Four little letters bringing about a wave of emotion, causing me to feel as though I am drowning at the mention of the word.
Merriam-Webster defines fear as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger;” “a state of emotion, anxious concern, solitude;” and “profound reverence and awe, especially toward God.”
Why is the best use of fear listed as Number 3 and not Number 1?
Let me say it again because I know it makes you scratch your head and say, “Huh?”
Why is it when I anticipate danger, I become anxious and choose solitude first and second, but I choose, all the way in third place, to be in reverence and awe of our Abba Father God?
words + photographs JUSTINE KAHN
The Bible includes loads of Scripture telling us:
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you,” (Isaiah 41:10).
“Fear not, my servant, do not be dismayed,” (Jeremiah 46:27).
“Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows,” (Matthew 10:31).
Yet, we – I – continue to fear.
We fear people, failure, insecurities, inadequacies.
We fear loss, and we fear gain, and we fear not knowing how to handle either humbly.
We fear not being good enough and not being liked or loved or wanted.
We fear job promotions and being laid off.
We fear moving and the inability to build new friendships and community.
We fear car accidents and loads of uncontrollable health issues.
We fear not making an impact in this world or our children’s lives.
We fear trusting God, and we fear disappointing Him.
We are a scared, scared people.
Fear has been my closest companion for most of my 33 years of life: through my childhood, my teen years, into my 20s. People thought I was stuck up; in reality, I was too scared to talk. Those who know me now know me to be adventurous, outgoing, a risk taker, a connector of people, a caring and compassionate friend. If you want to try something you’ve never done before, like white water rafting or skydiving, take me with you. We can enjoy new paths for the first time, together. If you’re praying about a job change or cross-country move and ask my advice, chances are I am going to lean toward the more adventurous route and say, “JUMP!” “TAKE THE LEAP!” I love people dearly, and I want all I come in contact with to know they’re loved and valued.
Choosing to move forward despite fear isn’t always easy. When I was 27, I made a major career change. I left being a public school teacher after four years to become an inexperienced firefighter. I knew nothing about the career; I just knew it was something I could be good at. I left teaching before being tenured, a no no in the eyes of a world living for retirement. I left a good job before receiving an official job offer from the fire department. I left a steady, regular income to risk being jobless in August. But I knew my finances belonged to the Lord. My time was His. My talents were His.
I struggled through the academy and wasn’t sure I’d graduate. I had to re-take so many fire tests because the information was foreign to me, and my physical strength was non-existent. I couldn’t even control our 150-foot, 150 GPM hose by myself, which is listed as a one-man job. Despite all odds, I graduated, and I am growing daily. Five years later, I still love being a firefighter in the SFD.
Both the failures and the successes have shown me I can leap and the Lord will catch me, even if the outcome isn’t what I expected or hoped for. If I hadn’t been hired by the fire department, I know God would have provided something else. I don’t make decisions based on what people think is right for me, I live for where God is leading me. We should always live where God leads.
Even if that means overcoming fear.
My dad left when I was 10. For a large portion of my life, I translated his actions into my own fears of abandonment and feeling unworthy of love. I refused to open up to people. I was guarded against relationships. I didn’t want anyone to come close for fear of them leaving. But I began dating in my 20s and building friendships. In the process, I became super aware of how impenetrable I had forced myself to become. I was Fort Knox. No one was getting close to my heart. The Lord, though, made ways for specific people to make it through. Slowly but surely, I became my best self while navigating the rocky road of vulnerability.
As life would have it, some relationships run for long novels, while some are limited to chapters. Once I began softening my heart, I noticed people leaving again. Everything in me wanted to curl up, run away, hide. I didn’t want to open up anymore; it hurt too much.
Why do friendships have a change of course?
Why did this guy who I poured so much into decide to walk away?
Why don’t some people want to be part of my life?
It is a real fear of mine.
Each time I make a new friend or date someone new, I wonder: Will they leave? How long will we be friends? I push through the fear, though. Today, I am proud to say my confidence is in the Lord, not in people. When He chooses to put me in someone’s life, I cherish every second of that season. I greet them with two arms wide open; knowing God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17).
With this mindset shift, God has also led me to perceive life and death differently. We all know the longer we are in the world, the more bad we are going to see. I used to tell myself all the time life is meaningless; we are all going to die. And as King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, each of us is simply vapor, smoke, poof. Life is not fair.
What a horrible way to live.
Christ came to give us life. As long as I have air in my lungs, I choose to live this life in fear of no one — or nothing — but my Abba Father God. I might hesitate to move or to pursue a relationship because it might end. I might give a second thought to a doctor’s appointment or a competition or end-of-the-month bills. But what God has taught me is no fear we have is worth being fearful of. The Lord has shown me His goodness and faithfulness over and over.
Friend, welcome every person you meet, every opportunity you encounter, with arms wide open. Fear God only. Be in reverence and awe of Him. JK
Justine Kahn is 33, unmarried and loves the Lord Jesus Christ with all her heart. She and Hali, her 3-year-old Labradoodle, are adventurers who enjoy going to the gym, camping, kayaking and traveling the states together.
COVER Justine at a competition.