How to Be Scared (and Still Move Forward)

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Leaps of faith do not come naturally to you.

You prefer to plan ahead. In fact, people who behave spontaneously make you suspicious. You secretly feel superior to those who rush into every new endeavor with enthusiasm because you assume that their fervor will fade. They will probably fail.

At the same time, though … you envy them. You’d like to embrace the unknown, too.

I have more than a little experience with failed attempts at a leap of faith. As you will see, I tend to walk right up to the edge and then change my mind at the last second. I have learned one lesson, however, from the many agonizing cop-outs of my past. You will not experience the adventure of life fully until you accept your fear.

Evan and Marie - HQ-8206
Daniel Swanson Photography

You will not experience adventure until you accept fear.

The Halfway Attempt

I’m standing at the edge of a diving board made for children, a few feet above the surface of the pool. I’m too scared to jump off the end like a normal person, so I hop off the side instead. I intend to grab the rim of the pool on my way down, catching myself before I submerge completely underwater. Of course, I misjudge the distance. I end up grabbing the rim of the pool with my chin instead of my hand. Yeah, that hurt.

Turns out you can’t sort of jump off a diving board. You either do or you don’t.

The Flat-Out Denial

Bouldering with a group of friends in high school, I foolishly agree to squeeze my body into a crack in the mountain, following a path inside the rock in nearly total darkness. About halfway through the route, I face an empty gap beneath my feet. In order to reach the other side, I must swing my body over the chasm below. For one brief moment, all of my weight will be suspended in the air. I can’t commit. I cling to the rock, terrified, until my arms start to shake. Eventually, my muscles will quit, and I’ll fall.

Refusing to move doesn’t improve your situation. You gotta do something.

Evan and Marie - HQ-8219
Daniel Swanson Photography

Refusing to move doesn’t improve your situation.

The Final Success

On the day I walked down the aisle, I remember wondering whether or not I would start to panic when I got to the altar. After all, I’d backed out of scary situations so many times. By that point, though, my fiance and I had already accomplished the harder leap of faith: engagement. We had suffered together when I panicked at the mall jewelry store. He had stuck with me while I clung to the metaphorical rock, arms trembling. We had overcome.

I did not experience a single moment of anxiety on my wedding day.

Evan and Marie - HQ-4693
Daniel Swanson Photography

Honestly, you just need to keep failing.

Unfortunately, your anxiety (probably) won’t go away. You will either spend your life attempting to avoid fear, or you will learn to take the plunge regardless of your nerves. Of those two options, only one offers any potential for a positive outcome. Avoiding fear leads to pain–literally. My chin still hurts, remembering that pool. You can experience victory over your fear, but I only know of one way to develop courage: practice.

Let me share a prayer that I often repeat when I experience yet another failure of fear: “Lord, don’t give up on me.” No matter how many times I balk at a new challenge, God continues to lead me into scary situations … and I never want Him to stop. Regardless of how scary your story may feel, I hope He never allows you to miss out on His plans.

Remember, He knows better than you do how brave you can be.


The Reluctant Bride


Evan and Marie - HQ-8926

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

P.S. Please tell me I’m not alone. Have you ever attempted a leap of faith only to retreat?

One Reply to “How to Be Scared (and Still Move Forward)”

  1. Probably, but off the top of my head I’m not thinking of that. What I do more is stop moving to sit and worry. The result may depend on whether the opportunity passes me by during that time.

    Liked by 1 person

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