sarah + mcdugal + holiday + new year + resolution + goal + webinar + coach + pray + fear + less + fearless

When Fear Teaches You to Surf

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New Years Eve tends to be a monumental night on my blog.

At the end of 2016, after blogging nothing for nine months, I went naked on the internet.

I hit publish, and then my hands shook as I trembled through the emotional aftershocks of breaking the silence on what I’d survived. My Facebook page got 40,000 hits that week, and a very, very big part of me wanted to hide from the exposure of my deepest anguish. But God had made it clear that He was calling me to speak out and bring support to Christian women ready to leave the wilderness of abuse.

At the end of of 2017, inundated by women seeking support to survive similar situations, I blogged about faith, chronicling God’s miracles of provision and protection after quitting my job to go into ministry full-time. Colleagues and I had just co-founded the Bucket Brigade Against Abuse to provide training for church leaders and support for survivors.

Now at the end of 2018?

Well… this year has been no less of an adventure! When I posted last year’s blog, this persistent little worry niggled at the back of my mind, was I tempting trials by making the bold statement of “No Fear, Just Faith“? Was I setting myself up for failure?

That question crossed my mind a thousand times since.

This year has brought me eye to eye with some of my most crippling fears. Fears so deeply private and painfully personal that they get poured out only to the ears of God.

Facing fear isn’t fun.
It’s not like conquering a big project or finishing a monumental task.
There’s no mountaintop high partway through.

Fear is an unavoidable part of being alive.

If you never feel fear, it’s not because you’re better than everyone else… It’s probably because you’re dead inside. Or you’re lying to yourself. But ignoring fear isn’t the way to get past it. Pretending you’re not scared achieves nothing, except maybe stomach ulcers or an autoimmune disease down the road.

Conquering fear doesn’t happen overnight. More often, it feels like you just keep learning to do it scared. Courage isn’t about getting rid of fear, it’s about letting the fear drive you instead of destroy you, channeling it into a determination to stand up and fight for right instead of freezing or fleeing.

One morning, during an especially fearful season, I woke before dawn and saw several messages from a treasured friend and mentor of mine. She’d had a strong impression to write to me about a word picture God had given her.

You were adrift in the ocean, and the waves were beating you down and driving you under. You choked and clawed and gasped for the surface.

God reached down and handed you a life ring, and you were able to stay above the waves. Clinging to it kept you afloat, and you were able to catch a rest. But that wasn’t the end. Simply “not drowning” wasn’t enough.

After a while, God turned the life preserver into a surfboard. Suddenly, you weren’t down IN the ocean anymore, you were above it. The very same waves that once deprived you from oxygen, now propelled you swiftly across the surface.

The source of your fear, when controlled by God’s power — became your fuel, your power, your propulsion — precisely because you relied on His protection and strength.

What a way to wake up and start a new day!
Tears flooded my eyes as I lay still, crying alone in the pre-dawn twilight, pondering the potential of this scenario in real life. The powerful visual image spoke to me in a way that data and facts never could.

In 2018, I learned that prayer conquers fear. I learned that God’s word holds the power to soothe anxiety and steady shaking hands and trembling hearts.

I learned that God’s promises are as powerful as the Divinity who made them. He actually means it when He says:

“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.” Exodus 14:13

“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you.
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10,11

“The captives of warriors will be released,
and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved.
For I will fight those who fight you,
and I will save your children.”
Isaiah 49:25

I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

Does God always remove the waves?

No, even though we often wish He would.
But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t rescue us. Sometimes instead, He hands you a surfboard and teaches you how to skim above them.

Sometimes, the answer to your prayers is the process of becoming fearless. Not living without fear, but learning to fear LESS.

And so that is what I have chosen as my theme for 2019 —
Faithfully FearLESS.

Here’s to a year of surfing!

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