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Lifeboats and Tigers and Fears, Oh My!

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

“I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary ... It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always ... so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't ... you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”

Why did I choose to open this fine week with this somewhat chilling quote from Yann Martel's, Life of Pi? Well, for one, I spent yesterday reading Yann Martel's, Life of Pi. And the Friday night before that watching Yann Martel's, Life of Pi. Also, yesterday was National Pi Day. In case you're interested.

But no, it is not only because I have Pi on the brain that I thought this quote worthy of a blog post: it's because this quote, in so many ways, is a mirror. A reflection of myself, and maybe yourself, too. Because fear, I'm ashamed to admit, has controlled my life in many ways for too long: fears of others' thoughts keep me from fully enjoying life, fear of failure keeps me from chasing dreams, fears of change and discomfort and pain keep me from pursuing the next adventures God may have in store for me. So much fear, so many defeats, and all of it so pointless.

Martel is right. Fear is a clever adversary—or rather, the Devil behind it is. He does find our weaknesses with "unnerving ease;" for me, it's insecurity and pessimism, and for you, it might be something totally different. So, okay. Fear has found a way into our lives and staked its claim on the shadowy, crumbly places in our hearts. What now? We have options. We can submit to it (guilty), ignore it (also guilty), fight back with what little strength we have, or "shine the light of words upon it"—in prayer.

See, submitting to your fear is the worst thing you could do, because fear doesn't get bored after just one victory. If you let fear stop you from doing something you should once, it will not—ever, ever—be a one-off. Fear will laugh, devour your ruined plans, smack its chops and attack something else in your life. No, surrender is not an option.

Ignoring it is almost as bad. Because, you know, it refuses to be ignored for long. Trying to repress your fear of something is like trying to keep a lifebuoy underwater indefinitely—it will keep springing back, and will do so with a vengeance.

Fighting back is a little closer to the goal. Refuse to roll over, refuse to pretend it's not there, look it in the face, set your shoulders and stand tall, then claw your way through it, toward your goal. Congratulations, you're on your way to victory!

The world would just stop there, but we know that's not where the story ends. Because on our own strength, we can only get so far. Fear is a strong adversary with a stronger adversary behind it, and even with all our best spit and grit and determination, we will eventually start to crumble on our own, and that's why we need God. Before we do anything, we need to drop to our knees before Him and cage our fears between the impenetrable bars of words prayed to Him.

Fear is a clever, treacherous adversary. But good news—God is a brilliant, infinite, UNDEFEATED God! If we offer our fears to Him and hold on to His mighty hand, He'll show us what our fears look like in daylight—tiny, writhing parasites that have no power over the King of Kings, and no power over us unless we give it to them.

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