“If I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16
For as long as I can remember, I have lived with a constant underpinning of being a big old chicken. I was the one when we were kids that said “We shouldn’t do that. We could get hurt.” I was the one who didn’t take risks. I played it so safe that I forgot on many occasions to live out life. I missed out on some good things, and was protected from some bad things, no doubt, but in review, there was a pervasive feeling of unexplainable fear that governed most of my actions. And I’m not talking about the good kind of healthy fear or reverence for God.
In my teens, I didn’t go out with guys that were risk takers. (God has a funny sense of humor on that note because I married a major risk taker.) I hated being afraid. I didn’t sign up for courses in college unless they gave A’s. Seriously, I would go around and check their grade posts on their doors before I would sign up for their classes. Not that I would necessarily get an A, but if it was going to be hard, I didn’t sign up for it. In sports and other extracurricular activities, if I wasn’t naturally good at something, I would soon quit. To this day, don’t throw me a surprise party. It’s not my thing.
When I had children, it got worse. I found myself asking to trade seats with my husband at the baseball game since he paid close attention to the game and we were sitting targets for a line drive off third base, and I was afraid our children would get hit by a ball. I didn’t go down in the elevator to see the gorgeous underground caves on vacations, not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t ride down into the depths of the earth in a crowded elevator. You get the picture. Not one person I know would describe me as an adventurer. I could live with that, but I knew there was a lot more to life that I was letting pass me by because I was limiting life. And worse, I realized this was a major piccodios (little god) in my life, an idol I allow to be God.
A few years ago, things escalated again. I started having panic attacks. I found myself being fearful of fear. I read a lot about it, and found it is our most primitive emotion. “Flight or fight” is a brain stem response—that part of our brain that just operates out of reflex. In other words, it doesn’t respond to reason. I disdain this fear. I don’t want to live for anyone but my Lord, and this is living for something else. I truly hate that at 47 years old, I know what I am commanded to do in Scripture (Fear not) but can’t seem to do it to save my scrawny chicken neck. After visiting with a friend about it yesterday in an email, she said something profound. She said we’re told over and over as Christians do not fear, but rarely are we told the “how” of pushing past this pathetic, pervasive emotion.
Last night, the Esther Bible study was on this very topic. Fear. Or, truly it was on its polar opposite, bravery. Beth had so many good things I want to share with you. I will write some of my notes, but cannot write anything she wrote as it is a copyright violation. So, here are just a few of the things I wrote as she talked. It just made such sense, as God’s Word always does, when I let it do a little open heart surgery on me. Somehow it reaches to the very brain stem of my being. Not in any order, but just some points (using great license of my own additions and interpretations) to ponder:
- Nobody is born brave. Think about that. Esther’s “for such a time as this” was Mordecai’s words, not hers. She started with all the reasons why it wouldn’t work, but works up to in just a few verses (Esther 4:11-16) to “If I perish, I perish.” This transition from fear to courage was the topic of last night’s study.
- Courage comes from the Latin word “core” or “heart.” When a heart is filled with love, it is courageous. Anything sound familiar here? I John says “Perfect love casts out fear.”
- The most common command in the Bible is “Fear not.”
- Fear is always a self focus. Esther had to get out of self preservation mode to conquer her fear and move to a state of bravery.
- Are you headed in the direction you want for your life? You can change the direction of the narrative of your life.
- We can protect ourselves right out of our calling or destiny. We think, like the Casting Crowns song “East to West” says, we might be just “one mistake away from You leaving me this way.” But He isn’t going anywhere. He places His right Hand on us and says, Fear not. Take courage. I am always with Thee, even to the end of the age.” However, we may be just one brave decision away from fulfilling our destiny.
- Fear is when you look flat in the face of it, not denying that reality, but that reality’s victory over you.
- The fear of something can be as perilous as the something.
- We may not get to choose the whats we are facing in our lives, but we can choose how we deal with it. We can do it mad, or we can do it scared, or we can do it with joy and courage.
- Christ tells us to (Mat. 14:27) “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid ” We have to take courage. It isn’t something that just happens. It is a conscious taking. And notice, it is there for us, through Christ Himself.
So, I guess you know someone who is certainly glad she made it to Bible study last night. If I told you about the trials of my day and how close I came to not going, I am sure you would understand how it is always when we least feel like going that we get the greatest blessing. I hope this in some way encourages you today. Take heart. Take courage.