There are moments when I take stock of my actions and realize just how often I act out of fear. (Hint—it can be a LOT.) It becomes almost subconscious—changing the way I say something because I’m afraid of what someone will think, hesitating to bring up an idea because it might get shot down, going around in circles about a decision because I can’t see the end from the beginning and I’m scared of the unknown. So much fear, and living under the weight of it all can be exhausting.
There is another way, of course. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said,
“I invite you to embrace what the Lord has blessed you with and to act in faith. Do not take counsel from your fears.
To not take counsel from our fears simply means that we do not permit fear and uncertainty to determine our course in life. . . .
To not take counsel from our fears means that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ overrules our fears and that we press forward with a steadfastness in Him.”
Over the past few months, I have been reminded of a few principles from the scriptures that have helped me in my practice of choosing to act in faith instead of taking counsel from my fears.
1. Do Your Job, and Let God Do His
For me, a lot of fear comes from feeling like I have to do everything alone. I get the idea that I somehow have the responsibility to make everything work out, and when I can’t (because it’s not my job), I feel fearful and hopeless. Essentially, much of my fear stems from trying to do God’s job instead of mine.
For me, an aspect of my life that was encompassed by a lot of fear was dating—in large part, I realized, because I was trying to force an outcome. I put incredible pressure on myself to “go out and meet people” and make something happen (“If I don’t walk out of this activity with a date, I’m a failure.”). Then, when I didn’t measure up to my own unrealistic expectations, I felt bad about myself and dating felt hard and unpleasant.
In the Book of Mormon, the people of Alma were “much frightened” when they found themselves confronted by a hostile army, but they remembered whose job it was to deliver them. They didn’t have to overcome this challenge alone. Mosiah 23:27–28 reads,
So, in the spirit of that verse, I “hushed [my] fears” and had a talk with God about dating. I asked Him what was His job and what was mine. The answer was simple: His job was to get the right person in the right place at the right time, and my job was to SHOW UP and be “present, pretty, and available,” meaning that I needed to take natural, normal opportunities to get to know people, look presentable, and be willing to talk to someone new when the opportunity arose.
Making that distinction between God’s job and mine took a lot of weight and fear off my shoulders. I felt light and hopeful because my part was doable, and I could do it with gratitude, knowing that when the time was right, God would make His part happen too. In all aspects of life, I can choose faith over fear when I realize that it isn’t my job to make everything in my life work out—I can do my part, recognize that other people have their agency, and let God do the rest.
2. Kneel and Pray. Then Go and Do.
When I was trying to figure out if I should marry the man I began dating not long afterwards, I again felt paralyzed by fear. It wasn’t that I had major concerns—I didn’t, and that’s part of what scared me! I had been praying about it, but I didn’t feel like I had gotten a clear answer from God. I felt good about marrying him, and it was what I wanted . . . but what if I was wrong? What if I was just being set up for failure? I didn’t want to move, because I didn’t want to mess up.
During this time, I came across Alma 37 in the Book of Mormon, where Alma reminds his son Helaman about how their ancestors saw many miracles and were led by God through the wilderness. In Alma 37:41, he tells him,
When I read that, it was the wake-up call I needed. Praying was good, but sitting and doing nothing out of fear was not the way to receive an answer and “progress in [my] journey.” I knew I needed to make my choice and move forward with faith, and the way would be made known to me. So I did. I still have the occasional freak-out moment, but God has provided many assurances that my choice was a good one as I have chosen to lay aside my fears and move forward, trusting in Him and His guidance.
3. Remember in Whom We Have Trusted.
When I feel like fear consumes me, it is often because I have forgotten in whom I am placing my trust. I am subconsciously afraid that God won’t help me because I’m not measuring up in some way and I’ll be left to walk my path alone. What if I can’t hack this marriage thing? What if I don’t deserve happiness after all? What if I mess everything up and it’s all a big joke? At times like these, I’m reminded of when the prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon writes,
However, Nephi continues,
In moments of fear and when I find myself doubting God’s help, I have to remind myself who it is I’m talking about. This is Jesus Christ, Savior of the world, He who knows all things, who overcame all things, and who will help me overcome all things too. He will NEVER abandon me or anyone else who places their trust in Him.
The Practice of Choosing Faith
More than anything, I’ve learned over time that choosing faith isn’t a big, one-time choice (“I’ve chosen faith, and therefore I will never have any doubts or fears ever again!”)—it’s a practice. It’s an ongoing effort made up of many smaller choices strung together over days and months and years. There are ups and downs, and I may not always progress as fast as I think I should, but God is patient with my progress, and if He is, I can be too. He is pleased with every effort; all He asks is that I keep trying and keep turning to Him instead of clinging to my fears. And I can do that.