What are you afraid of?

When I backed into a neighbors parked car a couple years ago, I developed a fear of driving through narrow spaces. Embarrassing? Absolutely. Seemingly irrational? Of course, but fear doesn’t always make sense.

My sister visited recently and was highly amused as I slowly maneuvered through the Portillo’s drive-thru, my hands at 10 and 2, my car’s camera programmed on the screen to help guide me.

“I should be videoing this and sharing it with the rest of the family,” she giggled as we inched our way through the concrete polls. I laughed along with her, appreciating the humor — but unable to calm my nerves.

The irony is I used to love driving, windows down, music up. Before I had kids, I would go on drives just for the fun of it, and at one point (don’t laugh) I thought about being a race car driver like Danica Patrick.

Fear does this. It changes us. It warps the truth and casts shadows of insecurity over our experiences and abilities. It speaks lies that make our lives a little bit smaller, a little less vibrant, a little less authentic.

A quick Google search tells me what I already know to be true: I’m not alone. There are fears of seemingly everything, from snakes, flying and public speaking, to mascots, peanut butter and beards. In other forms, fear masquerades as worry: for our kids, our jobs, our health, our future, our world ... the list is endless.

Fear isn’t wasted when it spurs us into positive and productive action in response to a genuine threat, but sometimes it’s the bully immobilizing us into passivity or frenzied chaos, whispering doubts and holding us back from living into the fullness of joy and purpose.

I find it comforting that one of the most repeated phrases in the Bible is the encouragement not to be afraid. This tells me God understands the frailty of our humanity. Fear is universal and natural, and at the same time, not meant to be a permanent condition.

Often this encouragement to be unafraid is paired alongside this reason: God is with us. This with-ness doesn’t always look like the immediate relief from our circumstances. Rather, it might be the sister in the passenger seat who doesn’t take life so seriously, the resources to get help from a professional, the strength and wisdom to face the challenge, the hope of eternity with Him.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, whether it’s an absolutely terrifying diagnosis or a nightmare parking situation. If every day feels like an insurmountable struggle, it’s time to reach out for help. Life can be legitimately frightening, but please be encouraged that you’re not alone. Keep moving, keep pressing into joy and purpose, one inch forward at a time.

— Jade Cook of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].