Do Not Fear
Maybe the most afraid I’ve been was when I was 11 years-old. I was backpacking through the Wind River Mountains with my father and some friends. We had heard that you can catch the fabled golden trout in a remote lake called Wall Lake. The only problem – it’s over 10,000 feet and hard to get to. You have to hike up the granite path and then down into the crater.
At that height, there weren’t many trees. We hiked in as rain clouds were forming and evening approached. I was excited to fish for golden trout. They were rare – I had never caught one.
My dad had taught me to fish both with a fly and with a spinner. This time I chose a Mepps spinner. After a few casts, I had a big one on the line. My heart leapt and I struggled with the reel. When I pulled on the rod, the fish weighed heavy on the line, letting me know he wasn’t going to come in without a fight.
It was hard work, but at last I caught a glimpse of him as I reeled him into the shallows – a beautiful, big golden trout!
By then we could see that a storm was gathering. “Put him in your creel,” my dad said, “we need to get back on the trail before the rain starts.”
We were scrambling up the steep trail when we began to feel the first drops of rain. We picked up the pace, but by the time we reached the top, the rain was coming down hard. “We better just take cover and wait it out!” My dad shouted over the storm.
Our parkas weren’t much use as we crouched under the scrub brush. The lightning got closer. The sound of thunder and the flash of light were nearly simultaneous. The thunder was so loud and overwhelming!
My heart was beating a mile a minute. Fear gripped me by the throat. I thought, “I’m going to die.” And I thought about how brief my life had been.
It lasted about half an hour, the rain relentless, the lightning strikes all around us. I prayed and asked God to save us. And when it began to dissipate, I might have kissed the ground – I was so happy to still be alive.
Thinking back on the the experience, I realized that fear is often good and has a purpose. We were in danger and needed to find shelter. The adrenalin rush gave us a heightened awareness that we needed to get out of harm’s way.
But fear no longer serves the same purpose it once did. Only recently in human history have we seen our lifespans expand as they have. Death used to come much earlier, whether through illness, war or accidents. It was fear that kept you alive.
Yet Jesus said, “Do not fear.” The supernatural is not going to kill you; it actually is the source of life. A supernatural world – the realm of angels and spirits – exists just outside the range of our five senses. It is the realm to which we belong. God wants to reveal himself in ways that make communion with us possible, but fear keeps us from experiencing that.
Wall Lake is a beautiful pace, but for me it was the place where I confronted my deepest fears. Have you ever been that afraid? So many times, when confronted with supernatural events, Jesus would say to people, “Do not fear.” Why is that?
Maybe it’s because he knows our human frame. He knows what the adrenalin rush feels like. And he wants to help us develop a trust-based override mechanism. Feeling the fear is a normal – that visceral response is hard-wired into us. But then we get to make a choice. We can choose the faith that overrides the fear.
I’ve lived a life of feeling fear and then trying to lean into trust. It’s a great way to live.
How about you? Where have you been afraid? What is God saying to you about the place of fear in your life?
Wall Lake photo by Jack Brauer, WideRange Photo LLC