How to Take a Leap of Faith When You’re Scared

“Obedience isn’t a lack of fear. It’s just doing it scared.” – Jen Hatmaker

“Courage is being scared to death … and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

I got an email a few weeks ago from a reader who’s considering going on the World Race (an 11-month, 11-country mission trip I did a few years ago!). She was considering going, and had been for awhile, but you could tell she was scared out of her mind at the prospect. She had about 1,000 questions. She wanted to know where Racers sleep, what travel days are like, how you shower, if you’re likely to get sick, every detail of what she could expect.

I answered her questions the best I could, but at the end of my response, I spoke directly to her fear (because that’s what was really going on here, I could tell).

I said, “I know you’re scared out of your mind at the prospect of doing this. I was too.”

I told her I was scared, but even that admission was a total, complete, understatement.

I decided to go on the World Race a full year before I actually went, and from that far out, it didn’t look scary at all. It looked like a wonderful adventure, something I was certain I wanted to do.

Everything looks easy when it’s far away. Have you ever noticed that?

Running a marathon sounds like NBD when you have eight months to train and prepare. Starting that new job sounds like a fantastic new opportunity when it doesn’t start until January. Traveling around the world with nothing but a backpack sounds like a treat when it’s too far away to feel real.

But inevitably those things come closer, and as they do, they become positively terrifying.

The closer my departure date came, the smaller and weaker I felt in comparison to the mountain looming before me. I felt too young, and too small, and totally helpless. One of my closest friends has a positively tiny mouth, and it looked like her tackling one of those triple stack cheeseburgers. I’d taken on too much, I’d bit off so much more than I could chew.

I’d cry myself to sleep at night as I’d imagine all of the things I could encounter — my mind was a hurricane of “what if’s,” worst-case scenarios pelting the windows of my mind and my heart, trying to convince me to stay inside forever.

But my fears didn’t just stay in my head and my heart, they exploded out into action.

After a particularly long night of crying and worrying, I sent an email that six months before, I never would have imagined I’d send.

“I’m just not so sure this is a good idea,” I started. “I don’t think this is right for me. Is it possible to give up my spot? Is there any way I can get refunds for the people who have already donated to me?”


I was quitting. I was giving up. The fear had won.

Except for the fact that it was too late, I soon found out. I could get out of going, certainly, but my supporters couldn’t get refunds. It was either go, or stay home and lose all of their money.

I was stuck.

And so I did exactly what John Wayne suggests. Scared to death, I saddled up anyway, and I went.

And I’m so glad I did.

My time on the World Race changed my life completely. My faith is so much different, richer, fuller, because of that experience. I am so different because of the things I experienced throughout the year. I walked out of that year looking so much more like the woman God created me to be. Not only that, but everything I’m doing in my writing today, God and I dreamed up while I was traveling the world. And (as if that’s not enough!) I met my husband because I went on the World Race. I never would have met him if I didn’t.

My life is forever changed because I saddled up anyway, because I did it scared. And that’s a lesson that I’ve taken into every bit of the rest of my life.

The misconception we have about people who do amazing things is that they’re not scared. We look at Olympians, and people pursuing their dreams, and the founder of the latest, greatest tech startup and imagine that they’re somehow different from us — that they’re somehow missing the fear gene, that they’re able to tackle these huge, public things without a quiver or a doubt.

I’ve had acquaintances look at me as I write and release a book, or as I pack up to travel the world and they say, “You’re so brave to do these things! I can’t believe you aren’t scared!”

But I am scared! Everyone is!

Everyone who’s ever taken a leap of faith, who’s attempted something bigger than themselves has felt scared — has considered backing out, has wondered just how much the impending failure is going to hurt, has worried what other people are going to think.

Fear is a normal part of doing something big — it’s almost a prerequisite.

But ultimately, they’ve decided that whatever the thing is, is worth the risk. So with fear and doubt and worry flanking them like an entourage, they’ve saddled up anyway.

That’s how the most wonderful things in the world happen — they happen because someone decided to show up anyway, to hop on that plane, to create that new technology, to start a family, to release their words out into the world, to do it scared.

And so if there’s something in your life right now that you’re considering doing, but something that scares you more than you can even explain, don’t wait for bravery or courage to show up in the form of not being scared anymore. Because I’m convinced that’s just not the way it works.

Gather your people around you, bring your teddy bear if you need to (I have my two favorites tucked away in a closet, and they always come out just before I release something new into the world. I promise you I’m not kidding!), and take the leap even though you’re afraid.

The best things in my life have happened through leaps of faith, and I believe the same will be true for you.

I just want to leave you with one of my favorite verses, and that’s Joshua 1:9. It says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Be courageous sweet friend, because we need you to be. We need you to do the thing, to sing the song that God has placed inside of you. And yes, you will be afraid, but yes, God will be with you every single step of the way. I promise, and so does He.

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