There’s an exercise I’ve done in workshops where I give people two post-it notes and ask them to write down one fear they have for the future and one hope. Then we all stick our hopes and fears up on the wall. Every time without fail, our individual hopes and fears correspond so closely, we really could have gotten by with one statement, inverted. Hope is so often on the flipside of fear. And if that’s the case, then fear can lead us to hope.
Singer-songwriter Andrew Ripp has a thing or two to say about fear in his song “Jericho,” which he wrote after the name of the ancient city came to him while sitting at the piano one day. That visitation prompted some digging, both internally and in the Old Testament. He tells it like this on Our Story Our Song: “Basically a gentleman by the name of Joshua gets this word from God. Instead of invading the city [of Jericho], the traditional way with the army and force, he gets this word from God not to do that, but to march around the city for seven days. On the seventh day the walls would come crumbling down in the city would be his.”
One of my favorite verses comes to mind from the first chapter of Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Moses, the great liberator of the Israelites, has just died and God picks Joshua to lead an entire nation across the Jordan into the promised land. Talk about a moment for imposter syndrome. But God knows us. He anticipates our fears. He tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous” four times in this short conversation. God will be with him as he walks into utter uncertainty and absolute hope.
Fast forward to Jericho. “What a cool picture of our fears just crashing down not because we invade them and try to beat them. But because we surrender to maybe the possibility of something bigger,” Andrew Ripp goes on to say, “Maybe there’s something that the fear is trying to tell us. Give fear the opportunity to teach you something; maybe it’s leading you somewhere.”
What an equally terrifying and terrific way to disarm fear. To welcome it as a messenger of something bigger, something that extends far beyond our fears. Our love. Our future. Our hope. God anticipated Joshua’s fear and said, don’t worry about it. He didn’t make it go away. He just promised Joshua that something bigger than fear would always accompany him. And Joshua had a chance to test it all out when God gave him the call to march instead of invade.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”2 Timothy 1:7
What if we let hope be the driver? To take a page from Elizabeth Gilbert, fear is still in the car, but it’s sitting in the backseat. And as Andrew Ripp suggests, fear can be an indicator, a piece of information, a “look out for that, because you’re really trying to go in this direction, remember?” Fear is something we can learn to live with, at least until it’s transformed. Flip that post-it note and give hope the final word.
Writing the Book of Hope
We’ve been writing the Book of Hope together for nineteen weeks now, but it’s never too late to join us! Here’s all you need to get started.
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