One summer, I joined a group of ladies on a retreat at a beautiful camp not too far from my home. The weather was sunny, the food delicious, and the friends enjoyable. The camp provided several activities, including a rock wall that led to a short zip line. I have just enough of an adventurous spirit that this appealed to me, so I got in line and climbed the wall.
At the top, a staff member helped me into a harness and secured it to the wires that would guide me safely to the ground below. Friends cheered me as I stepped out onto the launch pad.
One single step stood between me and an exhilarating ride a hundred yards down the field. But my courage was giving way to fear. I struggled to take that last necessary step off the safe, albeit small, podium. Why does the ground always appear so much farther away when you look down than a platform appears when you look up?
How very little can be done under the spirit of fear. ~Florence Nightingale, English social reformer and founder of modern nursing
When I look back over my life, I find fear raising its ugly head time and again. Just like it suddenly appeared on that zip line, it likes to hide behind innocuous pieces of furniture and exciting adventures, waiting for the most inopportune moment to jump out at me. To limit me. To hold me back on what it portrays as a safe platform.
It’s scary stepping off what you know to try something new, even if you don’t necessarily like where you are. And sometimes, instead of leashing us to what appears safe and secure, fear sends us whirling in uncertainty.
Fear inflates the worst possibilities
Have you ever watched the movie The Wizard of Oz? In the old 1939 classic starring Judy Garland, a young girl named Dorothy is transported to the magical land of Oz where she meets Glinda the Good Witch of the North. Glinda directs her to the Great and Powerful Oz, a wizard who might be able to get her home to Kansas again. However, her journey is fraught with peril because she’s unfortunately angered the Wicked Witch of the West.
Along the road to the Emerald City where the wizard lives, Dorothy meets three friends who not only help her but who also hope the wizard can help them: the brainless Scarecrow, the heartless Tin Man, and the cowardly Lion. Fighting through trees who don’t want to share their fruit, flying monkeys who work for the Wicked Witch, and poppies who magically lull them to sleep, the four finally reach Emerald City and gain an audience with the wizard. However, he wants payment for his services. He demands the broomstick of the Wicked Witch.
The four friends set out once again, only to be captured. The Wicked Witch sets fire to Scarecrow, and Dorothy grabs a bucket of water and throws it on the flames. The water also happens to splash the Wicked Witch, who melts away into oblivion, leaving Dorothy and her friends the coveted broomstick. They joyfully return to Emerald City to see the wizard.
But not even this goes smoothly for the heroes. The wizard puts them off, until finally, Toto, Dorothy’s cairn terrier, pulls back a curtain to reveal that the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is nothing but a simple man pushing buttons and twirling dials. Everyone who watches this scene feels the disappointment of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion.
When this happens in real life, we too are left confused. Fear steals whatever courage or momentum we may have had as it points out all we did not know. Our faith gets buried in suspicion and unease. If the Great and Powerful Oz who promised to send us where we wanted to go is nothing but a man behind a curtain pressing buttons, then how can we ever possibly tackle the obstacle before us? It’s too big. We’re too little. It’s too scary, and we can’t face it. It’s like Goliath: fierce, strong, and highly trained.
Oh, if we could only remember when fighting fear that we have the ability to be David.
Unlike Goliath, David was an average man. Worse, he was a young man, the youngest of his father’s eight sons, who hadn’t even joined the Army yet. We know he was handsome and ruddy (1 Samuel 16:12), although we can’t say whether his coloring was his skin’s usual undertone or a sign of his job in the sun.
David’s three oldest brothers were with Saul’s army, facing off with the Philistines over a steep valley. When David arrived to deliver food to his siblings and heard Goliath’s dare, David did not lose heart like the rest of the Israelites around him. One of his brothers tried to dissuade him, as did King Saul, likely out of their knowledge of battle, their experience with the Philistines, and the evidence of their eyes. Remember, David was average, and Goliath was not.
Thankfully, neither his brother nor the king deterred David. He began by assuring King Saul that he wasn’t as unprepared as any of them thought. This was not the first time David faced a giant and won. First Samuel 17:34–37 says,
David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
This brief encounter with Saul gives us a critical strategy that we need to remember when fear raises its ugly head. You see, David went farther than anyone else around him—farther than choosing to face Goliath in the first place. David fought his way, by his rules. Not the way common to experienced soldiers of the day like Saul and Goliath.
Think about it. Goliath was trained in battle. He knew hand-to-hand combat, and everything about his armor was designed to protect him from sword and lance strikes. Add in Goliath’s size and incredible reach, David wouldn’t have stood a chance up close and personal in any kind of traditional warfare.
But God had trained David differently, which exposed Goliath’s weaknesses.
God is your Rock, your Shield, and your Defender too. In your darkest moments, you will find that He is there. ~Sheila Walsh, God Loves Broken People
We must recognize that our enemy studies us and learns us. He makes fear personal so that it distracts and depresses us. But our Heavenly Father knows this. He gifts us with a training program that turns things around, that uses our strengths and strikes at our enemy’s weaknesses. Just like he did for David.
Remember when Toto revealed the average, ordinary man pretending to be the Great and Powerful Oz? That’s not who we serve, and it’s not who fights on our behalf. No! As Sheila Walsh points out, “Behind our pretty picture of a comfortable God roars a Lion whose fierce love burns with more intensity and magnificence than anything we ever could imagine” (God Loves Broken People, 104).
David didn’t need to know sword skills. He just needed to trust what God had put into him and the training He’d provided when caring for sheep. And so do we. We have to fight our Goliaths the way God has trained us to, not the way the world expects us to.
In other words, don’t be ashamed to take a sling and stone to a sword fight.
Fighting fear is a reality for us on this earth, and it’s a battle God intended we win! Read more about my battles with this enemy and learn some strategies that may help you keep it in its proper place.
Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
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