Beautiful spring days in North Alabama are too glorious to be spent indoors. Everything buds with new life and color: The azaleas flower, and the dogwoods bloom pure white against a clear blue sky. On one such morning when I was 14, my Dad and I decided to spend the day outdoors riding horses at our farm.
The horse I had grown up riding was predictable and safe — a spiritless old plug that had died earlier in the year. This left only one horse for me to ride — a young black mare named Ole. “Ole” is the Spanish word used to cheer on a matador as he enters into danger. This name turned out to be prophetic of the danger I would face that day.
I had always feared Ole because she was high-spirited and hard to control. So, with dread, I rode her out into an open field. When she took off, I was so stunned with fear I couldn’t pull her back. I panicked. I remember seeing the long, green grass part like waves and rush around us as we traveled at breakneck speed. Finally we stopped, or rather she did, and I went flying over her head and hit the ground with an aching thud.
Fear can make us do irrational things — like panicking on the back of a runaway horse. For me that day, it was paralyzing, actually trapping me in a dangerous situation. Those who don’t learn to confront and control fear will be controlled by it. Fear cripples our lives and keeps us away from blessings. The answer to fear is found in an unlikely place. If you are a child of God, He has placed the answer in your heart. To each of His own children, God has given faith; we can learn to use that faith to defeat the power of fear.
Fear is said to be the root cause of sin. Sin is failing to trust in God, in both big ways and in small. When we act in fear, we are not acting in faith. The two are mutually exclusive. Sin is displayed by the amount of fear in our lives.
My husband, Mike, has always struggled with a fear of flying. For years he thought if he could be the pilot, he wouldn’t be afraid because he would be in control. He has come to realize that none of us is in control of anything — only God is. Proclaiming that God is sovereign over his life has really helped him with his fear. He quotes Scripture when we board a plane and thanks God afterward for His promises. He now realizes his fear issue was really a faith issue. We all have the power to choose to trust God. Faith is the way to break through fear. It overcomes and defeats it because faith is more powerful.
The Gift of Faith
God has given all believers the gift of faith. Romans 12:3 reads, “God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” Even though we have this gift, we must learn how to use it. We release the power of our faith, as Mike did, by using faithful words followed by deliberate actions. We all feel the emotion of fear, but it becomes sin when we walk in it, act upon it, and display it in our lives. The devil often uses fear as a control mechanism. When God asks us to step outside of fear by faith, Satan will attempt to stop our obedience.
Where is God asking you to step out in faith? Many times it is in that place you fear the most. Years ago, I was asked to teach at a women’s retreat. I was so scared of public speaking I couldn’t sleep or eat. I experienced the emotion of fear in full force. Thankfully, I did not continue to walk in it or let it control what I did. I got up on shaky legs in front of those women and did what God called me to do. God was pleased that day, not because I made a fantastic talk, but because I walked that day out in faith.
Harnessing the power of our faith is often done by intentionally using words. Surely none of us would expect God to bless words of fear. On the contrary, God blesses us when our words display trust. To confront fear in our lives, we must be intentional. Speaking out loud can help. Saying truths such as, “The Spirit I have received keeps me from being a slave to fear,” or “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid,” will give us power to walk on and do what we need to do. God has given us enough faith to walk through and overcome anything that happens to us.
Many times in our lives, circumstances will throw us to the ground, just like Ole threw me. A painful divorce is thrust upon you. A friend secretly betrays you. You lose a good job. It is so tempting to stay right there in the dirt, where we have fallen. Courage is when we get up, move beyond our feelings of fear, and walk on.
In my case, Dad made me get back on that horse. In order to get home, I had to learn to control Ole. I had to persevere and fight with her until I overcame her attempts to throw me off again (which she tried to do). Riding was the last thing I wanted to do that day, and it could have given me a lifelong fear of riding. If I had refused to climb up and ride, I would have missed out on something I have enjoyed immensely for the past 35 years.
In what situation is God — your Father — calling for you to get back up? If you choose to climb back up and ride on, great blessing will be unleashed in your life. Where is fear holding you down? Your way through is found in your faith in God. Intentionally confront phobias and fears with words and actions that reflect your powerful gift of faith.
Doesn’t Always Mean It’s Easy
After the accident, I had feelings of fear every time I rode a horse. But I reasoned that if I could ride on that day after being thrown off, then I could ride on any day. This lesson in facing fear has been pivotal in my life. This past summer, I went cheerfully on horseback for a 3-day pack trip in the Yellowstone backcountry with my family. I am thankful for overcoming a fear that could have kept me from the blessing and joy of the journey.
We need encouragement to help us walk in faith and confront our fear. I am thankful for the encouragement my father gave me that day. Our Father God also offers us encouragement in His word. He knows the battle and the journey through fear is difficult. This is what He says to us:
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
May the promises of God keep us faithfully trusting in Him as we confront and conquer fear.