I wish you could meet three people who each made a big impression on me. If you could, you’d understand immediately what this issue of Activated is about.
The first was a busboy who cleared my table from his wheelchair with such outgoing charm that I wasn’t a bit surprised when the manager told me on my way out that he considered that busboy his most valuable employee. “More people come back for him than for the food,” the manager confided.
Eighty thousand spectators in the stands and millions of viewers worldwide watch as he takes his place alongside the other competitors. Years of preparation and countless hours of training have brought him to this place in time, the starting blocks of the Olympic 100-meter dash final. Now it all comes down to less than 10 seconds. He takes slow, deep breaths as he awaits the starting gun. Will he win gold, or will he be just another loser? Those watching may ask this question, but there’s no room in the sprinter’s mind at that moment for doubt or anxiety.
When a friend sent me a short Bible study by email, one verse in particular stood out to me: “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”1 That was an interesting thought: open doors and adversaries are biblically and sometimes necessarily connected.
Being afraid is like being trapped in a small, dark room. The darkness can be so thick it feels suffocating. You reach out, but you can’t find the exit. But find the light switch, turn on a light, and everything changes. Even a small light helps you get your bearings and shows you the way out.
One thing that doesn’t help when you’re afraid or worried is pretending that the fear will go away if you ignore it. Fear must be dispelled. You need to find the way out.
You need to give a toast at your best friend’s wedding, or make an acceptance speech for an award you’ve won, or sell a group at work on a new project—and you’re dying inside because this is one speaking engagement you can’t say no to.
You aren’t alone. Also known as glossophobia, the fear of public speaking is one of the very most common fears. As with any fear, the best way to overcome glossophobia is to deal with it at its roots.
God is our best defense against fear—and against the things we fear.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.—Psalm 46:1–2
Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.—Psalm 91:14–15
It is widely believed that we are born with only three fears: fear of loud noises, fear of falling, and fear of abandonment. These, according to some psychologists, are hardwired into our nature; all others are acquired. Fear of spiders, fear of the dark, fear of dentists, and the rest are programmed into our psyche through either firsthand experience or information we take in.
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
—André Gide (French writer, humanist, and moralist; 1869–1951)
Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.
—Herodotus (Greek historian; 490–430 bc)
Like life itself, the Bible is full of triumphs that could just as easily have ended in disaster. If the heroes in those stories had turned and run the other way, who could have blamed them? Moses defied the world power of his day to lead his people to the Promised Land. Gideon led a band of 300 against an army too large to number.1 Samson, armed only with the jawbone of a donkey, took on an army singlehandedly.2 Teenaged David, with only a slingshot, denounced and trounced the giant Goliath, who had the entire army of Israel shaking in their sandals.3
Question: Does God really have a wonderful plan for my life, like I keep hearing? Often it feels more like a bumper-car ride—continually running into one obstacle after another and getting bounced in every direction.
Answer: God does have a plan for each of us, and it is one that is perfectly tailored to our unique makeup, abilities, and interests. Not only that, but He wants to let us in on that plan and work with us to bring it to pass.