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How to Kick Fear Out of the Driver’s Seat

Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the choice to move forward in spite of it. After all, if there is no fear, there is no need for courage. I was reminded of this recently when I sat down with Gigi Butler, founder of Gigi’s Cupcakes, on the Real Hope podcast. During our conversation, she talked about the fact that we all feel fear, but what matters most is whether or not we decide to let it run the show. We can always choose to let fear drive or trust God in the face of it. Gigi decided to trust in what she felt God calling her to do, taking a brave step forward in opening her first cupcake shop even though many people thought it was a long shot (including the four banks who refused to grant her a loan).

“I opened my door scared to death of what’s gonna happen to me,” she remembers, noting she had only $33 left in her bank account at the time. “But I’m more afraid of living in the ‘what if’ than in the ‘why not.’”

Gigi’s ability to put fear in its place gave her the freedom to become who she is today: a successful entrepreneur with franchises across the U.S.

The Purpose of Fear

The concept of “fear” tends to get a bad reputation, but it’s one of the most basic emotions we have as human beings. And, like our other feelings, it’s not inherently bad or good. It does serve a purpose, though. Fear serves to warn us of danger. If we were completely void of fear, we’d undoubtedly walk into a host of dangerous situations without any regard for our own safety. Fear alerts us to escape a burning building or stop crossing the street if we see a car coming. We can’t survive without it.

“It is a fundamental, deeply wired reaction, evolved over the history of biology, to protect organisms against perceived threat to their integrity or existence,” Arash Javanbakht and Linda Saab write for Smithsonian Magazine.

If fear is a natural reaction to danger, there’s no way we can avoid feeling fear entirely — nor should we. We can, however, observe it, discern where it’s coming from, and make a choice. There may, indeed, be a legitimate reason for concern that we need to address or reconsider before moving ahead. In that case, fear has prevented us from making a mistake or putting ourselves in danger. It makes sense to let fear do the talking in those situations.

Often, though, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship or trying something new, we don’t have to let fear call the shots. We can observe the feeling, assess the risk and conclude instead that because we’ve done the prep work and we’re confident in our abilities, we’re going to forge ahead anyway. Sometimes, the only thing that’s stopping us is our fear of what others might think, the significance of which pales in comparison to the cost of not pursuing our dream. Sometimes, we decide to take a step in spite of fear simply because we feel conviction that it is the right thing to do, like standing up for someone being bullied or maintaining our integrity at work, even if it means we might be reprimanded. The alternative of staying silent is not worth what we’d be sacrificing to stay “safe.”

Fear can motivate us in many ways, but unless we’re actually being chased by a bear (in which case, let fear take the wheel!) we nearly always have a choice in how much control we let it have. 

Trust in God over Fear

The Bible says over and over again, “do not fear.” I think that says a lot about us as human beings. Even in the days of Noah, Isaiah and Jesus, people felt scared just as often as we do today. We can’t help it. But God does not intend for us to live in constant fear. 

Isaiah 43 is a powerful chapter that speaks to this:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you. (v.1-2)

John also reminds us of how we don’t have to live in fear when we are in Christ, because of his unconditional, never-ending love for us. 

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  (1 John 4:18)

The worst that could ever happen to us — separation from God — has been taken off the table because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. We don’t have to live in fear of what might happen next. We can rest in the fact that He loves us, He is good and He is sovereign. 

Gigi talked about this in our conversation, noting that she feels like she has a different view of fear than most people.

“I think fear is very real. I’m not saying you can’t feel fear. I just think fear is from the devil, and we are living in such a fearful time right now,” she says. “If we really say we trust God and walk by faith we should not even have fear around us.”

It’s this view of fear that’s helped her get as far as she has. Though Gigi recognizes the power of fear, she also decided to not let it have the last word.

“You can’t sit on the fence,” she says. “You either trust God or you’re afraid. Which is it? I’ve decided to trust God and be fearless.”

It can be difficult to trust someone we don’t know very well. That is the case in our human relationships as well as our relationship with God. If we don’t really believe that God is good and cares deeply for us, we probably won’t fully trust Him. We’ll trust our own understanding and live in fear.

“Focusing on God’s love is the door to trusting Him,” writes Jade Mazarin for Relevant Magazine. “When we grasp that we are precious to Him, we will know He’ll take care of us. Combine this with the realization of His power — His ability to do immeasurably more than we can imagine — and we know we’ll be okay.”

Trusting God is less about ignoring fear and more about leaning into who God is. Knowing and believing His character allows us to trust Him wholeheartedly, wherever He may lead us.

What are you feeling fear about today? Who will you let be in the driver’s seat? 

You can hear more of Gigi’s story and be encouraged by all our previous guests on the Real Hope podcast here.

NOTE: Feeling situational fear is a different experience than chronic anxiety. If you are experiencing chronic anxiety, especially if it’s interfering with your ability to do your daily tasks and experience life fully, please reach out to your doctor or look for a local therapist. You can find more resources on the Panic and Anxiety Community Support website or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for the anxiety helpline from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).