As a little girl on a Nebraska farm, I was terrified at night of deer. I’m not joking.
This was the beginning of a life marked by anxiety. I asked my parents every night over and over if the doors were locked because I was afraid bad guys would come in and kidnap me. I hated new situations and clung to my dad’s hand as tightly as possible. Would my family get in car crash? Would everyone stare at me if we were late again to church? Would I do well on a test or fail miserably?
If I’m being honest, this fear has clung tightly to me, like hands firmly gripping my shoulders throughout the years, steering one way or the other to guide decisions and even keep me from trying at all. I am constantly analyzing risk factors, planning for worst case scenarios or coming up with escape plans for awkward social situations that threaten to push me over the edge.
Insert Cambodia. I had slowly learned bravery skills through college and a myriad of new experiences, then living in a big city after that. But then I was presented with a whole new host of things to worry about. What about medical care when my teammate and I lived in the village far away from even a simple doctor’s office? Have you seen the way people drive on these roads? How would I deal with having parasites? What if I fail?
About two years in, my teammate and I traveled to eastern Europe for a conference and training meeting. One of the trainers used a phrase I will never forget: “Do it scared”.
I have been wrestling with that phrase ever since. Far too often I let fear win. I shrink back from trying something new or let my mind be captured by anxious thoughts.
I remember prayer walking through a crowded market area with a few friends not long after this training. As we passed, I overheard a woman comment, “Their faces all look the same!” Normally, I get nervous about just approaching a stranger to start a conversation in English, let alone my 2nd language. Yet this phrase about stepping out even in my fear immediately came to mind. I was still anxious, but I turned around and went to this woman’s table where she sat drinking coffee and my friends followed. “Do you believe in Jesus?” she asked us as we sat next to her. “Yes, yes we do!” we replied in surprise. We started talking about her heart for her country and why we were walking and praying in this area. That day opened my eyes to the possibilities of walking forward even when fear is present.
On an ordinary night outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds knew what it meant to be gripped by fear. I don’t blame them! My heart would be racing and my breath short if suddenly angels appeared around me. Luke 2 tells us these guys were terrified! After hearing the glorious and probably confusing message of the newborn Savior, these guys could have huddled together close to the sheep and played it safe. My mind would conjure up all the excuses:
“It could be some sort of trap.”
“Maybe I was just dreaming.”
“This right here, the familiar, is safe.”
But they didn’t shrink back in fear, instead they decided together to go check out what had happened.
I would imagine the fear hadn’t completely left them, even as they set out, even as they knelt in worship. Yet, they were able to experience the most humble and amazing event as they witnessed heaven come to earth in this baby Savior.
Fear doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
Even in the situations that feel impossibly hard, when anxiety threatens to hold us captive, we can encounter the King of Kings who meets us in our fear and gives us enough courage to take the next step.
Do you have a story of “doing it scared”? In what areas has God given you courage in spite of your fear to take the next step?