Much Afraid

“From Capri Heights,”© Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2017 Lynn Abbott

“Don’t fall,” Dad yelled as he suddenly pulled me back from my cautious and safe position on the observation deck.

My heart beat out of my chest.  Or so it felt.  After all, the view those heights on the deck of Hoover Dam presented quite a drop .  The water below roared.

But how could Dad, always the practical joker, have known that his teasing would give birth to a lifelong fear of heights ?

Never mind the fact that he had actually pulled me away from any danger. In a brief moment’s bewilderment, I feared I would tumble to the depths below me.

Quite simply, he couldn’t have predicted my reaction.   No one could.

After all, as a child, I had been fearless…challenging my neighborhood friends to new feats of daring on a daily basis.  Yup. I have the scars to prove it.

But at twenty-two, I understood the concept of “danger” far too well.  I had become acquainted with pain.

And with it, fear.

Thus, I stepped into the adult world with a healthy dose of trepidation.

As a child, I was fearless.  I have the scars to prove it.

Much Afraid.  Yeah, I can say with all honesty that from that day forward, I truly related to Hannah Hurnard’s protagonist in the classic, Hinds’ Feet on High Places.

Hardship, sorrow or suffering? Honestly? Not my favorite.  Send me an invitation to that party and I’m likely to RSVP, “I’d rather not.”

I suspect I am not alone in this.

Much Afraid certainly feared pain.  Yet, in Hurnard’s tale, the Good Shepherd asked Much Afraid to make a difficult journey in order to draw closer to Christ and to rest in His love.

She already served the Shepherd.  But the journey’s destination promised greater love and joy than anything she had imagined to that point.

So, Much Afraid chose the difficult path.

She reluctantly accepted her guides, Suffering and Sorrow, because they alone could steer her through the mountainous passes.

Suffering and Sorrow.  Now, there’s a duo I’d prefer to avoid whenever possible.  Obviously, my human nature doesn’t exactly rejoice in the idea of taking up my cross daily.

Indeed, in my “Much Afraid” moments, God’s calling seems too high.  The sacrifices appear overwhelmingly difficult.

I don’t like pain or suffering.  Send me an invitation to that party and I’m likely to say, “I’d rather not.”

Actually, Barak probably felt like declining the invitation when Israel’s Judge,  Deborah, delivered the news that God had chosen him to lead the Israelites in battle against the Canaanites.

It was a relatively brief exchange.  The book of Judges only devotes four verses to Barak’s calling and his response.  Yeah, four verses…But those verses speak to the very heart of me.

Barak’s call was straightforward.  Yahweh asked him to oppose Israel’s conquerors.

God also gave Barak this promise: “…I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his many troops to the river Kishon; and I will give him into your hand,'” (Judges 4:7).

In essence, Barak had been given a huge promotion.

This was his time,

his day in the sun,

his big opportunity,

his bid for heroism.

God had not only called Barak to it, but had also guaranteed ultimate success.

Simple “yes,” right?

Well, not exactly.  The Canaanite army was an imposing force. Judges 4:3 tells us that their king had 900 chariots, and that he had “oppressed Israel for twenty years.”

Thus, any entanglement with the Canaanites was bound to involve hardship, suffering and sorrow.

From a human perspective, Israel didn’t stand a chance in the match-up.

Barak’s fear held him back.

Sure, God had promised, but Barak understood the sacrifice required. Hardship was a given.  Pain and suffering were inevitable.

And judging by Barak’s response, I’d say that fear followed him like Pigpen’s infamous cloud of dust.

“‘If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go,'” Barak said to Deborah.

Quite frankly, Barak panicked; despite God’s promise, he cowered.

Deborah, however, didn’t reproach Barak.  She agreed to accompany God’s man.

Yet, she added this caveat: “… nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman,” (Judges 4:9).

Certainly, God used Barak in spite of his fear.  Under Barak’s command, Israel routed the Canaanites.

Even so, because he initially backed away from God’s calling, Barak missed the full joy and reward that results from placing one’s absolute trust in the Sovereign-Shepherd.  Barak’s fear held him back.

For this reason, Deborah received credit for Israel’s victory.

Yes, the message comes through loud and clear.  As I journey with Jesus, I must daily choose faith. If I embrace fear, I will miss many of His incredible gifts.

In April, my husband, son and I took a day trip to a magnificent coastal resort.  A cabbie volunteered to give us a tour.  He steered his convertible up the steep, rocky cliffs in order to show us the magnificent views from the mountaintop.  I held my breath.

After what seemed a long climb, we arrived at a look-out point.  My husband and son readily walked toward the view.

I hesitated.  My knees felt like wet pasta.  Nevertheless, I wanted to see the promised panorama.  I wished to absorb the beauty of that place.

Yeah, this Much Afraid cautiously pushed past fear.   And I’ll never forget that view.

For me, the message comes through loud and clear.

Uh, huh.  You know where this is going…

As I journey, I can choose to remain safely on the side-lines.  But in so doing, I’ll miss the reward that comes from placing my absolute trust in the Sovereign-Shepherd.

Sure, at times, the Savior allows hardship, suffering and sorrow to direct me in my quest to fully know Him.

At times, I may even question the climb. The Savior, however, will never leave or forsake me.  And He has promised that the view from the top is worth infinitely more than I can possibly imagine.

“Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,” ~ Psalm 61:1-2