My husband and I were enjoying the day in West Virginia with a hike. There were many sunny spots on the trail, but this one in particular stopped me in my tracks. The snake directly in front of me was enjoying the same day by soaking up the summer sun.
Of course, the snake was bigger in my mind’s eye than in reality. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have a fear of snakes. I know this because of my reaction. I didn’t scream or run in the opposite direction as I was taken by surprise. I simply froze in place and began to shake uncontrollably.
Rational thinking does not change my response nor eliminate my fear of snakes. I know that snakes exist in the mountains of West Virginia. I understand that most likely I will not encounter a snake. In over 25 years of visits and hikes in West Virginia, we have seen only a handful of snakes in their natural habitat. Despite the statistics, stepping on a snake is my number one fear when we hike. Fear doesn’t have to make sense.
For many years, I was not interested in hiking the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area of West Virginia. I can trace my reluctance back to a casual comment from my husband’s grandmother. In her younger days, Grams picked blueberries (huckleberries) in Dolly Sods and occasionally would see a rattlesnake or two. Since 2015, my husband and I have explored Dolly Sods with day hikes. It is now my favorite place to hike when we are back for the yearly family reunion. Fear affects my choices.
Snakes are not my only fear. As an empty nester in a later season of life, the unknown future can instill fear. Will our money run out in retirement? Will our health hold up? Fears are a part of life. Yet, we don’t have to be afraid of fear. Fear doesn’t have to control us.
Fear is real, but God is even more real as we recognize His presence and lean into His reassurance. Fear doesn’t have to define us. Fear doesn’t have to steal our joy.
Scripture shows us how to handle fear in our lives.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).
When I am afraid, I will trust in you (Psalm 56:3).
Live out your identity in God.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).
And a personal reminder for me: Stand and not be shaken.
I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).