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Facing your fears

Ever since I was young, I’ve been terrified of high places. I remember a Boy Scout hiking trip to the Smoky Mountains when I was a kid. We kept getting higher and higher until at last we found ourselves edging along a cliff, a sheer drop-off inches from our feet. My heart was pounding out of cont…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Ever since I was young, I’ve been terrified of high places. I remember a Boy Scout hiking trip to the Smoky Mountains when I was a kid. We kept getting higher and higher until at last we found ourselves edging along a cliff, a sheer drop-off inches from our feet. My heart was pounding out of control – I thought I was going to die.

Fortunately, having since adopted a couch-sitting existence, I can usually avoid such situations. But thanks to the risky imperative of my ministry call and the magic of the web, the reality of my acrophobia still regularly plagues me.

Take the World Race trip to Machu Picchu this past week for example. You wind your way up a switchback road to the ruins. It’s spectacular up there. Waynapicchu, the famous, vaulting rock spire that provides the backdrop to all the pictures is a taunting challenge to those with a penchant for hiking adventures – which, incidentally, would be most of the World Racers. 

It turns out that 28 of the World Racers hiked all the way to the top (including my daughter Talia climbing up these steps). Frankly, just looking at Ginger and Emily “hanging” (posed, but still scary) from a rock, or the picture of Amy Morris on top of Waynapicchu, the valley floor 2,000 feet below, makes my skin crawl. These guys are crazy! And part of me feels no less crazy for running a ministry where they get to put their lives in jeopardy like that. On the day that they were going up there, I woke up praying, “God, just protect them for the reckless things they’re no doubt going to do today.”

One day of vicarious fear like that is enough in a year. I can’t imagine living in the grips of fear for most of your life. And I love the way our ministry challenges people to face their fears and to lean into the possibility that God will protect them.

Yes, there is a healthy fear that protects us from doing stupid things, but too many people live in the shadow of an irrational fear that governs their lives. Who wants to become one of those overprotective parents, never allowing their children to grow up, never trusting a God who loves their children more than they do, a God who “has not given us a spirit of fear.” Why give in to the temptation to control what is beyond your control?

God wants to set us free from our irrational fears. His strategy is love. 1 John 4:18 is great on the subject: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love.”

Fear of hiking Waynapicchu is one thing, but maybe you are one of many who is afraid to talk to your father about something he did to hurt you in the past, unable to see that he himself was plagued by past hurts, hurts that saddled him with fears that made him lash out.

And if you push deeper still to that dark place inside, how about the fear that your life will never amount to anything?

The irony is that so many of us struggle with the opposite fear – a fear that there is greatness within us that we have yet to tap. Now there is a fear that is worth facing.
For more on this subject, go to this blog.

Comments (11)

  • Heather of Gracedbychrist.com

    Thank you for this today. It struck me harder than anything else yet this morning.

    Today my eldestwho has seizures, especially when sick, woke with a fever. I was frantically running about trying to find ways to get the fever under control and find a sunlit room where no passing cars would “flash” her and trigger a seizure. She was doing better and wanted to go and play and I desperately wanted to shut her in a dark room and have her lie down to protect her. For that breif five minutes I had forgotten that He is Lord of all and is ready and able to protect her from all things and if she were to have a seizure He still would be in absolute control. He has protected her thus far and I should know by now that she is in His hands.

    Thank you for reminding me that fear is not part of His plan.

  • I am deathly afraid of heights.
    A few years ago, we were going to California and planned to stop off at the Grand Canyon…this fear is bad enough for me, but it gets worse when I think about my kids. So, I was trying to figure out how to NOT go to the Grand Canyon. In other words, I was going to make my kids miss out on the Grand Canyon because I was afraid.
    I spoke with one of the pastors at my church and he showed me how my fear of heights was really a suicide impulse (I told him I wasn’t afraid of falling, I was afraid of jumping) and that meant it was demonic. (Just telling it like it is…)
    So, since I knew the source of the problem, it was much easier to deal with.
    OK, not really. I was still scared spitless – literally. I was so scared driving to the south rim that I almost turned around and went back to the freeway. While I was there, I wouldn’t approach the edge and I held my children’s hands so they couldn’t either.
    Then, I noticed my girls starting to show signs of the same fear – feeding off of me.
    I started to get pictures of them being just like me, missing all kinds of cool stuff because of my fear.
    Then, ala Andrew Shearman, I got mad.
    First, I went off by myself and told the demon harassing me to GO and leave me alone in the name of Jesus. Nothing happened. I was still filled with knee-knocking, debilitating fear. Then, I prayed “God, I told these demons to go away in your name and they’re still here. Would you please make them go away?”
    Boom. No fear.
    For the first time in my life, I was able to go to the edge and look over. I even took my little one by the hand and led her up to the side of the Grand Canyon and we soaked in the beauty of God’s creation. Victory in Jesus!

    Proverbs 3:25 – Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.

  • As I look at those pictures, I get butterflies from the fear of falling. I’m with you, Seth. What’s amazing is that I love rock climbing… roped in, with plenty of safety tools, but I love climbing those rocks, all the same. Strange.
    On a deeper level, though, your post is right on. I am certainly one who continues to struggle with the fear of failure and the fear that I’ll never do any true living. It’s a battle I continue to fight, though.

  • Seth

    Thanks for this reminder…I think that it’s a good one for all of our (WRer’s 07) parents to read – especially as we are heading to Mozambique!

    The view from the top of WaynaPicchu was incredible…I think that it would put any fear in perspective to the amazing reward of conquering that fear.

  • I have been encouraged by so many of your blogs lately. I’ve been reading most of them off-line, so I wasn’t able to comment. I do want you to know that you continue to inspire and challange me by these blogs.

    It is crazy to live in fear when God wants to make you great in Him. I know God is doing this work in me, and it is exciting. I live in anticipation for each new lesson.

    Thanks for playing a part in it.

  • Kim’s comment reminds me of a statement made by Oswald Chambers. I can’t remember the quote, but the point was this: The unhealthy fear you speak of is essentially saying, “God, I don’t trust you that you have my best interest in mind.” Of course, the fear of heights and falling and such is a very healthy fear. I still don’t get people who jump out of perfectly sound airplanes.

  • Great message,
    for me its loving and being loved nothing as trite as jumping out of planes or taking other plausible risks.Its the irrational fear that no one can be trusted.

  • I love your photos! I am using one of them in a post on my blog about fear … I’ll be linking back to yours. Hope that’s okay!!! If not, just e-mail me and I’ll take it down. In the meantime hop over and check it out.


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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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