There is an interesting phenomenon that has been taking place in prisons for years. Inmates have been requesting that they stay in jail, despite being pardoned or released, as they are uncomfortable with the idea of reentering society. Inmates have even gone so far as to commit a crime while still in prison, or shortly after being released, to return to a correctional institution as it is all that they know. After asking these individuals why they did not want to be released from prison, it was found that they all had one thing in common; fear.
- Fear of not having friends or family nearby
- Fear of relapsing into addiction or a life of crime
- Fear of finding work
- Fear of technological advancements
- Fear of judgments from members of society
For many of us, these fears may sound very familiar. I know that they do for me. While I cannot even begin to understand the challenges that inmates face in prison, or how it affects a person’s outlook on life, I can understand how fear can hold a person back from embracing their future.
Fear Over Faith
Esther is one of my favourite stories in the Bible because it is one of great courage and faith. It begins with King Xerxes, an unsavory character who is easily convinced to kill the Jewish peoples living in the surrounding kingdom, but all changes when Esther stands before him with courage and faith in God.
After the announcement is made by King Xerxes to kill the Jews, Esther, a Jew herself, is petitioned by her cousin Mordecai to intercede on their behalf. Although she knows the role that she has to play, fear causes her to question it.
“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.”- Esther 4:11
To Esther, petitioning the King would surely end in death, as even though they were married, she had not been called to see him for thirty days. She was now being asked to interrupt and call upon a King who killed without restraint or apprehension.
After a short time, however, Esther turns her thoughts to God and asks the Jewish people to do the same by fasting with her for three days. Fasting is an act of longing or desire for God; calling on Him to intercede on a person’s behalf and to meet them where they are. Esther, confused, scared, and pressured to save the Jewish people, chooses to fast and rely on God to direct her path. She knows that she may die for her people, but she also knows that God’s plan is greater than her own.
Esther steps out of fear and steps forward in faith when she approaches the king. Favour is granted to her by King Xerxes, and she is able to petition for the lives of her people, despite the laws that were set in place and the distrust and deceit that had encouraged the conviction of the Jews in the first place.
Has Fear Held You Back?
Now, I realize that we may never be asked to stand before a king and petition for the lives of our people, but we will face fear in all of its many forms.
For a few years, I walked away from actively pursuing God. I still believed in His existence, but I found it difficult to believe that He loved me. I remember attending conferences and feeling as if I was missing out on something more significant. I wondered if it was because of something that I had done, or if God had managed to overlook me. I did not truly know His character or His love, so I hardened my heart and chose to believe that if God did not want to pursue me, I would not pursue Him.
This fear trickled into every part of my life. I soon began to sabotage my future, because I didn’t have faith in myself, or faith in the one who made me and gave me my talents, my passions, and my dreams.
- Why write a book if it won’t get published?
- Why pursue a relationship if it won’t work out anyways?
- Why spend time painting or drawing if I cannot create something of which I can be proud?
What started out as fear of failure and of being forgotten, quickly turned into feelings of self-judgment, regret and guilt. Not only did this separate me even more from God, but from people and my true self as well.
Faith Over Fear
How many hours and days and weeks of worry could have been avoided if Biblical characters had first walked in faith instead of fear? How would our lives be different if we trusted God and relied on Him to clear the path before us?
I am a novice in my understanding of the Bible, God’s character and even in who I am, but I am choosing to live a life based on faith and not on fear. Am I scared to write? Yes. Am I nervous to share my life with someone? Definitely. Am I afraid of being vulnerable? You bet. But despite all of this, I know that God is guiding me through every step I take. I just have to give my fear to Him every day.
When we walk boldly forward with God, incredible and unbelievable things can happen.
It’s difficult, but it’s so worth it.