I always beat myself up for having anxiety, but the truth is: for those of us who have anxiety, we are braver than we know. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” Anxiety makes it seem like whatever is giving us fear is strong enough to keep us in bondage, but when we do what makes us afraid―like go on planes, put ourselves in awkward social situations, or deal with conflict at work―we’re acting in courage.
The key is to not let our fear overtake us.
After traveling recently, I researched ways that flight attendants help passengers who are scared of flying (like me!). I learned that flight attendants are trained to make passengers feel comfortable and safe on each flight. But in some of these articles, I read flight attendants’ stories about how fearful flyers “gave in to fear.” The worst one that someone experienced was where a customer made a threat against the airline, so they had to call security to bring the customer off the flight.
There have been times when I’ve given into fear, when I’ve let fear take over me. But now that I’ve had several fearful experiences happen to me, I’ve learned that anxiety-inducing situations are part of life. In the middle of the storm, it’s better to do what makes me scared than to let fear stop me. If I didn’t do what made me afraid, there would be days where I would be curled up in a ball in my bed, listening to the clock tick on the wall next to me. That doesn’t sound like an exciting life!
As a Christian, I always hear people saying to let my faith be bigger than my fear. For a while, I’ve assumed that meant that God was going to shrink my fear and grow my faith. However, as I’ve learned over the years, I have a part to play as well. God grows my faith, but it’s my responsibility to choose to trust my faith instead of my fear.
God doesn’t make things easy for us just because we’re scared. Gideon, for example, was a man who almost let fear get in the way of him being used by God. Yet through each moment, God was faithful, and continued to give Gideon strength. You can read his story in Judges 6. Gideon was the weakest member of his family, who was part of the weakest tribe of Israel. But when the angel of the Lord came to speak to Gideon, he said: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” The angel told Gideon, essentially, that he was braver than he thought. God was about to use this man, and three-hundred able men, to bring down Israel’s enemy.
My favorite part of the story of Gideon is that God truly cancelled every reason for Gideon to fear. The night before Gideon and his army would attack, God told him to go to the enemy camp and listen to a man speak. God promised Gideon that he would be encouraged after visiting the camp. Here is the account of what happened when Gideon obeyed:
“Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. ‘I had a dream,’ he was saying. ‘A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.’ His friend responded, ‘This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands'” (Judges 7:13-15).
Of course, Gideon had to go and fight, but God had prepared the way for him to have the victory. I believe that God does the same for us in our struggles. We may not always understand what God is doing, but He gives us just enough to get a taste of the victory we’re going to have through Him. Then, He gives us the strength and courage to act.
Will we take that next step in obedience to God?
No matter how much God does for us, we have to trust Him. We have to make that effort, as He has given us that responsibility to act in faith. God could open a door wide open for us, but it is our job to step through the doorway.
So, what are you scared of today? You don’t have to attack it head on, but if it’s stopping you from living the life that God has for you, you need to deal with it somehow. Even if fear threatens to cripple you, do it scared. Trust me: You’re braver than you think!