'Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.' Psalm 27 verse 3
Sometimes the line between self-preservation and fear seems a close line to walk.
I can be hard on myself, thinking I 'should' be able to do this thing, or face this situation, as I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, right?
Yet when I stop and think about the difficult moments that called for a reaction of self-preservation – it wasn't an excuse for fear – instead it was me acting on what I needed at the time.
Yet this grey area lingers, a wobbly line where self-preservation mode steps right over into the fear zone. And the fear about your own situation suddenly dictates the choices you make.
You're fearful of seeing your ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend at church, so you don't go at all. You're fearful of putting yourself out there and chatting to those new people, so you never bother sticking around long enough to get to know them. You never sign up to that half marathon as it just seems too hard.
Self-preservation? Or fear?
You don't consider the choices you make, you just make them. You go into retreat zone, stepping out of your God-given authority and go into a fear-driven version of yourself.
Fired up by the recent Sistas Women's Conference in Auckland and hearing Priscilla Shirer talk about how the enemy can use fear to paralyse us, I started typing up my 'Fears to Conquer' list there and then in her talk. Immediately, I rattled off my 'top ten' fears onto my iPhone notes app (meaning I could handily add in all the other things that scared me at any given moment...) These were the things that I was aware of wanting to do but feeling too intimidated to do them, or not being prepared to step out of my comfort zone to do them.
Signing up to a dance class, attempting an ocean swim, going to the swimming pool (I know – it just fell into the too hard basket) – it even included having to strike up a conversation with two girls I always found intimidating. While these things may not have huge implications in holding me back in life, it was my motive behind them that was driven by fear that worried me. The list of things were what I'd wanted to do for a long time, but something had held me back from giving them a go – more than just simple procrastination. It definitely wasn't self-preservation.
I know that stepping out to take a risk in these small areas was significant. These things I was scared of had been unseen road blocks in my mind, areas I'd avoid but would keep popping up unannounced. By giving them a go, instead of making decisions based around fear, I could try fun things, and make choices to be free of fear and not let random things hold me back.
Breaking the intimidation and moving away from fear
Sometimes it comes down to simply making a choice. Plain and simple. Literally signing up for that class, going over to those people, making that first phone call. Writing a list and working through it. Taking the focus away from self and how it feels for you and deciding to make that choice that God has your back and he won't fail you. That there is a plan for your life and it definitely doesn't have a footnote list of what you were too scared to attempt or try.
We may be currently right in the depths of the valley and all we can do is keep walking and not sit down, which means that we may have to be realistic with ourselves about what we can and can't do. But when we step out of the valley season – which we will – don't convert what you were not doing in self-preservation mode into not doing because of fear. Don't allow this intimidation to rule your choices and let it lead to a restricted version of yourself and your current life.
As I processed some news yesterday (I didn't handle too well), a text message came through from a friend telling me to be anxious over nothing and to take all my worries to God. My initial response was to think what standard Christian drivel and what does she know (sorry to that friend!)... I was so caught up in my own pity party, my intimidation and fear of the situation wouldn't even let me see God's incredible generosity that he tells us that we don't need to be anxious. My response was to scream out to a silent, mocking 'God, you don't know what I'm going through! God, even you don't know what this is like.'
After my momentary lapse of 'yeah right', my reason kicked in, as I do trust in what God tells us we can do. It dawned on me in that moment that I had a choice to make, as his word never changes, but I can change in my response to his truth. As soon as I cried out that I trusted him in all situations, peace came and my fear left.
Like the Psalm at the top, the Bible tells us that we will have crap going on all around us. For most of us, it won't be an army, but it may be a spiritual army, with the enemy trying to squash us where we not only give up, but we stop choosing to believe that God is present in those low moments.
So I've bought the goggles, been for a swim, talked to those girls, and been back to church... What's on your list?
Originally from The Lake District in the UK, Amanda Robinson works in Publishing in Auckland and is passionate about seeing Christians bring salt and light into the media, arts and creative industries.
Amanda Robinson's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amanda-robinson.html