When I was growing up, we had a white Siamese cat named Charlie. I don’t know how much breeding goes into a white Siamese, but I know this—Charlie was thoroughly domesticated. He was a household cat with a capital “H.”
Yet every once in a while, Charlie got the itch to see what was on the other side of the door. It was easy to tell when he got this way because when someone was getting ready to leave the house, he would follow on their heels all the way to the door. As they left, he would peer outside while the screen door pumped shut. Once he started following people to the door, you knew it was just a matter of time until he squirted through it and ended up outside.
Once outside he was totally out of his element. The brightness, noise, and spaciousness simply overwhelmed him. His tail would immediately puff up, he would go into a defensive crouch, and then slink off to hide behind the nearest bush. And that was it—that was Charlie’s big adventure. He would remain behind that bush until you picked him up and took him back in the house—where he would be contently remain for another three or four months before the itch would strike again.
Charlie was just an animal—driven by his instincts. Yet he reminded me of how, if we allow it to, fear can get the best of us. God opens a door for us, and we go through it. We take a good look at everything and then look for a bush to hide behind.
The apostle Paul was in fear while he was at Corinth. He would later write the church and tell them, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling,” (1 Corinthians 2:3). We don’t think of Paul being afraid, but he was.
Truth is, he had plenty of reasons to be that way. He had been stoned and left for dead at Lystra (Acts 14:19). In just about every city he went to, there were people who threatened his life. These are just the things we know about. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, Paul shares a longer list of the suffering and hardships he faced, and it’s likely that at least some of these occurred prior to Corinth.
One night at Corinth, God appears to Paul telling the apostle not to be afraid because He is with him (18:9). He is to keep on talking. No harm will come to him. Bolstered by this, Paul stays in the city for a year and a half.
Knowing what we do about Paul’s history, it would have been understandable if Paul had wanted to hide behind the nearest bush. Knowing what Paul did about God, made that impossible for him. And why not? He knew that the One who created Him, sustained him, and ruled the universe was with him. His fear was a very real thing, but so was his faith in God.
I think that’s the takeaway for us. I doubt that any of us will ever be fearless, but we can fear less. More to the point, we can make the choice that fear won’t be our focus, God will. After all, courage isn’t the absence of fear—it’s the presence of faith. And faith is what happens when we know that God is with us.
Let’s focus on that.