I was terrified.
Fear is a natural, human instinct that was instilled in us for a very good reason. Simply stated, it keeps us from doing stupid things. However, not all fear is real, or healthy. In fact, there’s a saying that fear stands for False Expectations Appearing Real. Many times, these fears are not grounded in reality, and they can become unhealthy, consuming, exhausting emotions that cripple you and keep you from living the life you were meant to live. Fear is the number one reason people don’t pursue their goals, their passions, and their callings in life.
While there are many types of fear, the following categories of fear are common amongst athletes:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of not having what it takes
- Fear of what others think
What are you most afraid of? Are you afraid of losing? Afraid of trying? Afraid of what others may think? Are you afraid of disappointing friends or family? Are you afraid of winning, which then sets new expectations for future performance? Afraid that you’re not good enough? Rest assured, you’re not alone.
Another Perspective on Fear
“’Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ Jesus said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” ~Matthew 14:22-23. Peter was in the safety of the boat when Jesus walked on water past the boat. Initially, with the encouragement of Jesus, Peter had the courage to step out of his comfort zone and walk on water. Consistent with human nature, he then took his eyes off Jesus and became afraid.
God has a lot to say about fear. In fact, the Bible is filled with phrases similar to “do not be afraid,” and the most common phrase after those words is, “for I am with you.” Satan may be in the business of instilling fear into our mind, but the word of God repeatedly tells us not to be afraid that you have what it takes, not to be afraid of failure, not to be afraid of what others think, and, in general, not to be afraid because you are His child. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9.
Satan knows that fear prevents people from pursuing their goals, their passions, and their callings. If Satan can instill enough fear to prevent us from taking action, he can keep us from doing God’s work. Unfortunately, he’s really, really good at it. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10. Satan’s goal is to destroy our lives, and lies are his number weapon, including the lie of fear.
Get to the Starting Line
After laughing at Carl over his ridiculous idea of running a marathon, I ended up thinking about it. While I was busy thinking and evaluating, he and I continued to run, and by the time our runs exceeded 10 miles, I realized that training for a marathon was in the realm of possibility. Over time, I agreed, and we signed up for the 1999 Buffalo Marathon. Despite gaining confidence along the way, I remained fearful. Would I fail? Do I have what it takes to run a marathon? Will others laugh at me if I fail? Will others laugh at me if I’m slow? All these fears kept running through my mind.
It was an unseasonably warm day in Buffalo, NY, with all the elements of spring – sunshine, flowers blooming, and birds singing. It also meant temperatures that were much warmer than what I’d been training in.
As the race began, I was gripped with fear. Would I finish? Would I finish in a respectable time? Would others laugh at how slow I am? Would others think I’m not a “real runner” if I didn’t make the full distance? I had a hard time of letting go of my fear initially.
Once the race began, the first 18 miles went as planned, but they say the marathon is a tale of two races: 18 miles and then 8.2 miles. The challenge this day would be the last 8.2 miles. Miles 19, 20, and 21 went well. Mile 22 is when trouble reared its ugly head. At one point on mile 22, I started feeling extremely hot but surprisingly dry. Then I realized I was no longer sweating and was in trouble. At that point in the race we were downwind from the Buffalo Zoo, and the smell of animals put me over the top. I stopped and gagged for a while. Then I found some fresh air and shade, and I grabbed some water and ice chips before finishing the race.
Not a single person questioned my time, my ability, or whether I was a "real runner." The fact that I gave it my best effort was enough. The fact that I crossed the finish line was a bonus.
Think about your fears. What are you most afraid of? Is that fear real, and if so, how likely is it to materialize? Why are you afraid of it? Is your fear rooted in what others may think of you? Is that fear something that should control your emotions?
Then, put your trust in the following truths:
- You are wonderfully made in the image of God, so you already have what it takes
- You are enough. What you accomplish, or not, doesn’t define who you are as a person
- You can trust in the Lord and face your fears with confidence
- God has plans for you, so neither fear nor failure can ever be final. His plan will prevail if you allow it.
- You can do all things through Christ, so go forward and boldly live the life you were meant to live