In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield observed, “The more important the work, the more resistance you need to expect to feel.”
Why does it feel so hard to not be numb? Because there is a war waging for our hearts, to shut them down. To disable those who love Jesus, and especially those who are surrendered.
So I propose we fight.
The writer of Hebrews was addressing Hebrew believers who had tasted fear. They were exhausted, their friends and family had been imprisoned or killed, and they were wondering if living for Jesus was worth it. They were scared for their lives and families.
They were weary.
In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay… But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back. — Hebrews 10:37-38, emphasis added).
Let those words haunt you. I shrink back a lot, and it haunts me too. We all are plagued with inner wars:
“I shrink back because I’m afraid.”
“I don’t trust myself.”
“I’m confused because I’m not exactly sure what it is He wants me to do.”
“I don’t know for sure that I can do what God wants me to do.”
“I’ve already got too much to do right in front of me.”
I don’t know what it is for you, but I bet that in some way, in some place in your soul, you are shrinking back. Even though we were saved and have God with us to live our callings, we all are shrinking back. So let’s go there.
Why are you shrinking back? Why are you afraid to live your calling? Where do you feel the most resistance?
“I don’t have enough margin in this season of life.”
“I am already strapped financially.”
“I can’t neglect other responsibilities.”
“It’s really not a big deal.”
“I’m too young or old.”
“I am not 100 percent sure this is God’s will.”
“It’s not going to make a difference.”
“It feels lonely.”
“I crave security.”
“I can’t control what is going to happen.”
“I am scared I’ll fail.”
“I am not a leader.”
“I am screwed up.”
“I want a comfortable life.”
“My spouse will not support this.”
“What if God takes someone I love?”
“I’ll look foolish.”
“If I do this, I will let people down.”
“My family doesn’t understand.”
“People think I’m crazy.”
“My life will look different than my friends’.”
“I am not good enough for God to use me.”
“I can’t even pray right now.”
“I don’t know if I trust God’s plan for me.”
“Do I really believe God is real?”
“I am stuck in sin.”
“I don’t think God even sees me.”
“Is it worth it?”
“What if God doesn’t show up?”
“What if I am misreading God?”
So do the work. Ask yourself, why are you shrinking back?
I shrink back because I’m afraid. I am afraid of what I will lose.
What if following God costs me the things I love most? What if He takes my spouse or child? What if I lose approval or comfort or success or control? What if I give my life, and He takes away the deepest desires of my heart?
In God’s beautiful irony, as I write about fear today, I just pulled the trigger on one of the scariest callings of my life, a vision that has haunted me for over seven years. It is an embarrassingly large, preposterous vision. Only someone stupid or possessed by God would dare to dream of what we are about to do.
And sitting on an old red couch decorated with little brown horses at my sister’s ranch, sending texts revealing our crazy plans, I find myself in that frantic moment with the ground inching closer and the pullstring on the chute not working. I’m just stuck in the silent wait. Welcome to my brain. Fear lives in me, and I can’t seem to make it go away.
Everything in me wants me to shrink back even on the good days, and especially on the bad ones.
And oh, how I wish I were writing this years from now, when this dream’s existence was sure. Fear pushes its way to the table. I am hosting it and feeding it and offering it coffee as I write about how ridiculous it is to be afraid when God is for us. But here is the thing:
I am terrified. This could fail. This may not even be from God. And I am going to do it anyway.
We have to deal with fear because it is possible that it will make us miss the best parts of life.
We all face fear. But we must kill fear like it is the devil, because it usually is. We do not belong to the one who shrinks back; we belong to the One who moved through His blood and sweat and despair and fear and reluctance in the garden of Gethsemane and said,
Not My will, but Yours be done. I belong to You and I will live for You and die for You. — Luke 22:42
He walked headfirst into His death.
So fight with me.
I shrink back because I’m unclear. Honestly, I have never known anything for 100 percent sure. God’s will usually is revealed for certain after something happens. Were we 100 percent sure we were supposed to adopt Cooper? No. We just had a burden we couldn’t shake, and at some point when that burden lines up with Scripture, you have to ask yourself, “Is this God?”
