At the park today, Kemper was getting ready to climb up the rock wall one last time before we headed home. As he approached the wall, he was startled by the sound of a wounded cicada lying on its back. The excitement and bravery of climbing the wall quickly turned to fear. He backed away, and hollered, “Mommy!” Instead of taking a straight-line path to me, which would have meant passing the noisy bug, he turned and walked all the way around the other playground equipment to get to me, avoiding the source of his fear completely. Once he got to me, he wanted to go back and see the bug, but only if I walked hand-in-hand with him. We cautiously approached it, with Kemper’s little fingers gripping mine. I kicked the bug over to show him it wouldn’t hurt us; it chirped loudly again; Kemper’s hand squeezed tighter. After a couple of minutes of reassurance and examination, we walked around the bug together and Kemper began the climb up the rock wall, the entire time looking back down to make sure the bug didn’t all of a sudden burst up to get him. I continued to tell him to keep climbing and not be afraid. He made it to the top, which from a toddler’s view probably felt miles away from the scary bug. His smile revealed just how proud he was not only to have climbed the rock wall, which he’s done countless times, but also to have conquered his fear of the cicada.
Kemper’s reaction to the noisy bug, is a lot like our reaction to fear. First, we’re startled and cry out, then we avoid whatever is causing the fear, and finally, if the goal is important enough, we overcome it. So many times in life, we get stuck in phase two – avoiding the cause of our fear. I continued teaching last year because I was too afraid of the unknowns of quitting my job. Instead of facing my fear, I avoided the source of it. So, how do we move past avoidance so that we can overcome? There’s only one way – we face it with the Lord by our side, holding our hand, telling us not to be afraid. If fear is standing in the way of you achieving a goal that you truly believe is led by the Lord, then the Lord is the only way to overcome that fear. If God wants you to go on that mission trip, confront a friend, fight an illness, start a new adventure, or quit your job, he will give you the courage to walk up to the noisy bug of fear and go right around it. He may even prompt you to kick the silly thing out of the way. The angel told Mary and Joseph not to be afraid when he shared the news of Mary’s pregnancy. Psalm 23:4 says, “…I will fear no evil; for you are with me…” In Deuteronomy 31:6, Moses tells the people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” In Isaiah 41:13, we see the Lord’s promise to take our hand as we face our fear, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
Countless times and in so many ways, God tells us through his word not to be afraid. We can have confidence that we are not facing our fears alone. We serve a God who understands fear. Don’t you think that Jesus felt fear in the Garden of Gethsemane as he faced the inevitability of his arrest and crucifixion? It is with the courage of the cross that he stands beside us with our hand in his and says, “Do not be afraid; you can do this; I will help you; we’ll face this together.” Though it may not be as simple or quick as kicking a noisy cicada out of the way for my little boy at the park, I know that God has and will give me the courage to face the fears in front of me when his will lies beyond them.
Lord, thank you for the promises in your word to never leave us and to stand by us during times of fear. I am so grateful for the fears you have already helped me face, and I pray for your courage as fear continues to present roadblocks. You are so powerful and mighty that we really do have nothing to fear with you by our side, holding our hand. I ask, Lord, that you strengthen others who are facing fears right now. Remind us that though our fears may be of the unknown, nothing is unknown to you. Lord guide us to follow your will through or around the fears that stand in our way.