My muscles burned, screaming at me to stop.
“I know this is hard,” the trainer on the TV screen told me through her game face. “It’s not easy. But if you want results, you have to work for it.”
‘Tis the season for New Year resolutions, and among the most popular is the resolution to lose weight or get physically fit and healthier. We’re a week into the New Year, and if you’re like many people who had the fitness goal, you might have already fallen off your game plan.
If you struggle with fear like I do, you might have another kind of resolution for the New Year—to beat more of your fears in 2018. For me, this is a daily aim and often on my mind, but with the marker of the New Year, I’d like to take even bigger strides toward this goal.
There are many ways to battle our fears, and we’ve covered a lot of those tactics here on the FW Blog. But I need something to jumpstart my progress—maybe I need the extra motivation that fitness resolution-makers need to push them toward physical health.
One day recently, in the midst of my grueling workout, it hit me. Yes, my fatigue hit me, but something else did, too. My personal trainer (via video) offered the encouragement I’ve heard hundreds of times when I’ve done this workout, pushing me to finish the last few reps of an exercise. “When it starts to get uncomfortable,” she said, “those are the ones that count the most. That’s when I want you to push through. That’s when change is going to happen.”
I suddenly realized, that’s true about our fight against fear, too. As I look back at 2017, I see that the moments when I made the greatest progress beating my fears—when I even tasted defeat against a couple—those were the moments when I was caught in the trenches of the battlefield. Those wins came when I was uncomfortable. They happened when I was afraid.
Like most people who struggle with fear, I fall into the pattern of avoiding frightening situations whenever possible. I don’t like to be afraid—it’s not an emotion I enjoy. So I avoid it whenever possible.
Sound familiar? If you struggle with trying to lose weight or get physically fit, the temptation there is the same. It’s easy to fall into a habit of avoiding exercise, the solution to the problem, because that’s what reveals your limitations.
If you never exercise, you can probably manage most of your daily tasks without being conscious of a problem or the need for change. Exercise has a knack of making you uncomfortably aware that you have a problem. It doesn’t feel good while you’re doing it, and if you rarely exercise, it only reveals your physical struggles when you do.
But if we always avoid the uncomfortable reality of exercise, we will never reach our physical fitness goals. And if we always avoid everything we’re afraid of, we’ll never become fearlessly fit either. Instead, we might fool ourselves into thinking we don’t have a problem with fear, when all we’ve really done is managed to construct a comfortable existence within a self-constructed box of safety.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I like my safe life. There’s no reason I have to get anywhere close to the things that scare me.”
A lot of physically unhealthy people feel the same way. Until their lifestyle leads to a shortened lifespan, heart attacks, diabetes, or other serious ailments.
Another way to look at the box of safety we’re tempted to make our home is to see it for what it really is—a prison. When we work hard to avoid the things that scare us, no matter what that avoidance causes us to miss, our fear is calling the shots. Our fear is the one in control, dictating what our lives are going to look like.
If we never confront the problem of fear in our lives, it will still be there. Worse, it will fester and grow as it spreads to more areas of our lives, running wild with the control we’ve granted it. Eventually, it will become a much more serious problem that will threaten every area of our spiritual health, because it is the sin we thought we could hide and the sin we gave control of our lives.
This result is even more serious than the consequences of an ignored physical health issue. As the Apostle Paul writes,
“…while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” – 1 Timothy 4:8
Striving for godliness includes confronting and battling every sin in our lives, including our fears. To do that, we have to be clear about this: Avoiding our fears is not the same as defeating our fears.
“Do one thing every day that scares you,” Eleanor Roosevelt famously said.
Now I don’t think you need to do something frightening every day, nor do I think Mrs. Roosevelt had in mind the same end goal that we want for ourselves—defeating our fears for the purpose of godliness. But her philosophy is on the right track.
We need to make sure we don’t fool ourselves into thinking we’re fearlessly fit because we’ve ignored and avoided our still-alive fears. We need to invite God to work in our lives and to help us defeat our fears by, yes, stepping out of our safe boxes and into scary stuff.
When it gets uncomfortable, that’s when we can beat back stress and anxiety with the promises of God.
When we get worried, that’s when we can reach in faith for Jesus’s hand and walk on water.
And when abject terror fills our hearts, that’s when we can brace our Shield of Faith, stand firm with our mighty Lord at our side, and taste victory.
So what does this look like for you? If you’re new to the pursuit of fearless fitness, I’d suggest you start small. In the physical fitness workouts I do, “beginner” modifications are offered for people new to exercise so they don’t injure themselves or want to immediately give up.
I think the same approach is wise for tackling your fears. Start with a small fear that you tend to avoid because it makes you uncomfortable. Instead of avoiding it, face it. But don’t do so unprepared.
Be armed and ready with fear-fighting Scripture verses (memorized or on cards), fear-fighting songs, active prayer to your Protector, and/or an encouraging friend who will bolster you in this battle against your fears.
Those of us who are more seasoned warriors in this fight against our fears may have to set the bar higher for ourselves. I still avoid my biggest fears, so facing one of those means accepting two speaking engagements for 2018, knowing they will demand that I experience and face my extreme stage fright.
You might have a different daunting fear you’re avoiding. I encourage you to consider facing it. You’re not alone. God will go with you. And so will we, your fellow Fear Warriors.
Best of all, God has already given you the victory against your fear. You just have to step out in faith and live in that victory, live in that freedom He already purchased for you.
So let’s stop pretending we have victory through avoidance. Let’s be brave and strive for fearless fitness in 2018.
Then we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
What are your fear-fighting goals for 2018? What are some steps you can take to advance in the battle against your fear this year? Please share!