You won’t believe how much you actually do know. And we have a thick book from God about who He is and what He wants for us that we can absolutely trust. But honestly, there is a lot we know about ourselves. He likes His kids completely hanging on to Him for dear life more than He cares about the perfect plan being executed. He is after us, and uncertainty is usually what keeps us glued to His side.
He is in the trenches with us. In the fear. In the uncertainty.
He is in the unknown — knowing and leading and working. What we don’t know yet is meant to lead us to dependence.
I shrink back because I’m distracted. I’ve already got too much to do right in front of me. We have to be the most distractible generation on earth. There is just so much out there fighting for our attention.
I have four kids, church, friends, and dry cleaning, and everybody around me seems to need to eat all the time. I have a pretty full-time job in ministry, and on and on like everyone else. But somehow I still manage to watch every season of Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock, use Facebook to keep up with people I haven’t seen in fifteen years, and take a lot of baths and a few naps. And there is nothing wrong with any of it — the things I have to do, and the things I want to do, and the things I just need so my soul doesn’t shrivel up. But if I do all of it and never consider that there is a bigger reason I am here, I could be missing the point — missing the Only thing for all the small things.
All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. — 1 Corinthians 10:23
There is an art to living that is far above the base human instinct of survival. I want to live beautifully. I want to live like my good friend Julie, who has died twice and been resuscitated, and who can’t do small talk because she knows she may cross over to heaven any minute. She just doesn’t have the stomach for chitchat. She manages to do her dishes and tuck her kids in and see patients in her job. But she lives more beautifully and intentionally than anyone I know. She lives slowly and breathes every moment in. She sits on her deck as her boys wrestle and chase balls. She sips wine and asks questions that move us all to wonder aloud about things that matter. Let’s make that kind of beautiful life. Without wasting a minute.
I shrink back because I’m insecure. Every single time I stand up in front of ten people or ten thousand, I tremble. I shake. I have a very physical reminder of my insecurity. And I’ve learned to not wish it away. My insecurity makes me pray every time. When I get on my knees, God reminds me that this is about Him and not me. He reminds me that I have nothing to prove anymore.
Because of grace we have nothing to prove. Our confidence is in the security and power God gives us, not in ourselves.
To know that you are absolutely treasured, unconditionally, changes you in this way. You feel free, and you want to run with a God who would love you like that. To know that we do not measure up and that we don’t have to because of Jesus, because of grace, means that life gets a whole lot more fun.
It is nearly impossible to do anything with our threads while we are looking side to side. One of my most creative friends called me recently, as burdened as I had ever heard her. She held a dream and couldn’t seem to start it because someone she barely knew was doing something similar already. Rather than listening to God alone, we look around and compare and allow our inadequacies to consume us. Then it’s over before it starts.
We want a revolution, but most of us wish someone else would start it. We’re embarrassingly cynical and we shoot leaders down for sport, so no wonder we’re all afraid to lead! Instead, let’s help each other fight our fears rather than taking each other down.
Together, if we could cheer for each other instead of criticize, and obey instead of compare, and fear God instead of being paralyzed with fear of men, we could watch God just flat show off in front of us. We need each other, and we are killing each other. In Hebrews 12, the writer pleads with those who are shrinking back:
Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses… — Hebrews 12:1
We have each other.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…
Because we are free.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…
We have a marked race — each of us. We can’t miss it for fear.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God… so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. — Hebrews 12:2-3
We fall apart when we look at our fears and inadequacies and compare ourselves to every other runner. But fix your eyes on a God like Jesus, and you will not quit. You will not shrink back. Not from others, and not from yourself.
Risk something. Step out and fail. Be the fool.
Excerpted with permission from Restless by Jennie Allen, copyright Thomas Nelson.
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What are you willing to risk for Jesus? What stumbles you? What causes you to shrink back? Today, let’s ask the Lord to help us press on anyway to fulfill His purposes for our lives! Join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily