My panic attack was provoked by my fifth grade teacher's request that I come to the front of the class and recite a few lines from Emily Dickinson's "A Slash of Blue." I knew the verses - that wasn't the problem. Just the night before I had recited the poem to my three-year old sister, Dianne. But an adoring baby sister is one thing - a classroom full of peers was entirely another matter.
I finally dragged myself to the front of the class and managed to avoid crying while I laboriously choked out each word.
My terror of public speaking worsened over the years, driving me to Herculean efforts to avoid situations that posed even a remote risk of having to say a few words to a group. At university, I refused to sign up for courses that required oral presentations.
You can imagine my surprise and dismay, years later, when God spoke to my heart during prayer that He was preparing me to speak to women's groups.
The first time I accepted an invitation to speak at a women's conference will be forever branded in my memory. From that moment until the conference six weeks later, anxiety kept me awake most nights. I lost weight. I fantasized that the worst blizzard in Canadian history would strike, causing the event to be cancelled.
But alas, the dreaded night arrived. When I picked up the microphone and started speaking, I trembled from head to toe. For the first few minutes, I felt like I would faint from terror. Then suddenly, God's peace settled on me, and remained with me for the rest of my speech.
This scenario repeated itself, with gradually lessening severity, the next several times I was asked to speak. As I continued to trust in God's grace and power, the day came when I was truly free from fear.
What if I had never faced that fear? It would continue to rule my life today, governing my decisions and stifling my potential.
Over the years I have spoken with many women who have ideas and dreams. Some dream of starting their own businesses. Others dream of writing songs, or establishing a ministry to reach out to inner city youth, or counselling abused women, or running for political office. As they share these dreams, their faces radiate with passion and joy. Sadly, these passions rarely translate into achievement. Fear quenches the passion and immobilizes them from stepping out to reach for their dreams.
What gifts are buried beneath your fears? If you don't confront those fears, they will rob your dreams, repress your potential and hinder you from discerning your destiny.
Faith = Action
Overcoming fear means changing our focus. Instead of depending on our own strengths or weaknesses, we trust and rely on the strength and power of God working in and through us. The Bible assures us:
I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me - I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me (Phil. 4:13 AMP).
Genuine "God-dependence" produces faith and boldness. This principle is illustrated in the biblical account of Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan River to enter the land that God had promised them.
Between the Israelites and the land of promise was a formidable barrier - the Jordan River. It was flood season at the time God instructed them to cross the Jordan, and the river was overflowing its banks. No bridges, airplanes or boats were available to transport them to the other side of the flooding waters. If they tried swimming, they would surely drown.
God's instructions for crossing the river defied common sense. He said that the priests were to go first and step into the flooding waters, then God would cause the water flowing downstream to stop and pile up into a heap (Josh. 3:13). In other words, the miracle would happen after they stepped into the raging floodwaters.
Faith doesn't work that way. Someone once said, "God is the fastest chess player in the world - it's always your move." You move - then He provides His supernatural power to enable you to do the impossible.
Remember, courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is boldly stepping out in faith and obeying God despite your feelings of fear, being undaunted by obstacles.
What dreams has God placed in your heart? Are you willing to believe His promises? If you are waiting for feelings of fear and inferiority to go away before you step out to embrace those dreams, you'll never fulfill your life purpose.
Decide today that fear will no longer dictate your choices and actions. Place your total dependence on God, and trust in His grace and power as you take the next step on the path to your destiny.
Judy Rushfeldt is an author, speaker, and online magazine publisher who has been writing for 25 years. Her passion is to inspire and equip women to reach their dreams. Her latest book, Making Your Dreams Your Destiny - a woman's guide to awakening your passions and fulfilling your purpose, is now available in quality bookstores. You may also order online with your credit card or by mail, fax or toll-free telephone by clicking here: MakingYourDreams.com. All rights reserved © 2012 AnswersForMe.org. Click here for content usage information.