As a sophomore in college, I had a pretty fun job. I worked as a stagehand for the Braden Auditorium, a 3,500 seat theater at Illinois State University. While a student there, I had the unique opportunity to interact with some well known individuals and bands. Among my favorites were John Denver, Rush, and The Bodeans.
Typically, my job consisted of rolling sound and stage equipment on and off tour trucks, rolling cable, running house lights, and ensuring our celebrity friends were well cared for in their respective green-rooms. I felt fairly proficient in my roll…until one day when our staff was shorthanded.
That was the day I was asked to walk across the dreaded catwalk to set spotlights in place, approximately 45 feet above the stage.
It was also the day I discovered I possessed a very real fear: the fear of heights. No amount of gumption or chutzpah could have willed me to move beyond the point where my mind and body stopped communicating as one. My body screamed, “Stop!” My mind said, “Go”! I was frozen. I couldn’t move anything but my quivering lips. Fear instantly gripped me.
Finally, I was able to muster the words, “HELP!” There I stood, motionless, completely at the mercy of another person to pull me out of my current situation. I owed a big “thank you” to my college peers that day. Had my boss discovered my acrophobia, I would have been out of a job.
Fear is real and it’s rampant. It permeates our hearts and minds at so many basic levels. And, it seems, fear has a growing, voracious, and insatiable appetite. We fear the rise of brutal new terror groups. We fear global economic collapse. We fear failure, aging, intolerance, climate change, a terminal diagnosis. We fear releasing our children into our neighborhoods, unsure if they’ll return to us later.
Fear paralyzes. It cripples. It is a flaming spear of Satan, for he knows that fear steals and stifles the full life God intended for each of us (John 10:10).
In Max Lucado’s book Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear, he challenges his readers to reframe the concept of fear through the lens of faith. Lucado states,
Imagine your life, wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? If you could hover a fear magnet over your heart and extract every last shaving of dread, insecurity, or doubt, what would remain?
Is such a fearless life possible? What if fearlessness was defined not by the absence of our fears, but rather, living through them?
What if we really lived by faith, believing in the promises of Isaiah 41:10?
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
What if, by faith, we dared enough to step out of our personal boats of comfort, like Peter did, and believed that through Christ all things are possible?
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29)
When Peter looked through the storm, it was only then he saw Christ. Because of Peter’s faith and focus on Jesus, he actually defied the laws of gravity and was witness, up close and personal, to the Lord’s presence and power like no other human in history.
God desires all of his children to seek him with a childlike faith, to imagine the unimaginable. Peter’s source of courage was not merely reserved for the “spiritual greats.” What distinguished Peter from the rest of the disciples was his faith source. While the men in the boat trusted their nautical acumen and physical strength of the boat, Peter’s faith was in Christ himself, the unstirred and wholly available Christ, who heard Peter’s call.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-31)
God says “do not fear” or “fear not” over 365 times in the Bible. He gives us these commands because he knows we are a forgetful and distracted people struggling to keep our gaze on him. But let us find refuge in that we serve a wholly available and ever-present God who is the “fear extractor magnet” of our hearts. He alone enables us to live beyond our fears.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3)