Overcoming fear-induced paralysis, through faith, to step into your potential
When we are going through tough times, it is easy to believe that God must have forgotten about us. That He has left us to fend for ourselves, left us to become dog’s meat or to be used as a doormat for someone more important. It can be hard to see anything beyond the immediacy of our own suffering, to feel beyond the injustice we experience.
The messenger didn’t justify anything that had happened, instead he ignored the questions and got right down to business, to deliver the heart of God’s message, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14 NIV)
Like Esther (another story which will be coming soon), Gideon replied with a few but’s of his own. ‘But Lord, how can I? I’m the weakest man around, weaker than all the other members of my family and tribe.’ Gideon could only see from his own perspective. He was totally unable to see what God saw, to see from the heavenly point of view. Gideon saw and felt, ‘I can’t, I’m not strong enough, I’m not good enough, I’m not brave enough. I just can’t.’
I admit, I often feel like that too. I feel I am not enough for the task ahead of me, to meet the expectations of others, to just make it through the day. I feel less than, inadequate, weak, useless, not good enough. I feel paralysed by the fear of what lies ahead, that I will not be able to complete the task God has for me, and so do nothing rather than brave possible failure.
Those are perhaps some of the easiest lies to believe and repeat. It is especially easy when others have actively encouraged you to believe the lies by saying you can’t do something, saying you’re not good at something, or simply not encouraging you to pick yourself up and try again. We come to believe that because we couldn’t do it last time or because we became discouraged last time, that we won’t be able to do it this time either.
When I was at school, I was led to believe and told repeatedly that I was stupid, both by my peers and on occasions by my teachers. The problem wasn’t particularly that they told the lies, it was that I believed them. I exaggerated their lies in my head, mulling them over again and again. I stopped working as hard, convinced I was too stupid to achieve anything significant.
It took many years before I felt I could face education again, to believe anything other than the inevitability of failure if I tried, to believe I wasn’t stupid. More significantly, it also required God’s gentle reminders to show me that He had a plan and purpose for my life.
It can become the easy response when faced with a difficult task or situation, to just give up. Sometimes, rather than thinking about the task and what it might entail, we give the immediate no thought required response of ‘I can’t, it’s just not me, I’m sure someone else would be better for the job’. The thing is though, if God picked you, there is a reason for that. With God there is no ‘he’ll do’ or ‘she’ll do’. His plan is carefully thought through, deliberate and brought into being over countless years. He has put people and experiences into place in your life to make you, not only the most obvious choice but also, the perfect choice. That can feel like a hard pill to swallow when you feel inadequate and ill-equipped for the job.
When I ask my children to try something new, the instant fear fuelled response is ‘I can’t’ or ‘no.’ I notice it when you offer them food they have never tried before. The standard response is, ‘I don’t like it,’ even before it has got near their mouths, let alone reached their taste buds. The saying in our house goes, ‘I don’t like it because I’ve never tried it before.’ The children’s first, and often only response, is the one of fear, the ‘no’ with umpteen excuses as to why they couldn’t possibly. Usually, looking as an outsider or even back on the excuses with hindsight, you know their excuses are terrible. Even as you yourself stand giving these same excuses, you often know that’s what you are doing, you find it is the only response that falls from your mouth readily.
Fear is hard to shake, overcome, and break once it takes hold of your heart. Fear slips out in the way you behave, your attitude, and your choice of words. It permeates through all that you do and all that you are. Obviously, fear of trying something new when it comes to food isn’t particularly a big deal but what about when it comes to fear of doing things outside your comfort zone at work? If we respond with fear to small things, the chances are we will respond in fear to all the bigger things too. We will take the path of least resistance, step backwards and simply claim we couldn’t possibly, just as Gideon did. I will be the first to admit, this is one I really struggle with. I choose not to take the spotlight because I feel afraid of stepping outside of where I am comfortable, stepping out into something new. God has slowly been building my confidence, and I know it will come. But at the same time, I also know that there will come a point where I must take a step of faith and say, ‘okay Lord, here I am, I will do as you ask.’