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The Fear Factor

“There may be crocodiles in the water!” The young teen exclaims as she shakes her head refusing to re-enter the water again. Her parents tell her she is being silly, that there are no crocodiles in the water. But, she quickly informs everyone that she did research and a crocodile had been found once in a North Carolina lake. To add to her argument, she points to a small pink spot on her arm and declares a fish has already bitten her. At this point there is no use in trying to dissuade her fears- her mind is made up and fear has won. So now she sits on the bow of the boat, huddling under a towel and simply watches as everyone else enjoys the beauty of the day- swimming and splashing in the cooling water. No crocodiles in sight!

Fear is a very powerful and multifaceted thing- it is both an instinct and an emotion and can be both good and bad.

Fear can be a good thing when it is instinctual- a God given warning system to tell us that we are in danger- our “fight or flight” response that requires no cognitive thought.

Yet, when fear is an emotion it can be a tool of self-destruction, especially when left unchecked. Because emotional fear paralyzes, hinders, robs, distorts and misleads.

Interestingly, the command “Fear Not” is found in the Bible 365 times!

Coincidence this number mirrors the number of days in a year? I think not, as God knows we are naturally fearful creatures and that we need a DAILY reminder not to be afraid!

I haven’t always done a good job of keeping my fear in check and unfortunately, I’ve had to learn the hard way just how powerful fear really is in one’s life.

In looking back over my life, I realize that my greatest mistakes and greatest regrets have all come because of choices I’ve made from a place of fear!

Fear has always led me astray.

Take for example, the biggest mistake/regret of my life; a mistake born from immaturity and fear--the fear of being alone.

You see, at the age of 18, after graduating from basic training and getting orders to report (for at least three years to Alaska) I chose to marry my high school sweetheart. I rationalized that we were in love and discounted all the advice and counsel from others to wait. I was so afraid of being alone, of going so far away from home in the days of only telephones and written mail, that I clung to the idea that all would be ok if someone that I knew was with me. I put my trust in the wrong place and made the biggest mistake of my life. I quickly realized my error and a dissolution was filed. A marriage that was supposed to be for life and bring comfort and joy lasted only a few months and brought nothing but pain and shame. It will be a stain that I will always carry with me and if I could go back and do it all over again, I would choose to trust God.

Live and learn.

Over the years, I’ve made other mistakes as I’ve learned to navigate and see fear for what it really is and learn the importance of putting all my trust in God.

My best piece of advice… NEVER MAKE DECISIONS OUT OF FEAR!

If you do, you will find that you’ve either made a terrible mistake or missed out on something great! Will happen every time!

This is a “go to” Bible verse for me: Joshua 1:9 – “I command you- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I remember when my daughter was invited to join the People to People Ambassador Program; she was only 16 years old and would travel to Europe for 2 weeks (essentially with strangers.) She was terrified because she had never traveled overseas before, didn't know anyone and really didn't want to go. I was terrified to allow my only child to go alone to another country without her parents there to protect her.

We put aside our fears and she went.

Only two years later she was invited to go to China for a photography exchange program. Again, we were all terrified for her to travel alone especially to a communist country.

Yet once again, fears were overcome and she went.

Had we all been too afraid for her to go she would have missed out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Opportunities to experience the culture, art and history in Paris, Italy and Greece and even to walk along the Great Wall of China! How many people can say they’ve done that, especially before the age of 18!

If fear would have won she would have missed out on so much, but most importantly, she would have missed out on the lesson that fear hinders, paralyzes and robs you of so much.

I am at least thankful for one thing, that my greatest mistake granted me the ability to see fear for what it really is and the ability to teach my daughter something different. To appreciate that fear misleads and faith in God gives us the courage and wisdom to make better choices and the ability to boldly face our future trusting in the right source.

I’m proud to say that when my daughter got her orders to report to Utah (all alone) she put her trust in the right place and didn’t walk in the footsteps of her mother!

When she was sent to a war zone in Afghanistan, she was able to be bold and courageous, placing all her trust in God and not allowing fear to paralyze her!

And each time my daughter was sent far from home (even into a war zone) we were able to put our fears in check and trust that God’s hands were upon her and that He would keep her safe.

Isaiah 41:10 tells us “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

I’m pleased to say that as for me (and my family), we’ve learned the hard lessons and truth about fear. We cling to God's 365 commands to "Not be Afraid" and when faced with decisions and choices, we purposefully look to God as our source for wisdom and guidance. Knowing that our God is bigger than any fear!

When fear is in its rightful place--

We can be bold and confident;

We can play carefree in the waters of life and not be afraid of the imaginary monster lurching in the deep, and

We can live free from the mistakes and regrets that fear breeds.

What about you?

I’m praying for freedom from the chains of fear. That we will always see the truth that emotional fear robs us from trusting in God and keeps us from His best. May we always remember that our God is bigger than any fear that we may face!

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. O God, I praise your word. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” – Psalm 56:3-4

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