When I was a young girl, my parents enrolled me in swim lessons. I did fairly well when it came to swimming inside the pool, but not so much when it came to diving. All the other kids would somewhat successively dive off the board and into the water, but not me. I would stand frozen in fear on the diving board, legs shaking as I looked down at the pool below. To me, it felt like I was standing on the edge of a 10-story building. Even though my swimming instructor stood in the water underneath, coaxing me with outstretched arms and a warm voice, I would just stand there and shake my head. Now, I would like to say that I eventually did dive and I've since become an Olympic gold diver, but that's not true. To be honest, I don't even remember diving; I only have a faint memory of my instructor letting me jump into the pool from the normal ground level. But I let my fear keep me from experiencing something that would have turned out fine and perhaps even been fun if I had just let myself jump.
I operate in similar ways in a lot of areas of my life today. I sometimes say no to opportunities because I'm afraid of the outcome. I shy away from sharing the gospel because I don't want to offend someone or ruin a relationship. I panic before taking on certain projects or going to certain events, even if they are things that I enjoy, because I don't want to dive into something that requires courage. Fear can keep us from moving forward in our lives. It can seize us and convince us that remaining in the same spot is much safer than taking a step into the waters of the unknown. And in some ways, this is true. If we never took any risks and said no to every opportunity that required us to come out of our comfort zone, we would feel secure. But we would never grow.
Throughout the Bible, we receive example after example of God calling people to do daunting tasks. God called Moses to be the one to lead the Israelites out of slavery, but Moses felt unqualified because of his lack of eloquent speech (Exodus 4:10–13). God called Gideon to defeat the Midianites who were oppressing Israel, but Gideon felt too weak and young (Judges 6:15). Like Moses and Gideon, when God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah felt too young and inarticulate (Jeremiah 1:6). We, too, can act in similar ways. We can look at the opportunity in front of us, or whatever it is that God is leading us to do in fear, convincing ourselves that on the other side of this task is failure. But what I love about these three instances is that God's words to them remain the same–"I will be with you."
God's promise to be with His people stands the test of time. Even in the New Testament, Jesus told His disciples, "I will be with you always" (Matthew 28:20). If God promised His presence with His people in the past, He surely promises His presence with us in the present. This means that in every instance or situation of fear, God is with us. God's promised presence encourages us to take a step forward, even in the face of fear. Moses, Gideon, and Jeremiah's fears likely weren't immediately extinguished when God told them how He would be with them, but they still moved forward. In the same way, we can move forward in faith even with fear because of our God, who promises to be with us.
As we move forward, we will learn how God grows us through the opportunities that make us afraid. When we dive into the waters of fear, we learn more about who God is and how He is shaping us into the image of His Son. We see how He strengthens us in our weaknesses and uses our experiences to sharpen our faith. And even if we struggle in the places God calls us to, we learn how we can continue to depend on His presence with us.
In your own life today, you may be gazing over the waters of a situation that stirs up your fears and awakens your doubt. Your initial reaction might be to shake your head and figure out an alternative from diving in. But God stands with outstretched arms, beckoning you with a warm voice to take the leap. God will not let you drown. God will not leave your side. So take a step forward, and dive into the deep.