As I look around my little corner of the world, it seems like there are more than a few challenges going on in the lives of most everyone I know.
Peeking beyond that to a broader view beyond my corner, I see even more challenges. It’s a bit like looking at range after range of mountains that do not end.
The challenges come in all sizes and shapes.
They come no matter what the season we are in.
Some challenges are ones we choose and are for some good goal, but others come unbidden by us.
It’s one thing to choose to run a marathon, take a rigorous college program, signup for the military, or go on a mission trip. Those are all tough, but it’s those other challenges we didn’t sign up for that can seem especially daunting.
None of us sign up for accidents, a job loss, a failed relationship, a diagnosis of cancer, the death of a child, abuse, or a betrayal in ministry, but some of these and others I did not name still come anyway.
What is amazing to me is that somehow we can be so shocked when life doesn’t work out or go according to our plans. What did we expect?
At it’s very best life is an adventure. At its worst, life is a trial or a series of trials that may feel never ending.
Somehow some part of us still likes to believe in the illusion that we have more control than we do or were ever meant to have. Some of us believe if we follow the rules, are just good enough, or make very few mistakes, everything will be fairly smooth.
When things don’t work out that way, fear, anger, or hopelessness can paralyze us.
We want life to be safe (at least relatively speaking). As believers, we especially want to feel the safety and protection of the Lord with a confidence He will keep us from harm. When life hands us a different menu, we question whether God is good or who we believe He says He is (more often than we might want to admit).
I love the C.S. Lewis Narnia series. It is so rich in meaning and depth. One favorite scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is when the children ask the beavers if Aslan is safe. The beavers respond that he isn’t safe, but he is good.
Having confidence in God’s goodness is one of the linchpins of faith. When it is absent, our trust falters, our faith melts away like an ice cream cone on a summer’s day, and hope flickers like the wick at the end of a candle.
Here’s the truth we forget. We are caught up in a great story, a great adventure. It has been that way from the very beginning. Our challenge is to accept the challenge, move forward in the adventure, and keep the linchpin in place so in Him we triumph against all the odds that might be arrayed against us.
You see, as I read through THE STORY (the Bible), I see that truth everywhere.
Life is scary despite all the beautiful, exciting, wonderful things we discover in the adventure.
If that sounds unrealistic, ask Noah, Moses, Jonah, or the long list of heroes of the faith we learn about through His Word. Sure, we know they are heroes now, but if you could ask them if they felt that way when the flood was raging, the Red Sea lay ahead, or the belly of a whale was home, I doubt they would tell you they felt no fear.
So how did they become heroes? What did they do with the fear they experienced? What can we learn from them on our own adventures?
I think the key is something I heard quite some time ago.
Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the byproduct we receive when we face our fear.
Ask any Medal of Honor recipient if they felt courageous when they threw themselves in harm’s way to save another and the answer will definitely be they did not. What happened in one terrifying moment’s time caused them to step into the situation for the sake of someone else, and God met them there.
That’s what He did with Joshua and every other favorite hero of the Bible.
I am reminded of one of Corrie Ten Boom’s stories of her life with her sister, Betsy, in Auschwitz during WW II. As Corrie was seeking to encourage Betsy as they faced unspeakable horrors and fears, she told her a story. She reminded her of trips they would make on a train with their father. Corrie brought back to Betsy’s memory how their father would not give them their tickets for the train until it was time to board the train because they wouldn’t need them until then.
Corrie gave a marvelous example of how God meets us just at that greatest point of fear and gives us just a few seconds to face it only to realize His gift of courage.
That’s the key to dismantling fear that cripples us.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor. 4:7 (ESV)