Feeling Big or Living Large

Why do we not confront our fears? Sometimes it’s not because we feel too small. More often, it’s because we feel too big.

We pitch our tents and set up our lives far, far away from what we’re afraid of. We do this because of how big we want to feel. We don’t want to feel like someone who gets scared. I don’t.

Facing the fear means leaving the tent, walking over to where the fear is, and staring at it directly. To do only this much is scary, because I know where this will lead. I will discover that the worst-case scenario I have been dreading is, in fact, survivable. I will discover that what I have really been afraid of is that I might be embarrassed, or seem foolish, or fail, or have it publicly revealed that my heart has something tender and personal within it. I am scared to find out how tiny the things are that scare me.

Seeing this fills in some of the meaning of the line near the beginning of Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (v. 1:7). If a fear directs your choice, then you are subservient to that fear. Your experience and the scope of your awareness are limited by what that fear says. God will not hold you back this way. God, unlike other objects of fear, is not a bully who will play upon the awe we feel when at last we take him seriously.

Allow this awe, this awareness of the power and presence of God, to stand in the place of fearing small things. This is the way to live large instead of feeling big. To be great, place what is greatest at the head of your fears.


A couple of weeks ago, I was contemplating an act of giving, an idea that had come into my heart. I was in the process of thinking that the idea was too extravagant, too unnecessary—in short, talking myself out of it—when a friend stopped by to deliver dinner.

My wife was sick at the time. She’s better now—but on that night, this friend thought that providing our dinner would help our evening go easier. Just like that, she showed up with this gift, while I happened to be in the midst of a thought about giving.

And in my own internal response, I saw a glimpse of the larger reason for why we give. The effect goes beyond the recipient. The act of giving is able to tip scales, to propel love forward, and to reshape decisions to an extent that surpasses what the giver is able to know. Because of the way it affirms and uplifts human beings, because of the way it awakens them from out of their guardedness, selfless giving is probably the greatest power that we humans are given to deploy.

Second Best (or Not?)

The Apostle Paul wrote letters reluctantly. He communicated this way when he needed to, but his letters are full of statements about how he would rather be with the recipients himself—preaching the gospel and sharing encouragement in person. His letters are full of his hopes that he would travel to the recipient soon, as if the letter was only a down payment, only a temporary concession to distance.

Yet these letters are now Paul’s farthest-reaching legacy. They make up much of the New Testament, and they give us words we can share for comprehending the profundity of faith in Christ.

Even Paul could not imagine the full unfolding of the purpose God had for him. When Paul was doing what he thought was second-best, that’s when God was really using him.