What do you do when God calls you to do something you’re afraid of? Do you run away and hide? Do you avoid the problem and try to find a safer way to go around it? Or do you face the problem head-on, fear and all? I’m sure you’re familiar with fear. It’s something we all have. But did you know that fear can actually be healthy? In some cases, fear keeps us from doing stupid things that can hurt us. But in other cases, fear can keep us from experiencing more of God and living our lives to the fullest.
It’s normal to have fears when we face new challenges in life. Sometimes the path that God lays out before us is new and full of scary challenges. There is no shame in being afraid of the unknown, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself what God wants you to do with those fears?
I wish I could give you a simple one-step solution to eradicating fear, but the truth is, facing your fear is hard. I can tell you from experience–it won’t be easy. I have observed that for some people, it comes more naturally for them to attack fear head-on. I’m quite jealous of that trait. But for those of you, like me, who want to be better at facing fear, this post is for you. I have learned a lot of helpful tips that have helped me overcome my fears and I want to share them with you.
Step 1: Resolve to tackle it
I have worked for Rock-N-Water for many years and have had to do some pretty scary things, like learning how to guide a boat on a dangerous river or having the sole responsibility for a trip of over a hundred people. Just thinking about some of the things I do at Rock-N-Water makes me shudder. Working at Rock-N-Water has pushed me in many ways and forced me to meet my fears head-on. (Which is good, because I am not the type of person who is a born natural at facing fear. In fact, if I had my way, I would choose the easiest path I could find–one that is comfortable and free from challenges.) When something comes into my life that scares me, my tendency is not to attack the fear, but to look for a way out; I tend to run and hide.
The first step toward freedom is making the decision to tackle your fear. Think of your fear–however well-founded it may appear to be–as a wall. There is no way around that wall but to go over it. So set your sights on what’s waiting for you on the other side of your fear and resolve to push through it. As the saying goes, “Mind over matter.” Make the commitment in your mind first.
Step 2: Identify rational fear from irrational fear
The next step in facing fear is understanding which fears are healthy and which fears are irrational. Irrational fear is a fear of something that doesn’t pose any real danger to us. While rational fear is a fear of something that does present a clear danger to us.
For example, if you are standing on the edge of a cliff enjoying a beautiful view, it’s normal to be afraid of falling. That fear of falling may cause you to take some precautions, like holding onto a rock and making sure you have good footing. If you didn’t have that fear, you wouldn’t take those precautions. That fear of falling is helping you make wise decisions that will keep you safe. This would be a rational fear.
Now, let’s say that you are standing on that same cliff, but this time you have a parachute on your back and you are all set up to go sky diving. You are also with a professional, who has told you that everything is safe for you to jump. You will probably experience strong feelings of fear, but it’s a different kind of fear. Because you know it’s safe to jump, there is no logical reason for you not to jump. In fact, if you gave in to your fear and didn’t jump, you would be missing out on a chance to experience something new, and potentially even invigorating or fun. This is an example of irrational fear.
It could be as small as a fear of spiders, or fear of talking to a stranger. These are the kinds of fears that we need to face and conquer. But if we don’t identify these fears first, we won’t know which ones are safe to keep and which ones we need to fight.
Step 3: Just go for it!
This is the hardest step. Once you’ve identified that your fear is irrational, it’s time to face it. Here’s a tip that I have learned over the years: Worrying and obsessing about that fear doesn’t help! If you find yourself constantly worrying, stop and ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” In more cases than not, you’ll probably find that the answer to that question isn’t as bad as you initially thought it would be. Once you’ve weighed the odds and found that there is no harm in facing your fear, just do it! I know it can be hard.
At Rock-N-Water, we have many opportunities to face fears. One of the things we love to do is jumping off of cliffs into the water. I have stood on the edge of a cliff so many times, hesitating to jump, even though I know I’ll be safe. In order to jump, I have to block out all the voices in my head telling me why I should be afraid and then choose to jump.
Whatever your fear is, choose to face it and just go for it!
Step 4: Keep practicing
As with just about everything else we do, “practice makes perfect,” right? This is true of conquering our fears, too; you don’t overcome a lifelong phobia in a day. If we want to master our fear, then we need to be actively practicing facing and overcoming it.
Instead of always taking the easy, fear-free path, choose to do things that you’re afraid of. It could be as simple as saying hello to that stranger, or signing up for that talent show–even though you’re terrified of performing in front of people. Start small and work your way up to bigger things; each time you face those fears, you’re sending a message to your brain that you no longer need to be afraid of these things anymore. By practicing facing fear, we can train our minds to change how we view fear–essentially we are rewiring our brains and thought patterns. (How great is that?!)
As you go through life you will have to face many different types of fears. Just remember that it’s okay to be afraid. Even the bravest people have fears that they must face and conquer.
When God puts something on your heart, go for it! Recognize that on the other side of your worrying is a wide-open opportunity for deeper living! Chase your dreams and try new things, even if it scares you. If we let fear hold us back we will never truly experience the life that God intends for us to live. You will soon find out that the best moments in life happen when you are running headlong into your biggest fears. What are you afraid of, and how are you working towards conquering those fears? What steps can you take today to face those fears?
I hope this post encourages you to not let fear win but to face your fear with newfound confidence.