I gripped the two holds in front of me as all the muscles in my body tensed with the realization that I now had to descend the three stories I had just ascended. I risked a glance below me. BIG MISTAKE! The glance only served to heighten the panic rising within me. I had just completed my first climb on an automatic belay system. These systems are pretty common in climbing gyms, and I had the opportunity to try one out recently. Basically, you can climb on your own without a human belayer.
What if I fall?
Little did I know that many of the fears that had once accompanied me when first learning to climb would rejoin me at the realization that there was no one below me to lower me to the ground. I gulped and immediately began to down-climb as quickly as possible. There was no way I wanted to let go and trust this machine to lower me safely to the ground. What if it didn’t catch? What if I fell? What if I forgot to hook myself
What if….? The questions were flying through my mind at top speed.
About a quarter of the way down, I stopped and took a deep breath. How many times have I belayed climbers who sit paralyzed on the top of the rock, unable to move, or unwilling to trust me as their belayer? I had no reason not to let go of the rock and let the automatic belay do the work. So, I took a deep breath, threw up a prayer, gulped, and let go. After a slight drop, I was quickly gliding toward the floor, looking a little like Peter Pan.
Each time I let go it gets a little easier
A few days later, after climbing a few more times on this automatic belay system, I let go once again and was lowered to the ground. Fear still caused me to hesitate and grip tightly causing the veins in my arms to begin throbbing. But I let go and arrived safely on the ground a few seconds later. What changed? With each climb, I trusted the belay system and myself a little bit more. I never failed to arrive safely to the ground, so each time I had to let go, it got a little easier.
Jesus explicitly commands us multiple times in scripture, “Do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) In the Psalms, David consistently cries out to the Lord in the face of fear seeking to be free of it. “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) Joshua urged the Israelites not to be afraid, but to have courage. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.” (Joshua 1:9)
The message is clear. Fear exists, and yet it does not have the power to overcome, overwhelm, define, or prevent us from learning to trust God completely.
There are parts of a climb where holds come easily, and it can feel like you are almost dancing up the rock. Then you reach a point where the holds get smaller, harder, and you begin to feel like your arms or your hands just can’t take anymore. These are the places where fear kicks in and tells you to give up, quit, retreat, protect yourself. Yet, when you do fall or let go, the rope and your belayer are there to catch you…repeatedly. You can trust your belayer, and we can trust the Lord.
Sometimes trust is easier said than done
Because we fear failure, vulnerability, rejection, shame, feeling inadequate, insecure, and more. In life there are times when things just feel really good, relationships are going well, work is fulfilling, and you are confident each day that God is with you.
And there are times when we struggle, fear rears its ugly head, and it is more challenging to trust that God really has our back.
He is trustworthy
Even so, we can trust that “perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18) God never stops overcoming the fear that prevents us from living in true freedom. He is trustworthy!
Whether you are taking the risk to do something physically harder than you think you are able such as rock climbing, stepping toward vulnerability in a relationship, or applying for that dream job, even though you feel unqualified or inadequate, trust in the Lord is the power that overcomes our fear.
Every time I face fear and choose to trust the Lord, I choose dependence on Him and not myself.
And that is the reason I keep climbing!
“When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4).