Thinking over my Kenyon experience and events of the past few weeks, I have come to accept that I need to learn to face my fears. Feelings of regret have been swirling around because I didn’t take full advantage of opportunities that from hindsight I now see could have had wonderful results. What kept me from taking the risk were worries and convictions that I could never be good enough. These worries were reinforced by how I viewed fear. I used to think that fear should be completely eliminated, that one should always be fearless and powerful. I especially thought this as I grew up hearing scriptures such as: “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7) and “Do not be anxious about anything; instead pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6). I thought these scriptures meant that fear was wrong and should be pushed aside. The more I tried to push fear out of my life, the more my anxieties built up and the more I felt like a failure. I realized that while these scriptures about fear are important to me, they’re easier said than done. Then I started to wonder if there was a different message to take away from these words.
As an introvert, part of my experience of life is processing things mentally and quietly. Some of the positives of that introspection are the calm air people tell me I have and a tendency to look at things with a fresh perspective. The downside is that too much contemplation turns into over-analyzing that encourages timidity and worrying. Even though I would like to find a way to not let my worries hold me back, I want to stay the same contemplative person I’ve been since I was little, the person God made me to be.
I don’t think God means for me to throw away my fear. Anxiety is a part of human life. It’s natural. I’m super conscious of my anxieties. Asking the fear to disappear is asking me to stop observing and introspectively processing, something crucial to myself. But I can’t let fear hold me back either because that prevents me from living my life. Instead of trying to eliminate fear, which only allows fear to manipulate me as I refuse to recognize its presence, I can acknowledge my anxiety, refuse to be so easily cowed and have the nerve to stand my ground. This is also easily said, but taking a proactive stance means I am not a slave to fear. My fears usually have to do with confronting my low self-esteem and social anxieties. Instead of wishing the fears would go away, I can exercise my capacity to be more social and to be more positive until the fears become less and less powerful. It’s not about saying that I am unafraid; it’s about admitting that I am terrified but trying my best anyway. It’s about learning to live life without giving up.
Perhaps anxiety is an act of grace because it encourages us to face our fears so that we can then choose to freely follow God where He is calling us.
(From an excerpt of the book “The Anxious Christian” by Rhett Smith that I found in the article Is There Room for Anxiety in the Church from Relevant Magazine. I look forward to reading the book in full to keep thinking over this subject.)