Paul's Ponderings

Spiritual Formation. Discipleship. Christian Living.

Fear Discernment

Fear DiscernmentWith the emergence of warmer weather, I have started taking our two dogs for a walk in the morning. The route that we walk is about a mile, and it takes us a half an hour to complete. One of the things we pass on our walk is a retaining wall that is 5 feet high with a lawn that slopes up towards an apartment building.

This morning as we walked along this retaining wall, I saw two squirrels playing in the lawn above the wall. We were 20 yards away when one of the squirrels saw us, and he started to run up towards the building. The actions of his friend caused the other squirrel to turn and look at us, and immediately he leapt from the top of the wall, across the sidewalk, and onto a tree.

The first squirrel ran back to the top of the retaining wall, looked at the tree, changed his mind, and ran up the lawn. He changed his mind, came back down to the wall, looked at the tree, and ran up towards the apartment building. Part of the way up he changed his mind, and came back down to the top of the wall. This time he started to crawl down the wall, and when he was half way down he leapt for the tree. He landed at the base of the tree, which he immediately ran up.

We usually think animals live mainly by instinct, but it appeared to me that there was more than just instinct directing the actions of these squirrels. Sure there was the instinct to get away from a human and two dogs, but their responses were different.

The first squirrel would have been happy to have run in the opposite direction of the danger, but the second squirrel believed he would be safest in the tree, so he risked the long leap to get there.

The actions of the second squirrel made the first squirrel doubt its actions. But when the first squirrel came face to face with the leap, he didn’t think he had what it took to make it, so he started to run away. Yet, again he thought the second squirrel was right, so he played it safe, crawling down the wall, until he was comfortable with the distance of the leap.

Watching that episode made me think how we respond to the exact same circumstances in different ways. Each one of us has our unique set of skills, knowledge, passions, and fears. These things influence the way we respond to the different situations of our lives.

When we are confident in our knowledge and our abilities we will make the jump right away. We know that we can make it! We have what it takes to be a success!

At times our confidence can serve us well, because we are able to operate within our comfort zones. Our confidence can also be a determent when it makes us take unnecessary risks. There certainly is a place for risk taking in the Kingdom of God, but we shouldn’t take risks for risk sake. Arrogance has caused many people to take unnecessary risks.

Peter took a risk when he stepped out of the boat to walk on water. It was faith, not bravado, that motivated Peter’s risk taking. The same has to be true for us. God doesn’t want us just to take risks for risk sake. No, He wants us to take the risks He has led us to take. When we are motivated by faith in our risk taking we are able to experience God’s power in a real and powerful way as He empowers us to complete the task He has set before us.

When we lack confidence in our knowledge and abilities fear begins to seep into our hearts. This fear can paralyze us, and make it almost impossible to even make a simple decision. We are like that squirrel running back and forth to the ledge, wondering if we should take the leap or not.

Truth be told, there are times when our fear is actually a good thing. It will keep us from taking foolish risks. Risks that threaten our lives, but have no bearing on the Kingdom of God. Whenever fear enters our hearts we need to evaluate it. If it is a sensible fear, we should listen to it and take the necessary precautions to be safe. If it isn’t sensible then we need to find a way to overcome it and boldly to do what God had called us to do.

That is what Queen Esther had to do. She had fear, and rightly so, because going to see the king could cost her her life. She had to evaluate whether or not God was behind the calling for her to go to see the king. When she knew it was God who called her to the task, she moved boldly in spite of her fear.

There are times when we want to treat fear as the enemy. The reality is that, like pain, there is a place for fear in our lives. Fear can help us understand the situation that we are in and make the right precautions to stay safe. Fear is not always the bad guy.

Satan does use fear to prevent us from living the life God created us to live. When we succumb to our fears rather than living a life of faith, we are prevented from experiencing God’s power in a real and personal way.

Fear is a natural part of our lives. We need the discernment to know when to listen to our fear and when to ignore it. While fear can keep us safe, it can also prevent us from doing what God has called us do. The discernment that we need comes through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide us to listen to our sensible fears and to ignore those fears that are obstacles to God’s will.

The fear of our hearts should not prevent us from living the life God created us to live. (Tweet this) The Holy Spirit will help us navigate our fears so we can be the people God created us to be.

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  1. Very astute observation, thanks for the reminder that it is God behind what is the right risk…not our own choice that makes the difference for the outcome

    • Thanks for reading Julie! Yes, God doesn’t want us to take unnecessary risks, but there are times when we will have to risk for the sake of the Gospel.

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