IT'S NOT THAT THINGS AREN'T SCARY ...
Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives.
Judy B lume
A few years ago, the idea that I would write a book on living fearless would have been unthinkable. I could have written a series of encyclopedias about how to live in fear, but I could not have come up with even one sentence about being fearless. I did not know how to live without fear controlling my life — directing my thoughts, influencing my decisions, answering my questions, preventing me from having fun, and keeping my emotions in a continual state of unrest. It caused me to say no to opportunities that could have shaped and changed my life — opportunities I now wish I'd said yes to.
Had anyone asked me, "Who is the most fearful person you know?" I could have answered without thinking about it for even one second. I was the most fearful person I knew!
I once met a girl in the audience of one of my speaking events who made the most interesting comment about fear. She said she felt like it was a disease she could never get rid of. For a long time, I felt the same way.
I went through a season in my late teens when the fear became extreme, and that's when I realized things had to change. But I have to admit that for most of my life, I cannot remember not being afraid of something. Just like my long brown hair, my hands, or my feet are with me all the time and I cannot get rid of them, fear was always with me too. The thought of being free from fear was as far-fetched to me as being free from an eye or an ear. It was that much a part of who I was. After all, I reasoned, there were a lot of scary things in the world. Why wouldn't I be afraid?
Sometimes I look back and ask myself, "Why were you so scared of everything all those years?" (I can answer that now: because I kept feeding my fear instead of starving it.) God has done a complete work in my life, and I know He wants to do the same for you.
OVERCOMING FEAR MEANS SURRENDERING CONTROL
Let me take you back to a few experiences that will show you what a fearful person I used to be. As a child and young teenager (and, okay, even older than that), I was terrified of storms. I'm not sure why, but thunder, lightning, high winds, tornado warnings — all those things made me shake inside. Looking back now, the fear seems totally unreasonable, and I'm not sure where it came from.
Maybe I was afraid of tornadoes because, unlike other girls my age who watched Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, for some reason, I watched the Weather Channel — a lot. I was remarkably educated about floods, droughts, hurricanes, and blizzards. I knew about people being rescued from their rooftops and losing power for days. I'm aware that most children aren't fascinated by weather events, but I was unusually interested in what can happen in the natural world and how powerful it can be. I just wasn't interested enough to want to live through a tornado. But I did — kind of, or at least from a distance.
I once saw a tornado from my seat in the car while my family drove from our home in Louisiana to a Texas Rangers baseball game. The sheer force of it captured my attention and terrified me. I can still see the image of the funnel cloud in my mind. But I can also see a mental picture of my cousin, Reed, undoubtedly the toughest and least fearful of the Robertson grandchildren, freaking out over the tornado. This guy, who was never afraid of anything and always rushing into things that seemed dangerous, started screaming as loud as he could and even threw his phone to the back of the car!
That episode with the tornado stands out as one of the most frightening events of my childhood because it felt so threatening to me, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. It was completely out of my control! I didn't know then that navigating situations we have no control over is a necessary step toward breaking free from fear. That's one thing about God; He's the one in control, not you or me.
The tornado incident drove home for me the whole idea that I am not in control of anything. It was so much bigger, so much more forceful, so much more frightening than any experience I had ever had. After watching it with my family that day, I didn't want to travel anywhere unless I knew what kinds of scary things could happen.
Seriously, before I went on a trip, I researched the most common natural disasters in the state where I was going. It didn't take long for me to learn what was likely to happen in almost every state in America. Want to know where tornadoes strike most often? Just ask me. Interested in the states where wildfires happen most? I can tell you that. Want to know the places most vulnerable to floods or earthquakes? I still remember them. Oh, and as a bonus, if you'd like to know the details of hurricane season, I could probably help you with those too.
Being afraid of tornadoes and natural disasters isn't terribly uncommon, but I took those fears to extremes. You see, it's one thing to be aware of your circumstances. It's another thing to let them consume and control you — and that's what fear does. Plenty of people are scared of big catastrophes, but it isn't always the big, dramatic events (like watching a tornado from the car window) that make us most afraid. We can be just as fearful of ordinary, everyday situations.
Maybe you've heard that a lot of people struggle with the fear of public speaking. That's been true for me. You may have heard me speak in a large arena or on YouTube, where the whole world can watch and think, No way! She didn't seem nervous at all! (If you have, thanks for being there!) Let me just say this: I was the person in elementary school who started sweating and breathing fast if the teacher called on me to read aloud in class. I had to learn to face my fears every time I stepped on a stage or in front of a camera.
