Anyone who works with horses can tell you that it’s never dull. Every day is a new adventure, and every horse is different from the last. Some horses will head out on the trail without a second thought, excited to get away from the barn and see new things. Others are more hesitant, unsure of what they’re going to encounter and positive that they’d rather stay with their friends. One uniting force between all horses is fear of the unknown. Since they’re prey animals, they have an incredible drive to survive, and it manifests itself in different ways. Some horses learn to trust their rider to keep them safe when the scary things come. Other horses are so controlled by their fear that they’ll see a moss-covered log and bolt. Each horse is reacting in a way that they know will ensure their survival. And we’re the same.
Our world is living in a near-constant state of fear; they’ve just gotten good at disguising it. I know that I have. For a couple years, I’ve been figuring out how to not only cope with anxiety but to live in a way that takes my focus off of myself and puts it back on the Lord. Because it’s when I get caught up in my head that I feel my heart beat faster and my mind race. The world would tell me that it’s okay, that being anxious is simply part of my identity. Or they would say that it’s all in my head, that I should just not let myself get overwhelmed. Neither of those points of view are particularly helpful, nor do they address the heart of the issue. Which is that anxiety takes root when we no longer trust the Lord but are trying to do everything ourselves.
“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
Letting anxiety build a root system within our hearts and minds will give birth to a fear that paralyzes us. Preventing us from living in the richness of the life that the Lord has called us into. That fear chokes us until we’re so afraid of taking a wrong step that we never leave the home we’ve made in our comfort zone. And it leaches into other areas of our lives, affecting those around us as well. We get so focused on ourselves, so tied down in our fear that we unknowingly pass that on to the people who are walking through life with us. Just like a horse can pick up on the emotions of its rider, the people in our lives can pick up on how we’re feeling as well.
You can go for a ride with a white-knuckled grip on the saddle horn because you’re terrified of what might happen. Or you can head out onto the trail with an open heart, ready for whatever might come your way. Each option will get you where you need to go, but the journeys to that destination will be vastly different. The Lord didn’t give us a spirit of fear and anxiety. He gave us one of power, love, and self-control. We weren’t created to live life twisted up in fear and anxiety; we’re called to live life to the full. But we can only do that by surrendering our lives to the Lord and trusting that He will keep us safe.
We’re not meant to live life holding onto the saddle horn. We were born to be wild-hearted, living life with wholehearted abandon because we know this world is not the end. And that while we’re on the earth, the Lord is the one that is in control. Lean into that truth today, and don’t be afraid to do the hard work of rooting out fear and surrendering it to God.