My heart was racing. I could feel fear taking over. Butterflies were having a field day in my stomach. Anxiety was breathing down my neck like a raptor in Jurassic Park.
I paused and took a deep breath. I prayed for God to help me.
I stood up to the podium and looked out into the faces of the people in need of hope. I couldn’t do this in my own strength. I needed God’s help. I needed to be a vessel for God this day. I needed him to come through.
I looked down at my notes and began to read the first line. My voice quivered at first, then God seemed to take over. I began to share what I had written out a few days earlier. God came through.
That is often my experience when I have to speak at a funeral or any other public speaking engagement. I don’t like the limelight. I don’t enjoy all eyes being on me. I am comfortable working behind the scenes. But God doesn’t let me stay holed up in my comfort zone. He pushes me out.
To teach me to trust him more, God continually challenges me to face my fears.
A few years ago I took a second job officiating weddings which require me to speak at weddings almost every weekend. I still have to fight off the butterflies. I think one of the reasons God opened this door for me was to teach me how to overcome my fear of speaking by facing it head on.
Have you found that God challenges you to face your fears head on?
I wrote this about fear in my book Out of Control (You can get a free preview of the book here):
In order for us to experience the power of God, Jesus knew he had to confront the issue of fear in our lives. Fear will control you if you let it. It will keep you from experiencing God’s power. Fear is a bully. If it goes unchallenged, it will continue to push you around, until you stand up to it in faith that is. Faith punches the bully of fear in the mouth and knocks it to the ground. Faith doesn’t eliminate fear; rather, it gives you the power to move forward in the face of fear. It keeps fear from controlling you.
Not all fear is bad. We do experience healthy fear in life: The fear that reminds us to proceed cautiously. The fear that keeps us from driving too fast or recklessly. The fear that keeps us from taking unnecessary risks. That is not the kind of fear Jesus was talking about overcoming.
He was talking about overcoming the fear that keeps you from going where God wants to take you. The fear that keeps you from taking risks because you are unsure if he will provide. The fear that keeps you from moving forward because you are worried that you will fail. The fear that causes you not to trust him to see you through whatever situation you face. Faith overcomes this kind of fear.
If you don’t deal with your fears, they will paralyze you. They will cause irrational thinking and actions, rob you of your faith, and lead you to doubt yourself and God. God may ask you the same thing he asked the disciples when they were facing the storm: “Why are you afraid?”
He wants you to know that he is there with you. He is in the boat with you in the midst of the storm. He wants you to know that there is no reason to be afraid when you trust in him.
God repeats to his people over and over throughout the Scriptures, “Don’t be afraid”. It’s the recurring theme in what he told Joshua before he crossed into the promised land as Israel’s new leader.
“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).
I hope that you too can face your fears and overcome them with faith like Joshua and many other have. Be strong and courageous and punch the bully fear in the mouth today!