I cringed lower into the seat of my grey metal desk, yearning for the faded yellow floor to swallow me into oblivion. A crimson heat spread from my forehead to my neck; my legs trembled uncontrollably. I struggled to bring my lurching stomach under control – vomiting all over my classmates was about the only thing that could worsen this nightmare.
My panic attack was provoked by my fifth-grade teacher’s request that I come to the front of the class and recite a few lines from Emily Dickinson’s A Slash of Blue. I knew the verses – that wasn’t the problem. Just the night before I had recited the poem to my three-year old sister, Dianne. But an adoring baby sister is one thing. A classroom full of peers was something else entirely.
I finally dragged myself to the front of the class and managed to avoid crying while I laboriously choked out each word.
My terror of public speaking worsened over the years, driving me to Herculean efforts to avoid situations that posed even a remote risk of having to say a few words to a group. At university, I refused to sign up for courses that required oral presentations.
You can imagine my surprise and dismay, years later, when God spoke to my heart during prayer that He was preparing me to speak to women’s groups. Why me?
The first time I accepted an invitation to speak at a women’s conference will be forever branded in my memory. From that moment until the event eight weeks later, anxiety plagued me 24 hours a day. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I lost weight. I was a nervous wreck. As the day of the event drew nearer, I began to entertain fantasies of a natural disaster forcing a cancellation, like the worst blizzard in Canadian history striking the city of Calgary and shutting everything down.
But to my utter disappointment, there were no blizzards, earthquakes or tornados, and the dreaded night arrived. Finally, I was introduced. The walk to the front of the room seemed 20 miles long. When I stood before the podium, my hands shook so badly that I had to use both of them to pick up the microphone.
I looked up at a very intimidating audience of about three hundred or so ladies and opened my mouth. My legs shook uncontrollably. My face was beet red with embarrassment.
Somehow, I stumbled and mumbled and sputtered and stuttered and choked my way through an introduction. Suddenly, about one minute later, an amazing miracle occurred. My entire being was flooded with a river of peace, flushing away the fear and filling me with a sense God’s peace, presence, and power.
It was an amazing miracle, and one I will never forget.
But what if I had never faced that fear? What if I had remained huddled in a safe cocoon, and refused to step out of my comfort zone? What if I was unwilling to risk looking like an idiot? And I did look like an idiot. I have no doubt that my life would be very different today, for I have discovered that conquering fear in one area results in breakthroughs over fear in other areas as well.
What about you? What gifts are buried beneath your fears? If you don’t confront those fears, they will rob your dreams, repress your potential and hinder you from discerning your destiny.
Faith = Action
Overcoming fear means changing our focus. Instead of depending on our own strengths or weaknesses, we trust and rely on the strength and power of God working in and through us.
I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me – I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me (Phil. 4:13 AMP).
Genuine “God-dependence” produces faith and boldness. Remember when Joshua and the Israelites got ready to enter the land of promise?
Separating them from the land of promise was a formidable barrier – the Jordan River. It was flood season at the time God instructed them to cross the Jordan, and the river was overflowing its banks. No bridges, airplanes, or boats were available to transport them to the other side of the flooding waters. If they tried swimming, they would surely drown.
God’s instructions for crossing the river defied common sense. He said that the priests were to go first and step into the flooding waters, then God would cause the water flowing downstream to stop and pile up into a heap. In other words, the miracle would happen after they stepped into the raging floodwaters.
Many people are waiting for a miracle before taking a step of faith. Human nature says, “Lord, we’ll wait on the banks of the Jordan until you part the waters. Once you part the waters, then we’ll step into the river.”
Faith doesn’t work that way. Someone once said, “God is the fastest chess player in the world – it’s always your move.” You move – then He provides His supernatural power to enable you to do the impossible.
What dreams has God placed in your heart? Are you willing to believe His promises? Are you ready to face your fear?
Decide today that fear will no longer dictate your choices and actions. Place your total dependence on God, and trust in His grace and power as you take the next step on the path to your destiny.