December 17, 2007
Be Not Afraid
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
Be not afraid. This theme runs throughout Scripture.
Have you ever felt this command unrealistic? Even when life is grand, I am quite capable of mentally cooking up all sorts of horrible, scary experiences that could be lurking around the corner. My stepmother calls this creative worrying “catastrophizing.” Sounds impressive, huh?
Unfortunately, one doesn’t need to have the imagination of a catastrophizer to know fear. There’s plenty of real stuff to keep us awake at night.
Yet God wouldn’t ask us to let go of our fears if that was impossible. He shed some light on my fears a few weeks ago and confirmed for me that, yes, His Word does apply to our daily lives. The lesson resulted from tackling a very basic fear.
Ever since I began horseback riding again, my learning curve has stalled out from a fear of cantering. For those of you not immersed in horse culture and lingo, a “cantering horse” is essentially a “running horse.” It’s not the fastest a horse can go, but it requires focus and control on the part of the rider. In recent lessons, every time I attempted this feat, my muscles tightened, my ankles stiffened, my reigns loosened, and the ground threatened to meet my face.
Now, my fear was based in reality. I had fallen off a cantering horse several times in the past, and it’s not a terribly safe or fun experience. Can you really blame me for being afraid when images of Christopher Reeve ran through my head?
One evening, helmet in hand, I observed others ride while awaiting my turn. As they cantered around the ring, the full truth of my situation hit me. The only danger I faced was... me. My horse never acted recklessly. My skill level was up to par. The only reason I’d come so close to falling off was because when I stiffened in fear, I lost rhythm, balance, and control.
But what could I do? My muscles instinctively responded this way every time – it had been years since I’d found comfort in the rhythm of this stride. I didn’t have answers, but I prayed: “God, I know the truth of my situation. Help me execute what is true.”
My opportunity came soon enough. I squeezed with my leg, and felt the familiar jolt as my horse changed her gait and picked up speed. Sure enough, I instantly stiffened and panicked. Then, in a moment of clarity I whispered a reminder: “You are not in danger.”
Surprisingly, I felt my muscles loosen.
“You know what you’re doing.”
I gingerly lowered myself into the saddle.
“You are safe.”
I pulled my eyes up and away from the ground, and the ring spread out before me.
I cantered that night without losing control. What had once terrorized me now brought me joy.
Now, I’ve never been big into motivational literature or “power of positive thinking” type advice. But how often does fear control our lives because we fail to see and accept the full truth of our situation? How often does spiritual tunnel vision keep us in a cycle of fear and failure, preventing a joyful life lived freely for God?
Yesterday was Gaudete Sunday -- the “pink” Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of rejoicing. It is set aside to celebrate before He arrives, confident in this truth: No matter how dark or scary it is now, our God is good and He will fulfill His promises
Intersecting Faith & Life: What do you fear? Ask God to reveal His eternal perspective to you, and for the grace to hold onto His truth when you feel most threatened.