Though I truly believe I am living fearlessly, I'll confess that sometimes I still get a little nervous when I speak in front of lots of people, but it's excited-nervous instead of scared-nervous. I used to allow nervousness to keep me from wanting to speak. Now I can hardly wait to get in front of the audience, and I just say, "Go away, fear. I'm not listening to you. I've got a job to do! I mean it. Go away! Not today! Good-bye! In the name of Jesus!"
The key ingredient to overcoming fear is not just speaking to it; it's speaking to it in Jesus' name. When I tell fear to go away and leave me alone in the name of Jesus, I say it with lots of force and a little bit of sass. That short speech has become my anthem. I don't care if I sound a little silly saying it. It works!
If you will stand up to fear, give it a little straight talk, and tell it to leave you alone in Jesus' name, that will get you a long way. But beyond that, it's also vital to trust God while you're still afraid. You see, often your peace is waiting for you on the other side of trust. I've had a lot of experiences where God met me once I stared down my fear, pushed through it, and did what I needed to do.
When we're afraid, we have a tendency to pray and ask God for peace before we'll step out and do what frightens us. But most of the time, we simply need to move forward. Once we break through the fear, God gives us the most amazing sense of peace — but usually not while we're still deciding whether to conquer it or not.
If you're waiting for a sense of peace to come so you can deal with your fear, you could be waiting a long time. If you will be brave and march straight into that fearful situation, having faith that God will bring you through it, that's probably where you'll find the peace you're looking for.
HERE'S A QUESTION: How many thoughts of fear consume your mind? On a scale of one to ten, with ten being off-the-charts high, how fearful would you say you are?
HERE'S A CHALLENGE: I challenge you to name your fears because the first step to moving beyond fear is to know specifically what you are afraid of. So go ahead — make a list of your fears on paper or in your phone.
HERE'S SOME ENCOURAGEMENT: Once you get to the other side of fear, once you've had that breakthrough you need, you'll look back on the things you were once afraid of and ask yourself, "Why was I so scared of that?" Yep, you'll have the ability to laugh at your fears. That's the kind of freedom I believe you can find in this book.
HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PRAY: Lord, help me identify what I'm afraid of, and show me how You are bigger and greater than that. Give me security and safety through the truth of your Word.
TAKE NOTE: The Bible has lots of scriptures that include words like "Fear not" or "Don't be afraid" or something similar (depending on which translation you're using). Here are a few of them. Write down some ways these Bible verses can help you gain victory over fear.
Isaiah 35:4 John 14:27 Matthew 6:34 Philippians 4:6–7
I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO DANCE!
I was hit with a big fear moment when I received the phone call letting me know that Dancing with the Stars wanted me to appear on the show. The timing could not have been crazier. In June 2014, I had attended a meeting about being a contestant. They said they would call me in two weeks to let me know if I had been chosen. Two weeks passed, and no one called, so I assumed I would not be part of the cast. Two months passed and August rolled around. They finally called one Friday, but only to say, "We aren't going to have you on the show. We already have a girl your age for this season."
I was sad and disappointed after waiting all summer for their decision, but I accepted it. Two days later, on a Sunday, they called back and said, "We want you after all, but you'll be a week behind everyone else, so we need you in Los Angeles tomorrow."
The fact that I was a week behind all the other contestants was not a surprise. I had already seen media reports about people chosen for that season of the show, such as Bethany Mota. Here's the thing about Bethany. She had something like five million Instagram followers when Dancing with the Stars chose her. When we went to New York for the announcement on Good Morning America, her picture was on the huge screen in Times Square. She's a big deal! Another contestant that season was Alfonso Ribeiro. He eventually became my "California Dad," but when I first heard I would be competing against him, I thought, No pressure, Sadie. He's only been on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and danced in a commercial with Michael Jackson.
And then there was me, a teenager from West Monroe, Louisiana, who was not happy about missing basketball season. Maybe you understand why I felt out of place with such well-known, accomplished people. Before that, the biggest audience I had ever performed for was in my high school gym during basketball playoffs! Of course I was nervous about dancing on television in front of the whole world!
But still, I was so thankful to have been asked to be on the show. I was truly honored by the invitation. But the thought of leaving home the next day and being a week behind everyone else was overwhelming. So I said what a lot of people might say when they're overwhelmed: "This is such an amazing opportunity! Thank you so much for asking me. But I just don't think I can fly out tomorrow. This is an intense competition, and I don't want to start out a week behind the other competitors."
