Fearlessness is praised by our world, and it's funny because it's a completely non-human idea. Fear is not meant to be absent from our lives, but it's also not meant to control our lives. Fear is an innate, God-given human emotion and response produced to protect us from danger. Even animals experience fear. To be fearless (without fear) is to be foolish.
Yet, as someone that has lived with perpetual anxiety due to some traumatic situations, I know first-hand how fear plays a huge part of my life. Too big of a role, actually. I know what it is to desire fearlessness because my thought is that, "If I am fearless then I am brave" or "If I am fearless then I am free."
And what I will tell you after years of counseling, is that fearlessness is not the end goal. It is simply to able to listen to my fear, to acknowledge that it's there, to hear what it's trying to tell me, and then to assess if that message it true, and what I am risking.
The goal is simply to have fear and peace CO-EXIST.
So, why did this all of the sudden come to me? Well, I was sitting in my counselor's office on Monday, and I was sharing with her the intimacies of my relationship with God. I described a vision of a wounded puppy that is being adopted by a kind loving man, and even though I see all of my other puppy brothers and sisters running to him and licking hIs face and being overjoyed to see him, I am simply sitting across from him gently wagging my tail wanting to run to him, but I can't. I am thinking about it and his arm is stretched out. He is offering me assurances saying, "Don't be afraid," and, "It's okay." And I am scoping him out thinking, "I think this is the nicest man ever, but I still can't be so sure." But the man is patient with me. He wants me, and so He simply waits for me to come to Him when I am ready.
I tell this "vision" to my counselor with tears rolling down my face. I tell her how frustrated I am with myself that the one person I love most in this life is God. He is the one truly good thing that I know. But after all of the separation and divorce and pain, I am so terrified of the future that lies ahead - the future that He has for me - is more of the same. I explain to my counselor how I just want to be fearless and to trust Him. And I feel ashamed that I can't TRUST God fully. I can trust Him with some things, but not all things. I tell her that to not trust God feels like I'm a bad Christian or something. I lack faith like Thomas and Peter when he is walking on water. And I feel ashamed by that. And she asked me, "Do you think God is upset with you for feeling fear?" And I said, I don't know."
And that's when she said to me, "Why in the world would God make you feel shame for experiencing an emotion that He gave us? He gave us fear to help us." And then she said, "Why else do you think that God says over and over and over again, "Do not fear for I am Your God,"? She went on to say that God is such a sweet, loving God that He offers assurance to us constantly in the Bible by saying, Do not fear for I am with you always...Do not fear. I will not fore sake you." He says all of these things to even his closest friends, His disciples, even after they have watched Him perform miracles and He has shown them nothing less than integrity and kindness and love. These are loving assurances that our God makes to us in scripture and even in my heart as I talk to Him because He knows I have fear and He doesn't expect me not to. Rather, He hopes that I can acknowledge my fear, tell him my fear, and then he will meet me with His assurance of love and peace.
I think that process has applications for all kind of scenarios. To be vulnerable on social media or on my blog for example...
-What is the fear? To be misunderstood or rejected by friends, family and strangers.
-Why am I writing? To help others
-Is the reason why I am doing this more important to me than the potential rejection of peers? Yes
-Will I hurt anyone else for writing this? No
-What will I gain from writing this? Feeling heard and helping others
-Am I okay with the risk of loss? Yes
See how there is fear? It's no absent at all. It's simply acknowledged and replaced with assurances of the good and peace that can come from the risk.
This is the message that we need to tell people with anxiety and fear. For anyone that has risked their life to save a life, it's not that they weren't afraid. It's that they were at peace with the loss they might experience in hopes of gaining something better - saving a life.