I was helping a young rider tighten her horse's girth at a 4-H horse camp when a small voice behind me asked, "Will you walk alongside my horse? He's jumpy today."
As I turned around, I expected to see a horse prancing sideways. Instead, I saw a young girl timidly holding the reins of a well-behaved, but somewhat fidgety, horse.
I immediately knew what the problem was. The girl was afraid of the horse and the horse was responding to that fear by acting "jumpy."
Over the next few days, I showed the girl how to ride in synch with her horse's natural motion, rather than brace against it.
I stayed at her side—encouraging her, instructing her. My goal for her was simple. By the end of camp, I wanted her to trot her horse once around the arena without me walking alongside. But in order to do that, she would have to put her confidence in me, trusting that I knew what I was doing and that the results would be positive.
She tried, but in the end, she allowed her fears to hold her back. She was never in any danger, but she was so convinced that her horse might run away with her, that she couldn't step out in faith to trust that I knew what I was doing.
I wonder, as Christians, how many times do we allow our fears to stand in the way of our reaching the spiritual goals that God has set for us? How many times has God walked alongside us, telling us, "Yes, you can do it!" but we have blocked His efforts to help us by allowing our fears to prevail?
Killers of Confidence
Worry, fear and doubt are the top killers of confidence and faith. Negative thinking is a source of fear, and it leads to a lack of courage and faith.
In Numbers 13 and 14, the Bible tells what happened to one group of people who allowed fear to prevail. Their fears kept them—and most of their fellow countrymen—from inheriting a land promised to them by God Himself!
The Israelites were standing at the threshold of the physical Promised Land. Just a short time before, they had been personally rescued by God Himself from a lifetime of slavery. They had been eyewitnesses to God's power as He destroyed their former captors—the mighty nation of Egypt!—in the Red Sea. Now, God was instructing them, through Moses, to select a leader from each tribe to check out the land He was giving them.
Those 12 leaders had every reason to be courageous in their quest. The God of the universe was walking with them, encouraging them.
Yet, when those leaders returned from their 40-day mission, only two of them came back with courageous enthusiasm and faith that God was with them. The other 10 saw only the obstacles. The people were huge. The cities were fortified. They didn't stand a chance! They would be destroyed!
Just as the girl at the 4-H horse camp couldn't see past her fear to trust me to know what I was doing, the 10 Israelite leaders couldn't see past their fears to trust that the very Creator and Sustainer of the universe knew what He was doing.
Unlike the girl at camp, however, the Israelites paid a far heavier price for their fear. Their fear was not merely falling off a runaway horse. They failed to put their faith in God and they spread their fear throughout the entire camp of Israel. For that, Israel was sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all the adults over age 19—with the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb—died!
Dealing With Worry and Fear
Worry is a natural human reaction that leads to fear, and sometimes there are reasons to fear. But it's how we deal with the fear that matters to God. Christians must be overcomers. We can change the way we think and stop worrying and being fearful by reading and believing God's Word. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Worry and fear do not reflect this "sound mind."
When Queen Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah after he had killed the prophets of Baal, Elijah's first reaction was to flee into the wilderness. Like the children of Israel, Elijah had just witnessed a great miracle from God. Fire had descended from heaven and consumed the drenched sacrifice as well as all the water surrounding the altar! But unlike the Israelites, Elijah overcame his fear with God's encouragement and he went on to complete the mission that God had for him.
King David had reason to fear as he fled from first Saul and then later his own son Absalom, but he says of God in Psalm 23:4, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." David knew that by putting full confidence in God, he could overcome fear and go on to reach the goals that God had for him.
Even Christ's own disciples feared for their lives during a severe storm at sea. They ran to Christ (who was on the boat with them) pleading, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" (Matthew 8:24-27). To which Christ replied, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" When Christ calmed the storm before their eyes, they marveled.
God promised His people throughout the Bible that He would never leave them nor forsake them. In Deuteronomy 31:6, God says, "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear…the L ord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." He repeats Himself in Joshua 1:5-7, 9 and 10:25 and again in Hebrews 13:5.
And He, by His unchanging nature, promises the same for His people today. But we must have the courage to step out in faith, trusting that He really is there as He says He is.
Like the girl at the camp, we shouldn't become so focused on our fear that our horse might run away with us that we forget that God is the one who is beside us, and that He knows what He is doing and how to help us. Like the Israelites, we shouldn't focus on the big people and strong cities to the point that we lose sight of God's promise to help fight our battles for us. And like Christ's disciples, we shouldn't fear the storms of this life because Christ is on the boat with us.
It takes a positive focus to overcome negative thinking. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, we should think about things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy (4:8).
As God has repeatedly told His people down through the ages, take heart, take courage. He promises to be with us as He was with them, walking alongside us, encouraging us to reach the spiritual goals set before us. UN
Angie Wilson attends the Parkersburg, West Virginia, congregation.