When Fear Gives You Paralysis: Part 1

I feel like I’m standing on a diving platform, watching swimmer after swimmer step up to the board, bend their legs into a deep lunge, swing their arms, extend, and then propel into the air, splashing down into the water. Their dives seem effortless, graceful, and each one is unique.

I want to step up to the board, too. I want to surge off the edge like a loaded spring.

But I keep waiting. I watch to see how each swimmer prepares for his jump or how she dives. I applaud them and take mental notes for what I might do when I make a move.

Oh, nice flip there!
Wow, love that spin.
Hey, nice cannonball!

Sometimes I take a step forward, seriously considering walking to the end of that board. But then I talk myself out of it. I’m not ready to dive yet. I’ll look foolish or make a mistake. My long and clumsy legs might even trip off the board before I reach the end.

So there I stand, watching. Knowing I have been called to be in that pool. Knowing my feet should be moving. Knowing that this dive matters, but feeling too afraid or perfectionistic or awkward or inadequate.

And then an intense kind of fear creeps in like a hazy fog: What if I never step up and dive?

What Holds Us Back?

That’s how I’ve felt about ministry in the last year or so—like an observer. I watch, and I take notes, and I cheer others on, and I wish that I’d gain the courage to step up and dive.

I’m a collector—of ideas and thoughts, feelings and words, pens and notebooks. I keep them until I think I’ve discovered the perfect use for them. They sit in my mind or on my shelves.

My intentions are real, but I’m not a go-getter—not even close to a risk taker. I play it safe and hoard my intentions like knick-knacks that I’ll surely use someday . . .

Other writers are expressing truth so vibrantly. Other ministries are rocking the social media game. I watch them. I cheer for them. Why won’t I step forward, one foot and then the next, in confident faith?

Has God called you to a task? Has He presented an obvious opportunity in your life? Are your God-given gifts clear as day?

Are you standing on the sidelines, watching others go and do, knowing you should, too? What holds us back? If the opportunity to dive into the pool, so to speak, is right there in front of us, why don’t we count to three and leap in faith?

Excuses And Disobedience

It’s always wise to enter a new opportunity with caution and prayer. We ask for wisdom and guidance from God and godly people (James 1:5–8). But if we aren’t on guard, doubt and worry can slip into the mix. Suddenly, what once was healthy and wise caution has morphed into beastly fear.

Fear of man.
Fear of failure.
Fear of disappointing ourselves.

Then, fear sponsors paralysis. We hold baskets full of excuses and reasons for not getting started; fear keeps the baskets topped off and heavy. We’re rendered inactive and ineffective.

And here’s the big pill of truth we must now swallow: This standstill needs a different name—it’s called disobedience.

No, I’m holding back out of uncertainty, not out of disobedience, you’re thinking. I know, I’ve been telling myself that for months. But if fear, which is not of God (1 John 4:15–18), is in the driver’s seat, rather than faith in an Almighty God, aren’t we choosing disobedience?

Aren’t we telling God, “I’m going to hang out here feeling nervous and inadequate for a while. I know You want me to move and go and serve and love, but I don’t think I’ve got what it takes just yet.”

That’s disobedience. He says, “Go.” We say, “No.”

We’re Moses with his excuses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:10–15) instead of Caleb ready and willing to take on the land of Canaan in faith (Num. 13:26–30).

Reversing the Paralysis

I know the readers of this blog well enough to know that you want to be obedient. You want to go where God calls you to and serve like He has asked you to. So how do we reverse the paralysis fear gives us and obey, even when we’re afraid? God has been helping me find explore these questions in His Word—specifically in the book of Esther. Visit the blog tomorrow, and we’ll tackle these ideas together.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you.

  • Are there areas of your life where you feel paralyzed, unable to move because of fear?
  • Is there something God has clearly called you to do in His Word that you’re not doing? What is it?
  • What are you afraid of, specifically? If you’re not sure, ask the Lord to help you name your fears and then write them down.

We’re all standing on this diving board together. As we dig into God’s Word together tomorrow, I’m praying we find the confidence to swan dive.

About Author

Samantha Nieves

Samantha loves grammar, lazy lake days, iced green tea, and writing about the glorious gospel truths that transform our everyday lives. A northern Indiana native, Samantha now lives in South Carolina and serves as the social media manager on the Revive Our Hearts staff.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

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  • T.k. Wilson

    Thank you for this. I’ve been called to write children’s books in the vein of the Chronicles of Narnia for years, but I’ve been too afraid to publish anything. The usual excuses have held sway: I’m not good enough, what does the Christian world need with another fantasy series, there’s so many other better authors out there. My mom (often the messenger for prods in the right direction) told me I need to just go for it. This article just pushed me over the edge. I start work today!

