One of my jobs, being a rock-climbing instructor, includes helping people overcome their fear of heights. I explain to them that the real issue isn’t falling, but hitting the ground. Then I remind my clients that they have the proper safety equipment and good anchor points—making it impossible for them to drop. One thing they need to grasp is that their mind is actually lying to them, and that they can override their panicky thoughts. Being up high is not dangerous in itself; it’s only dangerous without the right safety equipment. Talking this through with them can take a long time, but they usually end up pressing on.
Our family truly enjoys the thrills and adrenaline rush found in taking amusement park rides. One recent ride we braved included a 170-foot drop. During the intense ride, I lost my bearings at one point and had no idea where we were headed. I was no longer in control, but simply hurtling down a twisting, turning track.
My first—and very brief—job out of college was with an after-school mentoring program that trained kids in woodworking. When I was asked during the interview if I could teach woodworking, I responded in the affirmative: “Sure!” How hard can it be? I thought to myself. But I had never worked with wood. So when I attempted my first project and mangled a piece of fine wood with a belt sander, my boss took one look at it and fired me on the spot! Clearly, I had no idea what I was talking about.
Growing up, Easter Sunday was always a day of joy and celebration. The rich worship at church and wonderful feast at home made for one happy day. But recently I’ve been reflecting on the fact that Resurrection Sunday once elicited a very different emotion: fear.
Ever wondered about this line from “Amazing Grace”? “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” Grace teaches my heart to fear? What’s so scary about grace?
There are times when the very foundation of our life feels as if it’s shaking. That dreaded phone call in the night. That difficult news from the doctor. That heart-rending decision by a friend or family member. All of these things and more can cause us to agonize inside and tremble outside.
Almost everyone loves to hear stories of God “showing up.” We feel trapped by circumstances, we pray in desperation, and a providential answer arrives just in time. We know it’s God, and it’s easy to praise Him—for a while.
Ihave a friend who has wounds so deep that she resists the compassionate love of others. Caring people have reached out to my friend. They would give their lives for her (in fact, in many ways they’ve done precisely that). Yet she runs from their love. She fears being loved. The love offered to her is so strong, and her heart so weak, that it terrifies her. It seems safer just to stay in her cocoon.
In December 2013, Australian worship leader Darlene Zschech went for a routine mammogram and was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the turmoil of raw emotions, specialist appointments, and the scans and surgery that followed, she instinctively reached for hope from God’s Word—the Psalms in particular. In January 2014 she Tweeted, “Psalm 91:1-16 in any version; God is so good to us all, cling to His Word and find hope that will never disappoint.”
It is said that the number one fear in life is public speaking, ranking higher than even the fear of death. As a comedian once observed, that means that at a funeral, people would rather be in the coffin than give the eulogy!
The Grant Study has followed the lives of more than 250 Harvard graduates for 70 years to learn what makes people happy. It revealed that positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones—in part because they expose us to rejection and heartbreak. One man had received a box of 100 loving letters from his patients when he retired from practicing medicine. Eight years later he proudly showed the box to a researcher and began to cry, “I don’t know what you’re going to make of this, but I’ve never read [them].”
Life can be difficult. At times, burdens, disappointments, and uncertainties can seem too difficult to bear. Poet Annie Johnson Flint poignantly captured the struggles of life in her poem “One Day at a Time”:
The young man looked at me in wide-eyed fear. He could climb no further. “What happens,” he cried, “if I fall off the rock?” “The problem isn’t falling; the problem is hitting the ground,” I said, smiling. He sent an accusing stare in my direction.