The pounding was real.
When had my heart last felt this way, like a trapped animal slamming against itself against unescapable cage walls?
I reached for the one-way ticket in my pocket, took a breath, and headed to the plane.
Whose idea was this, again? Sure, I’d long felt called to write about how Christian students can navigate secular education without losing their faith, so taking this trip to document Christians’ university experiences in different countries had seemed like the right thing to do.
But now, with six months’ worth of gear strapped to my back and a one-way ticket to Australia in hand, that idea had suddenly become very real.
Scary things, however, are usually worth doing. I don’t mean the kind of “scary” that might accompany leaping off a bridge in the middle of the night because your friends think it’s a good idea.
We’re talking about the scariness that comes from doing the right thing, the noble thing, the thing that God has called you to do, even at personal cost. It’s the kind of scary that can go along with everything from inviting a friend to church or moving away to college to battling oppressive armies or facing dens of lions.
Yeah, it’s scary. But there are at least three good reasons to do scary things:
1. Scary changes how you view God.
Anyone can trust God while eating chips on a recliner chair. But how much more real does God become to us when scary things force us to rely on Him like never before? Consider what ancient Israel’s priests would declare before battles:
“’Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’” (Deuteronomy 20:3-4)
Doing scary things reminds us that God is with us, is fighting for us, and has already defeated his enemies. It makes us communicate with God more, trust him more, and surrender ourselves more completely to him. Suddenly, He’s our only hope.
I remember experiencing this realization at age 18, during my first major mission trip to Uganda.
The morning I awoke to find myself a world away from all my family, friends and familiarity was the first time I really started viewing God as my Father. God, I thought, You’re the only family I have here.
2. Scary changes how you view life
Because scary situations are opportunities for us to grow closer to God, doing scary things for the right reasons helps us to become more concerned for the things that concern Christ.
Slowly, we realize that life isn’t about gaining more possessions, bucket list experiences, or social media likes. Our purpose, we discover, is like Jesus’: “I have come to do your will, my God.” (Hebrews 10:7).
Look in the Bible at Abraham, Joshua, Gideon, David, Esther, Daniel, Paul and countless others, and see how many stories reflect this theme of doing God’s will even when it’s scary.
Hebrews 11 talks about many such ordinary people, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” (Hebrews 11:33-34)
These heroes’ conquests hint at a shifting of their life goals, wrought by cast-iron clarity to focus on something greater than themselves.
3. Scary changes how you view yourself
Doing scary things for the right reason, then, expands your view of God and his kingdom while contracting your view of yourself. When you look toward God, and to a cause that’s bigger than yourself, you become small in contrast. You realize that, compared to the outcome you’re fighting for, any price you might pay in the process is irrelevant.
This is why soldiers run into battle knowing that every step might be their last. It’s why men and women of God only a few generations ago risked—and often forfeited—their lives to help Jewish families escape from Nazis. And it’s why one teenager stepped forward to battle a Philistine giant long ago, saying “is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29)
Yes, our pulse might still rise with every step we take closer to the mission God has for us, like I experienced before boarding that Australia-bound plane. But leaping from the banks of our comfort zone means diving into the grace of God—a plunge worth every scary, heart-pounding instant.