When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise - in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.
As I stood on the edge staring down at the dark, watery abyss below me I felt my knees lock and my feet fuse to the floor, fear and panic taking over. This was not normal! Why would anyone throw themselves off the safety of dry land to plunge numerous feet into the unknown? As my heart rate quickened and my palms began to sweat, I felt the eyes of twenty teenagers on me. There was no backing down now.
I should probably back up and set the scene. A few summers ago, as part of a previous job, I had taken a group of teenagers on a team building, adventure week away. It had been a great week so far. I had been appointed team leader of a group of around 20 teenagers and had proudly watched as they formed new friendships, worked together to overcome obstacles, and faced their fears. Now, on the penultimate day it had been announced that our final activity would be a jetty jump, which is pretty much exactly as it sounds - jumping off the end of a jetty and plummeting 20-25ft into the sea. As team leader I had been asked to go first to demonstrate. There was just one slight problem (one I don’t often share with people…until now), I have a real fear of being submerged in water when I don’t know where the bottom and/or edges are. Basically, exactly this situation. Under no circumstances did I want to do this, in fact, the thought left me feeling physically sick. However, I had spent the previous six days encouraging the young people in my care to do exactly what I was now being asked to do – face their fears.
I was doing this.
So, after standing on the edge for what felt like an eternity (and in reality, was probably only a minute or two), I muttered a desperate prayer and stepped off the edge. As I was falling, the surface of the water rushing up to meet me, I recall thinking “what am I doing?” Then came the crash of the impact, followed by a moment of stillness before I frantically propelled myself back to the surface, gasping for air. It was over. I had done it! I had faced my fear. And, I kind of wanted to do it again!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
It would have been so easy to have given in to the fear and walked away from that experience, and no one would have blamed me in the slightest. Yet, looking back, I see that I would have missed out. I would have missed out on the experience, on the sense of achievement of having conquered something I wasn’t sure I could do, and on the chance to humble myself before that group of young people and show them that adults can be afraid too.
We all experience fear. However, we have a choice of how we respond in the face of that fear. A friend told me this quote once and it has always stuck with me, “Waiting for fear to go should not stop us from moving forward. Be courageous, do it afraid.” If I’d waited for the fear to go, I’d probably still be standing on that jetty now. Sometimes, faith means stepping into the unknown even whilst afraid, and trusting that God has got us. Often that’s where the breakthrough happens, and we experience a new level of freedom.
What fears might you be facing today? How might God be calling you to face that fear?
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”