My response made perfect sense to me. After all, I didn't know anyone on the show; I had never met my partner; and three thoughts kept racing through my mind: (1) What would the Christian community in my small Southern town say? (2) I didn't even know how to dance (minor detail, right?), and (3) It was BASKETBALL SEASON! The more I thought about it, I felt rather awkward and not graceful at all. I could dominate a basketball court, but a dance floor? That was a different story.
Once I hung up the phone, I had a meltdown — and it was major. As soon as they asked me to participate, I decided not to do it because I was so afraid. Fear kicked in, and I could feel it physically.
"I don't even know how to dance!" I shrieked to my mom. I meant it. My school didn't offer a dance class or host a prom. I had never danced in my life! Generally speaking, dancing was not something a lot of people around me viewed favorably (I mean, you've seen Footloose, right?), so I was also nervous about what people would say or think about me. That's what the fear of man looks like.
Fear gripped me so tightly that I started bawling, saying, "I'm not going to do it! I can't do it! I know I said I wanted to be on the show, but I don't!" It was quite a crisis at the Robertson house!
My mom stayed up with me that entire night, until 4:00 the next morning. I talked. I cried. She listened. This was a lot for her to process too — the whole idea of sending her sixteen-year-old daughter to Hollywood, to be immersed in a world we knew nothing about. Had I been going on a duck hunt, everyone would have felt okay about it, but a dance competition? That was coloring outside the lines.
I want you to know something about my mom. All my life, she has been my go-to person. She is totally chill. About everything. The whole world could be on fire, and my mom would be the one saying, "It'll be okay. We can deal with this." And then she'd get busy doing her part to put out the fire. She's one of those people who doesn't have a fear chip in her wiring; she lives at peace. She takes Proverbs 31:25 seriously — and literally: she really does "laugh at the days to come," and she has no fear of the future.
It means so much to me that while fear was never an issue for my mom, and it was an issue for me, she never judged or criticized me. She realized that fear was a genuine struggle for me, and she took it seriously. But taking my fear seriously didn't mean my mom was willing to accept it. She never said, "Oh, it's okay that you're afraid" about anything. Instead, she handled it with grace and said things like, "I understand that you're afraid, but that's not truth." She continually prodded me toward truth and freedom from fear. I'll always appreciate that.
Still, the only time I have ever seen my mom wrestle with a tinge of fear was over my invitation to Dancing with the Stars.. After all, she'd heard stories about what happened to young people in the entertainment industry — stories about things she didn't want to happen to me. For the first time in my life, my mom and I wrestled fear at the same time.
She finally found freedom from fear when a good friend said to her, "Korie, don't be afraid. Sadie has the God of the universe living inside of her! The devil is the one that should be afraid." Amazing advice! She ended up at peace with my being on Dancing with the Stars before I did. Looking back now, I realize that seeing her win her battle over fear ultimately gave me strength to win mine too.
MY LITTLE SISTER'S BIG QUESTION
The night of the phone call, Mom and I both got a few hours of sleep. When I woke up, I was still as scared as I could be about Dancing with the Stars, and I still thought I would say no to them. Still, I knew the experience could be good for me, but I couldn't find a way to slide myself out of the grip of fear.
The first thing I did that day was to take my little sister, Bella, out to lunch. As I talked about all that had happened, she stopped me and looked me right in the eye. "Sadie, can I ask you a question?" she said in her eleven-year-old, matter-of-fact way. "Is this the fear talking, or is this you talking?"
My little sister had a great point: Who was talking? Was it the fear or was it me?
Bella could have simply said, "Sadie, this is not you talking. This is fear talking." But she made her point in the form of a question, knowing that having to wrestle with it would be good for me. Of course it was the fear talking. I didn't want to admit it, but what was I going to do? I got busted by an eleven-year-old!
HERE'S A QUESTION: Are you torn right now because you really want to do something, but you're afraid? Ask yourself the same question Bella asked me: "[Say your name here], is this fear talking, or is this you talking?"
HERE'S A CHALLENGE: I challenge you to say yes to whatever you are currently saying no to. Don't let fear make you say no when God is leading you to say yes.
HERE'S SOME ENCOURAGEMENT: Bella's question itself is encouragement. If you know fear is talking, go ahead and silence it. You be the one who does the talking!
HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PRAY: Lord, give me to strength to say yes when You want me to do something. Give me guidance to know what to do next in my life. I surrender my no to You and agree with what You want for me. If You're saying yes, I say yes too.