How to See Your Fears as Real Opportunities

Woman overlooking Lake Louise

How to See Your Fears as Real Opportunities


Have you ever found yourself running away from things you think you might be called to do? You wanted to go in a certain direction, but the idea brought about so much fear that you instead changed course, just to avoid the source of fear.

You’re not alone! I have been paralyzed by fear before.

I used to experience terrible fear when it came to public speaking. I remember once early in my campus ministry work, we were doing a retreat about the Holy Spirit and I was scheduled to give a talk on God’s love. As I furiously wrote and rewrote my talk the evening before, I began to get petrified. I even started thinking of excuses I would give for why I had fled the retreat in the middle of the night!

Crazy, right? What was I so afraid of?

But that kind of irrational fear around speaking was present in me for years. Whenever I was asked to speak to a group I would think and sometimes even ask God: “Why did you call me to something I am so ill equipped for?"

Fear is a prevalent theme in the Bible. The people of Israel, after being led out of slavery in Egypt and literally through the separated waters of the Red Sea, balk on the doorstep of the Promised Land. They thought. “We are not equipped for this!" They chose to use human calculations about their chances of taking the Canaanites, even though God promised their victory.

The result: 40 years of wandering, and a generation missing out on their destiny.

Fear can be a terrible destroyer. It seems to attack the very foundation of our lives.

So how can I title this post as I have, and argue that you can see your fears as real opportunities?

I’ll tell you how.

Here are 4 ways to see your fears as real opportunities:

1. Fear is an opportunity to learn about yourself

The things we are passionate about and the things that terrify us both tell a story.

Why was I terrified to give talks for so long? Maybe I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to offer the audience something of value. Maybe I was afraid that they would think less of me. Maybe I was afraid that people wouldn’t think I was smart enough, or spiritual enough, or simply that I was not cut out for the ministry.

Maybe it was all of the above and then some.

These fears reveal insecurities that are helpful to know about! They can show us where our identity is wounded, and we can ask God to bring healing there. 

Though it's definitely not fun to confront the root of your fears, it is way better than hiding from them. Unless you’re the kind of person who wants to be in the dark about himself.

In which case, maybe you’re a weirdo?

2. Fear is an opportunity to grow stronger

Why does God permit fear? John’s first letter says that “perfect love casts out all fear” (4:18). So why does God permit us to experience it?

My belief is that God lets us experience fear for own our good; the passage says that loves casts it out, not that fear is barred entry in the first place. Why is that?

Maybe fear is permitted entry because overcoming fear with Christ’s help is better than not facing it at all.

I’ll tell you something crazy: I’ve come to be grateful for my paralyzing fear of public speaking.

Part of my dealing with the fear involved going to an intensive public speaking conference. It involved giving talks before judges, and it was a bit of trial by fire! But it was such a thrilling experience.

Courage after all isn’t the absence of fear, but the overcoming of fear. This fear enabled me to exercise courage.

Courage after all isn’t the absence of fear, but the overcoming of fear.

In addition to becoming aware of my insecurities and knowing myself better, I became a sensitive student of what comprises a good presentation. In fact, I think I was more attuned to what to correct than someone who is naturally very confident about speaking.

Though I would never have believed I’d one day say this, I’m glad I was afraid in this area.


Recalling an amazing honour when we were asked to MC the 2016 March for Life. #prolife

A photo posted by Josh Canning (@catholicjosh) on

3. Fear can show us where God may be calling us to act

I really believe that fear can tell us things about what we should do. You just see it in the Bible so much, this presence of fear when God is calling you to act!

I have found that I sometimes have a subtle twisting feeling in my stomach when I feel called to do something. It might be that I need to speak to someone about something sensitive. Or it might be that I feel that I need to speak out against (or for) something and I am afraid how it will be received. 

And I feel like Moses' words are my words:

"Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person.” (Exodus 4:13)

But this funny gut-feeling, I now see it like an indicator light. It tells me that it may be time to speak, or act. 

4. Fear can be opportunity to strip away the fake you and be your authentic and vulnerable self

I had a rough time with depression a while back. More than once, actually.

I didn’t want to share that fact with even my close friends. For some reason I was terrified that people would find out.

But a public campaign was going on at the time with famous people sharing their struggles with mental illness. It brought me a lot of comfort to know that I wasn’t the only walking through it.

So, despite a lot of reservations I wrote about my struggles. It was hard to do, but believe it or not it was actually very freeing! I felt like, “Well, that’s out there. One less thing to try to hide."

And what really made it worth it, was that other people took strength from my story and knowing that they were not walking alone, either. Praise God! In his amazing creative power, he ministers to others even through our weaknesses.

It’s all too evident that our fears can wreak havoc in our lives, leading us astray and preventing the fulfilment of God’s plan in our lives. But we don’t have to let it do so! 

While fear can tear things down, it can also be the foundation for building up great things.

The opportunity is there before us! We just need to take it.

Question: Where is fear acting as an indicator light in your life? 

I now see fear like an indicator light. It tells me that it may be time to speak or act. — Josh Canning

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