The Friction of Fear

Jessica HurlbutBy Jessica Hurlbut11 Minutes

Excerpt adapted from Unlimited Motherhood: Overcome 12 Limits That Overwhelm and Conflict Our Hearts by Jessica Hurlbut


“Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be.”—Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life

When God shows up in outrageous ways, it’s easy to hand over our pen and allow him to write our story. The fog clears and we see God for who he is—an amazing Father with a perfect plan. Yet the minute things go dark and we hit a pothole, we snatch that dang pen out of his hand. Jarred back to reality with another negative pregnancy test, a call from the ICU, or divorce papers in our mailbox.

I can write this story better, Jesus.

No matter how many God moments I experience, the next time I’m faced with a big decision, I’m derailed by fear. Fear slows us down, pulls us over, and robs us of our destiny. Fear loves to steal stuff.

The list of things you’re afraid of may be longer than your weekly grocery store receipt. As a mom, I worry less about my future and more about my kids’ future. Will they go to the right college? Will they marry someone I approve of? Will they love Jesus? Don’t even get me started on the state of this fallen world. If morality is taking a nosedive, what kind of world will my grandbabies grow up in? How will their faith survive?

If we’re honest, we don’t have a fear issue, but a trust issue. For some reason, it’s far easier to admit we’re afraid than to confess: “I don’t trust you, God.”

But you don’t.

And neither did I.

The Honest Confession

Greg and I stood below the floodlights outside the girls’ dorm room. Although we were childhood friends, I now looked up to Greg—literally and spiritually. He was sold out for God, and I relished the fact that somebody got me. We skipped church on Sundays to devote time to people in the city. This led to some wild adventures. Today’s escapade consisted of praying for a homeless man, cramming all three of us in his pickup, and hearing the man’s life story over beef baja chalupas.

While hanging outside my dorm, our conversation shifted to the future.

“I’ve no clue what I want to do with my life. I just want to do what God wants,” Greg said.

“It’s hard for me to think about the future,” I admitted while twisting the promise ring my parents gave me when I turned sixteen around my finger. “I picture myself as an old maid living alone, working in a library, like Mary in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“Are you kidding me? You’re going to find Mr. Right, have a bunch of kids, and do great things for God,” Greg said.

“Well, it’s not a matter of finding someone,” I said as I stared at the ground, kicking gravel with my feet. “It’s a matter of trusting someone, and I never will.”

I wanted to suck the words back into my mouth. I glanced at Greg, only to discover his eyes welling with tears.

“Why are you crying? I should be the one crying,” I said, trying to keep it together.

“That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re the most amazing person I know. To think you’d choose to be alone. It’s so sad.”

At that moment, I fell in love.

But just because you love someone, doesn’t mean you trust them.

Fear Makes Us Hide

I didn’t always have trust issues. My wounds from past betrayals festered into open sores. They hurt too much, so I didn’t want anyone to touch them. I never allowed Jesus to come close enough to slather on Neosporin and bandage me up. When others fail us, we struggle to get back on our feet. When it seems God has failed us, oftentimes, we never recover. I loved God—but man—I didn’t trust him one bit. I put more stock in Amazon delivering my package in two days than I did in God’s faithfulness.

Our conflict with fear and trust stems back to the beginning. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had it made. They spent their days sunbathing in paradise and counting their steps on nightly strolls with the Creator of the Universe. Everything they wanted or needed was at their fingertips. Everything except the fruit from one tree: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This one tree God instructed them not to snack on. Yet Adam and Eve couldn’t resist.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’”—Genesis 3:8–9

Adam and Eve hijacked the pen from God’s hand and decided they would determine what was right and wrong. They placed their trust in themselves rather than in their Creator. And don’t we do the same thing? How often do we rush to make a decision without spending time in prayer? How much energy do we waste weighing the pros and cons while neglecting to ask God’s opinion? Our decisions are sacred, and if we have surrendered our lives to Jesus, he should have a say in every one. Taking matters into their own hands was Adam and Eve’s downfall, and it’s ours too.

We are doomed to repeat this cycle of sin, shame, and hiding. Hyperaware of our imperfections, we tend to push God and people away. And if we hide for too long, we discover a terrible truth: people stop looking. Thankfully, God never does. When he asked, “Adam, where are you?” God knew his exact GPS location. He knows right where we are. Rather, he asks this question so we can come to the realization he has never left us. We are the ones hiding, while God has been there all along.

Trust Is Risky Business

We sped down the highway with the windows cranked in Greg’s 1988 Chevy pickup. A faded green Christmas tree air freshener dangled from the rearview mirror. It was a failed attempt to cover up the overpowering stench of petroleum. There was a hole in the oil pan, causing us to pull over every hundred miles. Each stop required Greg to buy another quart of oil and refill the tank to prevent the engine from seizing.

I guess we liked to live on the wild, broke, and slightly irresponsible side. Headed back to college after a youth conference in Virginia, we were reeling after all God had done.

Without giving it a second thought, I reached across the bench seat and grabbed Greg’s hand. He snapped his head to the side and stared at me with a wild look in his eyes. He slowly turned back toward the road, and we drove in silence until we pulled over for our routine oil stop. Five minutes later, Greg climbed back into the truck, reeking like a mechanic.

“I don’t hold hands with friends. Do you?” Greg asked with a scowl on his face.

I shook my head.

“I’m not sure what this is, but I don’t date girls for fun. If I’m going to date someone, I’m all in. Is this serious?”

I nodded.

And then—like the instance in front of the girls’ dorm—Greg teared up as words spewed out of his mouth like a broken fire hydrant: “I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.”

The more he repeated himself, the harder I shook my head. Tears trickled down my face as a spirit of rejection rose up within me. Greg inched closer as I pushed his shoulders away.

“I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.”

This phrase washed over my soul like the tide, exposing a secret I buried in the sand for years—I didn’t know how to receive love.

Excerpt from Unlimited Motherhood by Jessica Hurlbut provided by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright 2024. Used with permission.

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