Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Fear Factor

It’s funny how different kids with the same parents, raised in the same environment can be.

My oldest, Blake, was a very timid child. He was scared to take risks. In his defense, we discovered when he was three that his vision was very poor. He saw two of everything until we put him in contacts at the age of four. It made a dramatic difference, but his personality is simply cautious and analytical.

When he received his first bike without training wheels, I tried to teach him to ride it. He wanted no part of it. Finally, I forced him to learn. We went to the church parking lot, and I ran beside him balancing the bike as he rode. Around and around the parking lot we went. He would waver and want off. I would be running beside him, refusing to let him off.

“You can do this,” I would yell. “God didn’t give you a spirit of fear! You WILL NOT stop!”

Finally, after countless trips around the parking lot and who knows how many miles of running for me, he finally mastered the bike. I have never been so relieved.

Counter that with my younger son, Cole. Cole was about five when he was ready to take the training wheels off his bike. I grabbed the wrench and began removing the training wheels. I turned my back to put the tools and the wheels down, and when I turned back around he was half-way down the road! I began running after him, trying to catch up with him. He was my no fear, no hesitation child.

Doesn’t that describe so many of us as we walk this life? Some of us are timid, scared. We want to analyze every situation, determine if the benefits will outweigh the risks. Others just take off, no fear, no caution.

I’m not sure either method is 100% correct. But, as I look back on my life, I realize that my greatest regrets are chances that I was too scared to take. I don’t know how many times I have been asked if I was a cheerleader growing up. My personality (once you get to know me) is just the cheerleader type. I learned, however, at a very young age that I was not an athlete. Because I had failed at sports as a young child, I was always too scared to take the risk of trying out for cheerleader. If I could go back and change things, I would take the risk.

Over the last few years as I have analyzed my life, I have come to realize that fear has been a controlling factor in my life. I failed to take risks growing up. I probably missed out on a lot of fun and incredible experiences by being afraid of failure.

Then, when I was married, I lived in fear of my husband’s temper. My moves were often calculated to avoid an angry outburst. And, I saw my children being limited by their fears, unwilling to take risks for fear of disappointing those they loved, for fear of failure, for fear of angry outbursts.

Since my divorce, one of the things I have sought to do is to expose my children to activities outside their comfort zone, to give them opportunities to face and conquer their fears. I remind them frequently that the biggest failure in life is the failure to try. I want them to live life to the fullest. I do not want them to be controlled by fear.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

God called us to live an abundant life (John 10:10), but I see so many people paralyzed by fear. We weight the “what ifs” of a situation and determine our course of action based on a worst case scenario, a scenario that will most likely never come to fruition. It’s important that we measure the risks, but it’s also important that we aren’t limited by fear.

As someone who has walked through the horrors of adultery and divorce, I see more each and every day just how difficult it is to completely pick up the pieces and put the past behind me. I’ve been contemplating my future a lot lately. It’s no secret that I would like to be married again one day, that I would like to find a man that I could entrust with my heart. I would like to find someone who would step into my life and multiply the joys and share the sorrows. I would like to have someone who would walk this faith journey with me, growing in grace and love.

And then the anxiety enters.

I can sometimes almost feel myself hyperventilating as I think about giving my heart away again. I can sense the fear creeping in, wondering if the next man will cheat on me too. I don’t think my heart could bear to be trampled and betrayed again. I did it God’s way the first time; what’s the guarantee it won’t happen again?

It’s in those moments that I have to step back and remind myself that I may never trust a man again. But, my Savior has proven himself completely trustworthy. I can trust God in a man. I have to remember that God has great plans for me, and I can trust him wherever he leads. I have to remember that there are no guarantees in this life except that God will see me through whatever comes my way. I have to remember that even when life falls apart—and it will!—that God will be faithful to make something beautiful come out of it.

I have a choice: I can live in fear and miss out on the amazing blessings my savior has planned for me. Or, I can choose to walk forward in boldness and courage. I can choose to limit my life by letting fear control me or I can trust the only one who is fully trustworthy. I can choose to walk by fear or I can choose to walk by faith and experience the abundant future he has planned for me. 

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NLT

When Cole was two, we were at my brother’s house. I walked in the room to find him standing on the arm of the couch, eyes fixed on the seat about three feet away. He was perched high atop the edge, swinging his arms back and forth.

“It’s kinda scawry, but I can doo it!” he said.

And with those words, he took a flying leap across the room, safely landing on the other seat he had been eyeing.

Isn’t that how God wants us to live this life of faith? When he calls us to do something—even if it’s out of our comfort zone—he wants us to take that flying leap. We can admit that’s it’s scary to take a leap of faith, but he doesn’t want us paralyzed by fear. He wants us to remember that he is there to catch us, that he will carry us through. He wants us to be willing to move when he calls us because that’s how he builds our faith.

We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet-the-farm risk takers. We will never insult God with small thinking or safe living. (Craig Groeschel, pastor,

Our faith cannot grow if it’s not tested and stretched. It can’t be tested if we aren’t willing to push the limits. It’s time to quit small, safe living. It’s time to take a risk.

Will you join me?