world? Being a hero is not about ceaseless bravery, but bravery that comes at the right time.
- Share victories with others. You are not the only person who is afraid to share their faith. I have admitted my own fear, so there are at least two of us. Nonetheless, I cannot think of anything that dissolves my fear more than hearing stories of others who have successfully shared, shown, or taught their faith with others. I often hear these stories and think, "I could do that," or "that makes me think of something I could do to reach out to my neighbor." Be willing to share stories with others about ways you have loved and gotten to know your neighbors. How have you shared the gospel of Jesus this week? In what ways have you made Jesus known in your community? I believe the more we share these stories, the bolder we will become as Christians. God is working in the world, but are we sharing what he witness him doing?
These are not groundbreaking. In fact, I would consider them foundational. There is a part of fear that isn't justified, and you have to push past it. Know that, at the end of the day, following Jesus is not necassarily safe or comfortable. Safety and comfort are natural desires that can often keep us from being like Jesus in the midst of an unsafe world. God enables all of us to be bold (2 Tim. 1:7), to take the first step, to being the neighbor/friend/co-worker we were meant to be.