It was a hot summer day 14 years ago. My younger brother was getting married soon. I had been wanting just the two of us to do something special since life as we knew it was about to change.
He choose canoeing down the Nantahala. So we packed up supplies and headed out to North Carolina. We had both been whitewater rafting before, but he had been more active in canoeing. I didn’t even consider the differences. I was just happy to have some time with him, enjoying a relaxing ride down the river … or so I thought.
Moments before we put the canoe in the water, he turned to me and said, “Okay, just a few things to remember. If water comes into the canoe, we will paddle to a spot on the side to get out and empty it. If for some reason the canoe turns over or we fall in, get your hands on the canoe and try to pull your upper body on top of it so your legs don’t get hit or cut up by the rocks. Whatever you do, don’t let go of your paddle. Oh, and it may be hard to breathe and talk if we do fall in, because the water is pretty cold, so … don’t panic. You’re up front, hop in.”
My excitement about this relaxing, enjoyable ride began to fade. With furrowed brow and pursed lips, I stepped foot into the canoe. The first couple of minutes were so nice; my previous expectations were being restored. No need to worry! This is great! And then … the first rapid.
I thought I would welcome a nice little splash of cool water on that hot summer day, but I was not prepared for the gallons that heaped up into the canoe and over my entire body. I heard my brother yelling “paddle hard!” from the back. But regardless of my efforts, the front of that canoe was going down faster than the Titanic.
The next thing I remember is hitting another rapid and being spewed into the water like Jonah from the belly of the whale. Then I was in more than “cold” water—raging Arctic waters! Paddle still in my hand … check. Grab onto the boat … check. Can’t breathe or talk … check, check. Some rocks hitting my legs … (you guessed it) check.
Panic had really set in. As I was pulling myself up onto the canoe, an 11-foot came and kicked me in the head. Back down I went. As if getting to the surface wasn’t hard enough! Apparently, it was every man, or woman in this case, for herself! I was feeling a certainty of impending death: our parents left childless; Brandon’s fiancee left at the altar. I thought I saw a bright light. But together we got up and over to safety.
We emptied the canoe, and I said, “Can we go get a cheeseburger and Blizzard at the Dairy Queen? I’m done.”
Fear—that four-letter word that everyone struggles with in life at some point, especially when the waves of impending death seem upon you. This is how fear works: We’re rolling down the river of life and, all of a sudden, fear gets a grip on you.
Fear is no respecter of persons. It comes in various ways to each of us. It intimidates, delays, even paralyzes some of us. And yet we seem to tolerate it, try to deal with it or get rid of it as best we can. People all throughout the Bible encountered fear. And yet the most common command in Scripture is “do not fear.”
How do we keep fear from coming in? I’m not so sure we always can keep it from coming against us, but we can defend ourselves against it. It won’t be able to take root and stay if we are already girded up with the truth (Ephesian 6:14). When putting on our battle gear against fear, we must not forget the mind is the battlefield. Fear enters through a lie that the enemy tells us. That’s why it’s necessary for us to have already loaded our minds with truth before the lies come. When the lie comes against truth, we’re able to overcome.
But what happens when fear already crept in the back door and shoved peace out of the way, and we didn’t even notice? How do we overcome it when it has a hold on us? Here are a few things the Bible teaches that will really help.
Pray and incite the prayers of others on your behalf. We need each other! We need to lift up one another and fight for God’s purposes in one another’s lives. It’s part of how God intended the body of Christ to function.
Develop an attitude of intolerance towards fear. Fear is clearly from the enemy, and nothing good is derived from it, so ask God to help you recognize it and refuse to let it have any authority. You may still feel it, but refuse to be influenced or led by it.
Speak the truth out loud. Jesus Himself modeled this in the wilderness. When Satan spoke a lie, Jesus replied with the truth. When the enemy comes taunting and bullying, speak up and out with the truth of God’s word. There is serious power in doing this, and if you persist, you’ll find the enemy backing off!
To really overcome fear, we have to know God and believe His word. We need to remember who God is, what He has said and already done. Just as God reminds the Israelites not to be afraid but remember the things He has already done, we must recall the faithfulness of God in our past trials and circumstances.
Don’t let fear rule another minute of your life. Take up courage and move forward with God in faith.