And the key to defeating that fear.
My daughter is afraid of the dark. As in, her imaginative powers are so potent, they render her petrified in the face of what she can only see in her mind because her eyes are blinded by the oppressive absence of light. You know, kid stuff.
But I get it. To be honest, I’m still a little afraid of the dark. Let’s call it the child in me, but my unfinished basement is creepy and there’s a giant hole in the wall, and I’d be lying if I said there was never a moment (or ten) where I dashed up the dangerously narrow steps as fast as I could, fleeing from imaginary monsters lurking in the dark.
I remember one of the first times I grappled with one of those sneaky devils as an adult. It was actually in broad daylight. And its name was Fear. Just Fear. No secondary title. In fact, nearly everything I’ve ever allowed to hold me back in this world has its roots in Fear.
Let me tell you a story.
A little over a month ago, I felt the gentle whisper of a familiar friend. Write, he called quietly, the words dancing lightly over my heart, pulling my fingers into motion and setting the wheels in my head spinning with stories of lessons I’d learned. And, just as easily as that calling came to me, the questions set in, too.
What if I’m wrong?
What if I fail?
What if I’m not good enough?
With each of those questions, the certainty that I was doing what I was meant to do faded, replaced by an overwhelming fear. Much like the unspeakable force that pushes my feet into motion just a little bit faster when I leave my basement, I felt my heart pounding harder than its average pace. My mind began churning with them.
They laughed at me, pointing out the fact that I was far too underqualified to publish anything worth reading. They took me back to a darker time, at the peak of my depression. You’re a college drop out, remember? one sneered at me. Not to mention her failed engagement! another laughed. And did you forget that you still live at home? yet another reminded me. I curled into a ball and burrowed under my covers, thinking of all my comrades from high school, off at various universities, racking up accomplishments galore to aid in their pursuit of success.
In that moment, I determined that I must be wrong. Starting a blog was surely a fictional calling my mind had created in order to grant me some feeling of purpose. But I couldn’t shake the idea. It had sown a seed in my heart and each time I tried to suppress the urge to write, I sunk deeper into a pit of my imaginary monsters.
This battle of the mind went on for five years. As I grappled with the task God was calling me to, I fell further and further into a depression of my own making. Each time I was confronted by his gentle urging, I turned from it. I was too afraid.
Much like my childhood, I would lie in bed, wide-eyed and paralyzed by the same imaginary creatures that plague my daughter in the dead of the night, that chase me through the oppressive black of the unknown and up the stairs into the light. The light, where I can see everything around me, where I can touch and feel and know with absolute certainty what is in front of me.
Those imaginary monsters presented these unanswerable questions: You’ve made some pretty big mistakes, they would hiss through sharp fangs of hard truth. Why would anyone take you seriously? Better yet, why would anyone bother listening to anything you have to say at all? You’re such a hypocrite.
These monsters of mine walked a fine line between the reality of my past and the possibility of my future. And, when I finally made the choice to move forward in spite of them, their whispers grew to a roar so loud, I would sit down to write and my thoughts would be drowned out by their taunting.
You’ll fail. You are a failure. God would never call you to such an important task.
In those moments, all I knew was that, as a human being, mother, and Christ-follower, I had fallen and continued to fall short daily. And those monsters of mine used that, chaining me to everything Jesus had already freed me from.
I was choosing to listen to fear over grace.
The Fear of Inadequacy
It is true that, at the point in time I first felt called to start a blog, I’d dropped out of college – flunking multiple classes before calling it quits, had a failed engagement under my belt, and I still lived at home because my part-time, entry-level retail job didn’t pay enough for me to move out.
But these things only measured up as inadequacies because I was looking at everyone around me and using them to set the standard. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten the truth. Jesus is the standard. The moment I accepted his sacrifice as something done for me, I wasn’t bound to the world’s expectations any longer.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
– 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
The Fear of Judgment
So, too, Christ helped me defeat the fear of judgment. Where before, I’d remained stuck in a glorified swamp of worldly expectations and human opinions, I now realized I’d been placing the burden of provision on myself instead of the one who was calling me to this task.
