I’ve never thought of myself as particularly brave before.
I don’t mind heights. By nature I’m pretty adventurous and will give anything a go, once! So there’s never really been anything I’ve been scared of.
The classics like snakes, spiders, sharks - they don’t phase me, in fact I’ve always had a strange fascination with them.
I also live a life in the urban West which doesn’t see me regularly having to confront those kinds of ‘dangers’, so when it comes to facing my fears I wouldn’t say I have classic phobias.
A Lightbulb Moment
Many years ago, I went on a weekend away where one of the activities was abseiling. Jumping at the chance I couldn’t wait to get the gear on and give it a go, looking forward to the adrenaline rush I expected. It didn’t disappoint. A ‘’sometimes 7’’ on the enneagram (purests don’t be hating!) I am in my element when doing something that thrills me!
After I finished my descent I felt exhilarated and fully alive. But in reality the only thing I’d overcome was the fake rock face in front of me. I hadn’t felt very brave because I wasn’t scared. I did, however, feel the buzz. Except that buzz didn’t last for long.
The friend who I’d gone with sat paralysed at the top of the wall for what felt like an eternity, unable to move or make that initial lean over the edge. She was there for so long debating with the instructor, being encouraged by the team and externally processing whether she could or couldn’t make the drop.
To cut a long story short she did finally lean over the wall and complete her abseil to the bottom unscathed.
I was really pleased for her that she’d overcome her fear, but something ugly in me was brewing… I felt angry and jealous. That despite the fact we’d just completed the exact same thing she was now being praised like she’d won a lifetime achievement award and championed with all the encouragement you’d find at a preschool Sports Day.
Eesh... Looking back on that now, admitting how I felt is embarrassing. I didn’t realise I could harbour such awful feelings. But as I’ve processed the story, and with the experience of maturity I realise what was exposed in those moments.
I was, in fact, scared.
I was scared of not being seen. I was scared of not being affirmed. I was scared of not being validated.
My fear wasn’t the wall.
My fear isn’t of heights.
My fear is of people and what they think of me.
My fear is of not being encouraged or championed.
Often, as adults, we move on from more traditional fears like being scared of the dark, and become consumed by fears relating to provision, relationships and health.
But God cares about the details of each of our lives. He knows the worries you have about your struggling finances. He sees the tricky dynamics of painful family feuds. And he cares about those physical niggles that plague your body through the night. And through all of those fears He is with us. He promises to be our sword and shield. His promise to work all things together for His glory and our good remains, no matter what our circumstances tell us.
Look beyond what you see
But there are also more internal battles we can face. Fears surrounding our worth and value. Fears rooted in insecurity. Fears designed to hold us hostage in darkness. Fears that are intended to disarm us and make us ineffective for the advancement of the Kingdom.
If I’m bound up with worrying about what others think of me then the enemy can silence me. In moments when I could speak life I stay quiet. If I’m trapped in self-doubt then I’ll be too afraid to step out and use my gifts to glorify Jesus.
When I’m feeling trapped then I’ll be rooted to the same spot, unable to take responsibility for my own personal growth and remain limited in my ability to fully impact those around me in a positive way.
When fear wins it’s not just our loss. It’s those around us who could be changed that lose out too.
God never loses, but our obedience and ability to connect deeper with Him is compromised.
The antidote to fear
Bravery, courage and boldness are actually not the opposite of fear. The antidote to fear is love. God’s love.
After all, He IS love. So the way to combat fear is with God.
If we’re fearful or worried we don’t need to muster our own heroism. What we need is to tune into God. The Holy Spirit will always be with us. It’s our role to acknowledge His presence in every situation - especially those which scare us.
Making it less about circumstance and more about character is a great opportunity for us to open up our hearts to God’s love. If your fear is about how others perceive you then you need God’s voice of love to be the loudest in your life.
More than any other time in my life I’ve recently heard those closest to me say “Ro, you’re so brave”. I’ve never known quite how to respond because it’s not classic bravery.
My bravery has looked more like leaning into difficult conversations than leaning over cliff edges. More like confronting hard relationships than confronting a room full of spiders. It’s in facing my own mistakes rather than facing venomous snakes.
But having tasted a fraction of what it is to live unafraid, I believe it’s the only way to be fully free.
To be fearful and do it anyway.
To be scared and speak out anyway.
To be worried and trust in His goodness anyway.
The only way to live a bold and courageous life is to be enveloped in His love. To trust that His strength IN you completely triumphs over any weakness.
To believe His best for you is better than any ‘good’ you will find elsewhere.
Know that pushing through the fear will lead to breakthrough. Certainly for you.. But who knows? You might hold the key waiting to unlock someone else’s breakthrough too.
So, what are you waiting for? Be bold. Be courageous. Be loved. It’s in His love that He Calls you brave.
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