    • mel

      Ooh I feel so excited for you, T.k.!!! I love the Narnia series and it is amazing the Lord has called you to serve him in writing. I believe you will do great, and I look forward to reading your works. Would you be writing under a pen name?

      • T.k. Wilson

        I’ll probably use the pen name T.K. Wilson 😉

    • Morgan

      I understand the fear, but I’m glad you’re going for it!

    • Samantha Loucks Nieves

      That’s great to hear. Write for the glory of God!

  • Morgan

    SAMANTHA, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH!!! It’s so frustrating when you have that desire to go and do what God has called you to do, but that shell of fear, maybe even pride, seems so hard to break through. I believe God has put it on my heart to tell and/or show people how much He loves them, because so many people don’t know. I want to do this, and He started me off with my younger brother and older sister. But then I kinda felt like He wanted me to go tell a stranger. I didn’t even try to move. So now I’m frustrated and my soul feels like it’s in knots. Anyway, long story short, I’m really looking forward to the rest of these blogs 😛

    • Rocky

      I understand the feeling! It can be extremely hard to step out in faith, in any situation. But we always have to remember: if God calls us to do something, we should do it. In His timing it will turn out amazing!

    • Samantha Loucks Nieves

      Thanks for your comment, Morgan! I’m praying that God gives you the strength and faithfulness to follow through with the opportunities He has placed in front of you. Keep seeking hard after Jesus, and as He fills you with His love, you will be able to turn around and show that love and light to others! All for His glory!

  • Anne

    Yes, I do want to be obedient and Yes, I do often feel paralyzed by fear of the unknown, the future. I will soon be 65, have always been a go-getter, but recent years’ circumstances have slashed at the heart of who I thought I was. I feel I have been in God’s refining fire and though we all know that process is not completed until we pass over into glory, I do believe God is being so faithful to me to show me these painful things so that I might be conformed to the image of His dear Son. My husband reminded me the other morning that it is not an option to ever give up, so we press on in the Lord’s strength!

    • Samantha Loucks Nieves

      Amen. Thank you for this sweet comment! May God be glorified through your faithful walk!

  • Bonnie

    I’m scared of so many things! You can definitely tell I have not reached “perfection in love.” I’m doing duel credit at a college near me. I’m super scared I won’t be able to keep up with all the work. I’m terrified of failing and finding out I’m as stupid as I often feel. I’m always so afraid of what others are thinking of me. The future often terrifies me. What if I’m not good at anything? What if I never do anything worth while? What if no guy ever wants to marry me and I’m alone forever? I have to keep trusting that God knows what He’s doing and will lead me through life. But it’s so hard… I can’t wait to read tomorrow’s post!

    • Morgan

      Just meditate on some verses about God’s love. I like 1 John 3:16 (not John 3:16, though that’s a good one; 1 John 3:16), “In this is love: not that we loved God, but that God loved us and gave His only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Also, it’s good to think on this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

      Something else that’s good is to stop thinking negatively about yourself (I need to work on this, too :P). Just look yourself in the mirror every morning and say to yourself, “You’re beautiful and God loves you.” Knowing who you are in Christ is good, too (I know, this is a lot xD. They’re only suggestions :)).

      • Bonnie

        Thanks so much for the suggestions, Morgan! Romans 5: 8 is actually my favorite verse. Trying not to think negatively can be difficult when we’ve been doing it for so long. I struggle a lot with believing what I know is true. Fortunately, the One I know IS true! :p

        • Morgan

          Yeah, I understand how hard it is to break the negative thinking rut. Like I said, I’m working on it, too! Something good to think about is that verse in Proverbs (I think 17:22???) that says, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Basically, “Where the mind goes, the man follows.” You gotta think positively on purpose, although I admit sometimes I feel so low, it makes my insides squirm lol.

    • Samantha Loucks Nieves

      Hi, Bonnie! Thanks for your comment.
      I often relate to those spinning-out-of-control thoughts . . . but can I speak some truth to you in the most loving way possible? Those questions and accusations against yourself aren’t from the Lord. They’re from the enemy—and he’s happy for you to continue thinking that way!
      In God’s strength, we can take every thought captive. We can go before Him and say, “This is how I feel . . . Help!”

      2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says:
      For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ . . .

      Open the Word and pray that He would replace the negative thoughts with His truth as you read! I really do relate to this battle. (I even wrote about it here: http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com/perfectionists-guide-right-thinking/)

      Here’s a super encouraging passage that I would recommend memorizing!

      Blessed be the Lord!
      For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
      The Lord is my strength and my shield;
      in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
      my heart exults,
      and with my song I give thanks to him.
      Psalm 28:6-7

  • Yes, fear can be paralyzing. It can keep us from doing God’s will, unfortunately. 🙁 But He still holds us, even when we’re afraid!


    • Samantha Loucks Nieves

      Yes He does!