Those tricky monsters had presented me with what I could see – my past and present – in the hopes that I would forget to look ahead. And I did. In the face of an unknown future, I chose to pay attention to more of the unknown: potential thoughts, judgments. When I made that choice, the truth of these verses from Job became a distant memory:
“I thought, ‘Age should speak;
Advanced years should teach wisdom.’
(8) But it is the spirit in a person,
The breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.”
– Job 32:7-8 NIV
The Fear of Failure
God strategically navigated these first two fears by giving me an extremely persistent husband. In the weeks leading up to the launch of Indoor Kat, he pushed me, speaking through the haze I was living in. Thus, launch day came and went, and I felt pretty good. I woke up each day with a sense of purpose, drive, and peace.
Until about this past Thursday night.
Amidst a controlled chaos of events my family has been dealing with, I found a few spare moments of quiet to sit and work on my post for the upcoming week (that is, the one you’re reading now). I’d churned out about half of it the morning before with little effort.
But such was not the case on this night. I muddled through the lines, forcing out paragraph after paragraph. And when I finally felt I’d created something I could be remotely proud of, I handed it over to my proof-reader. She deemed it ‘perfect.’ But it didn’t feel that way.
I decided to sleep on it, thinking perhaps it was just a lack of rest leaving me antsy. But the next morning, that feeling was even more prominent. I couldn’t shake it, and I couldn’t put my finger on the solution. Once again, the darkness seeped into the edges of my vision, sending tendrils of black fear stretching across my heart and mind. In a panic, I turned to scripture, to prayer. I found verses on darkness versus light that struck me in their parallels to my upcoming post. Okay, God, clearly you’re not done with this one yet, I prayed.
And I waited.
Another day passed. More unanswered questions. More uncertainty. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my post for the week was incomplete. And where that uncertainty could have been answered with trust, I listened instead to the fear of failure. My imaginary monsters didn’t like being shut down, and they were back with a vengeance.
What were you thinking? You can’t do this. What do you know? Clearly, you can’t even write two little posts without your ‘inspiration’ drying up. God obviously would never have chosen you, pathetic excuse for a Christian, to share his message. You’re a failure.
Suddenly, my phone dinged with a notification that someone (check out her blog here!) had commented on my blog. And through those kind words, God was about to remind me of a lesson I’d learned long ago.
Fear is a Liar
As this catchy song by Zach Williams says, Fear is a liar. But Fear only has as much power as you allow him. If you let him, he will play on the unknown. The truth is, that unknown is part of a perfect plan, in which God has already shown us everything we need to know to move forward and defeat Fear.
I used to think that I was just afraid of the dark. I used to think that the future was that darkness. All this time, though, God has been trying to show me the truth: It’s not the future that is darkness. It’s fear.
The turning point for me came through the words of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, yet again: “As your thoughts center more and more on Me, trust displaces fear and worry. Your mind is somewhat like a seesaw. As your trust in Me goes up, fear and worry automatically go down. Time spent with Me not only increases your trust; it also helps you discern what is important and what is not.”
It’s absolutely okay to be afraid of the dark. It’s natural. What’s not okay is choosing to listen to fear over grace.
Change the Way You Think
First, God reminded me just Who the Light is. It’s not ‘knowing the future.’ It’s Jesus. Check out these verses from Colossians.
“…and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (13) For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”
– Colossians 1:12-13 NIV
Next, God reminded me who I am in the Son:
“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:5 NIV
We do not belong to the darkness.
Here’s the thing: we can’t know what the future in this life holds – good or bad. But we know where the answers we are allowed to know are found:
“Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.”
– Psalm 119:105 NIV
God has told us one thing for certain. He is on our side. You’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s so good, I’ll share it again:
“Yea, though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.”
– Psalm 23:4 KJV
Not knowing is a part of the human experience. It is a result of God’s design. But here’s another thing we know for sure. He knows the future. He sees the big picture, and He is at work, always, in all ways. I love this verse from Jeremiah on the subject:
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
– Jeremiah 29:11
That doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen to you. But it does mean that the God of the universe, who created you and sees the complete picture for your life on this Earth, does not have a plan for you that includes a bad ending. You know why? Because he has already given you the greatest hope in Jesus, and, through him, a future that includes eternal life.
So no more battling imaginary monsters. No more living in fear. Okay? I love you!