Skip to main content

Take Courage: Pushing Through Fear In Dating

It happened the other day in the most ordinary conversation over the phone.

We had both planned to take the evening to get some introvert time, but he called to say “hi” after dinner. He was in the middle of telling me about a thought he had at work. It was harmless. Actually, to anyone else, it would have sounded like a relationship-building thought. There’s nothing he could or should have said differently. But it triggered something in me and sent me spiraling into my fear that if he really knew what that stirred up, he might find me to be too much to deal with and leave. My fear urged me to withdraw — to self-protect by putting up walls and to not let him in. To do anything and everything I could to keep previous experiences with guys from repeating. But at that moment, I knew running wasn’t the answer, because over time, it would suffocate the relationship I wanted to grow.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been taken off-guard by a simple moment that turned to what felt like an immediate threat … and it probably won’t be the last. The experiences I’ve had in dating are now a part of my story and they’ve informed the way I engage in this relationship. If I’m honest with myself, it’s not always for the better.

My friend recently told me a story about a hike he went on with his family. They were all walking along having a good time, until he looked down, saw a rattlesnake two feet away from his little girl and yelled at his family to step back. They were all safe but the kids were shaken up and done hiking  — very clearly ready to walk back down into civilization and away from both the danger they just encountered and whatever potential danger lay ahead.

My friend said to his kids: But don't you see?! God protected us from that snake so that we could move forward in safety. Not so we would back down.

That line struck me. Immediately I thought of my relationship and the number of times my fear of past threats has led me to retreat and self-protect by not letting the other person in. I’ve let my fear of past threats dictate the faith I exercise in trusting God with my future. And I withdraw from the very person I want to move towards and with whom I want to move forward. 

"'But don't you see?! God protected us from that snake so that we could move forward in safety. Not so we would back down.' That line struck me."

I wonder if we all have had moments like this, when we were taken off-guard by a threat to our safety that kept us from moving forward with confidence and hope. I wonder if you, like me, ever get so wrapped up in the complexity of your experiences and circumstances that you spiral back into the dark places God has already protected you from?

Maybe you were misled last time and wonder if you can ever trust someone to say what they mean and mean what they say. Maybe you’ve experienced divorce in your family and are afraid to let yourself be vulnerable to the potential of that kind of pain in your own relationships. Maybe you were addicted to the romantic feelings you felt in your previous relationship that blinded you to the reality of what was underneath the surface; maybe you don’t feel like you can trust yourself to make wise decisions when you feel those feelings again. All these experiences that might have left us broken and bleeding have the potential to become templates we lay over a new relationship. They actually lead us to repeat old patterns and look for signs of the bad rather than simply trusting God’s protection in past experiences and his promise to move us toward his best.

"All these experiences that might have left us broken and bleeding have the potential to become templates we lay over a new relationship and actually lead us to repeat old patterns, rather than trusting God’s protection in past experiences and preservation to move us toward His best."

Living in fear of past experiences repeating themselves does not posture my heart to receive God’s good gifts or see clearly that God was actually protecting me from things that were less than his best. They actually lead me to cling to the gift as my source of life, rather than the Giver. The danger of entertaining fear is that the gift God gave me turns into an idol. Something good for me to enjoy becomes something I worship. I put all of my hope in the person I’m in a relationship with and that is a big burden for them to carry. Impossible burden, actually. Because they are not God. And when God isn’t in his rightful place in my life, when I cling to the relationship or the other person as my source of safety and life, the gift can’t be enjoyed and it will die.

When Moses was passing on the mantle to Joshua, he also passed on a word from the Lord:

“The Lord your God is the one who will cross ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will drive them out. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, as the Lord has said. The Lord will deal with them as he did Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and their land when he destroyed them. The Lord will deliver them over to you, and you must do to them exactly as I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you.”

Moses then summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel,

“Be strong and courageous, for you will go with this people into the land the Lord swore to give to their fathers. You will enable them to take possession of it. The Lord is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” (Deut. 31:2–8)

There were whole nations ahead who wanted to destroy the Israelites. This wasn’t their first go-around with enemies. So, it makes sense they were afraid! We can all see how their past experience would cause them to want to retreat rather than move forward. And God, their loving Father, knew this. So, he made it very clear:I will cross ahead of you. I will deal with the danger ahead. I delivered you before and I will do it again. Take courage! Don’t be terrified; don’t be afraid.

He wanted the Israelites to move forward based on his goodness, not their preparedness or their ability to anticipate every possible threat and to defend and protect themselves. He’s proven that he’s trustworthy, that he’s faithful, that he’s their Protector. And he does the same with us. When I look at my narrative through God’s eyes, the threats I’ve felt to my safety and security were actually God’s goodness to me. They helped me identify danger and cling to my heavenly Father for hope only he can provide. They helped me learn to trust God's Spirit in me. They clarified what I’m looking for in a relationship. They showed me more of God’s character so I could move forward and take courage in him.

That day, on the phone, I took courage and pressed into my fear. I shared vulnerably about what his words triggered in me. Not to fault him or cast blame, but to bring the lies to the surface. And you know what? I was met with the exact opposite response from what I feared. He stayed on the phone, walked out of his house in his slippers and sweats, drove to my house and walked straight into my room where I was sitting on the phone with him. He sat down with me and leaned in and listened. He wasn’t going anywhere. And with that, we took a step forward.