I’ve been enjoying some early before-the-kids-wake-up bike rides this summer. My usual route takes me over a bridge which hovers over the enormous churning Missouri River.
For me, riding over the Missouri River bridge by myself early in the morning is about as daring as life gets! My morning bike ride, when I take it, might as well be Mt. Everest.
I used to do truly dangerous things without even noticing that they were dangerous. I did them without much of a second thought.
That was before I had kids and before I knew about real people who have died or come close to death. I guess now I just know…stuff really does happen. And not just to “other people out there” but real people close to me.
I don’t know what happened, but a switch has turned on in me. Let’s just call it The Fear Switch.
The Fear Switch is not all bad. It can help me make wise decisions and it may be used to keep my family alive. It could also, if I let it, keep me from truly living an abundant life and damage my relationship with God.
So The Fear Switch would like to process everything I do, even a morning bike ride. Instead, I’m working toward processing it through the filter of God’s Word.
Here are a sampling of thoughts I might have before I get on my bike:
“What if someone I know sees how fat my behind looks while riding a bike?”
How’s that for honesty?
“What if I get hit by a car and I get so injured that I can’t take care of my children anymore?”
“What if I don’t get everything that needs to be done this morning because I added this to my schedule?”
But God is good, and His goodness overthrows fear and leads us to love and worship even in this beautiful but dark and dangerous world.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
His presence comforts me and turns my cowardly thoughts toward brave thoughts.
Isn’t this how it is in Scripture too? As God’s people realized God’s presence, they gained courage.
Joshua was told to be strong and courageous as he entered the promised land not based on his own abilities but this:
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” (Joshua 1:7)
God would uphold His promises.
“Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
GOD would be with Joshua everywhere and would make sure the promised inheritance would be kept.
And God promises this to His people now and it is applied to us through our inheritance in Christ.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
He doesn’t just tell us to muster up our own courage, He gives us His truths about Himself and Us in Him that empower us to be courageous and strong.
I stopped on the middle of the bridge and stood at an overlook area to watch nature awaken to the morning. I looked down the outer edge of the bridge and saw that the other overlook areas along the bridge were like ledges jutting out over the water. They weren’t part of the main structure of the bridge. The Fear Switch was on, but I practiced meditating on these truths and standing there anyway. I trusted that my real hope wasn’t in this piece of concrete staying strong but My God always strong and always with me.
This is always a stop on my morning bike ride. An exercise in trusting in God’s love and protection rather than what my fears will protect me from.
Sometimes we are tempted to abstain from an activity due to fear but sometimes we are tempted to partake in worry about the future due to it. I’d like to say I bravely walk through each of these opportunities every time like on the bridge, but I don’t.
A dear friend of mine has joined the ranks of those who are enduring or have endured the dreadful disease of cancer. I am tempted toward worry for her and for those I love as I watch this battle play out. But another dear and wise friend reminded me of a glorious truth for those trusting in the Lord. She said, “Amy, we aren’t going to die of cancer, we’re going to die because the Lord calls us home.”
This too gives me courage to live a life based less on fear and more on what God is calling me to each moment.
A more recent moment of that was spending time with my family. We had talked for a long time about going to the St. Louis Gateway Arch. I had been encouraging my son, Noah, to go to the top with the rest of us but he was committed to never doing it.
As we stood under the arch that day, Noah said, “Wow look how big it is!”
Our daughter, Ruthie answered, “Yes, but God is bigger!”
A little bribery went a long way and, before I knew it, we were in line for the tram ride to the top. Suddenly I remembered news reports over the years of Arch tram riders getting trapped for hours. As the four of us entered the tiny capsule that would be pulled by a cable to the top of 600+ feet, I realized something. I didn’t want to do it either!
I could tell my son had changed his mind too. He was covering his eyes and swallowing hard. I wanted to do the same but cover my ears as the cable and tram creaked and popped. It was a long 3 minute ride to the top but I still had to make it through our time at the top and all of the way back down again.
My anxious thoughts almost overtook me, but through stumbling internal prayers and deep breathing I made it!
At the top, my son forgot his fears and went straight for the window. My brave Ruthie wanted to lay on the window ledge that looked dangerous to me, like the bridge ledge. I answered her request to set her high on it so that she could get a better look. Then I joined her. We leaned over downtown St. Louis with a hope and prayer in one thing. That God was with us even there.
On the way down, there was no stumbling over internal prayers. It was a quicker ride down as my husband stepped up to boldly soothe us all with prayer. I think he was realizing that 600 feet up in the arch was not like it was as a kid too! He bravely turned us all toward the Lord and prayed bold prayers of faith in a God who is with us on the ground and in the sky. A God who is way bigger than the St. Louis Gateway Arch.
I saw a great illustration of our need to fully turn toward the Lord when we’re afraid a few weeks ago. My daughter had a dangling loose tooth. She sat on the couch turned away from me saying, “I’m scared, will it hurt?” I replied, “You have to face me if you want my help.” She wanted me to help but ultimately refused because she wanted to have full control of how and when her tooth came out. As I begged her to turn toward me so that I could see and help her, I realized that her disposition before me was not so different than my own before God at times.
In the midst of fears and dangers of this world, stumbling through prayer and deep breathing exercises might help. It’s certainly better than nothing. But I don’t want to just get through the moment. I want to fully experience God’s grace and grow in a less fear-filled life. In order to do that:
1. I must not trust so much in myself performing an exercise like deep breathing or prayer.
2. I must let go of the desire to control the situation.
3. I must fully and humbly turn in my heart toward a God who I truly know and prayerfully proclaim the truths that I trust in about Him.
This is an act of worship.
May all of our fears about what this life may bring be a gateway to turn our hearts and minds toward worship.
Linking up this next week with these sweet ladies: