There are people in our world who suffer from a malady. called Gephyrophobia! It means the fear of crossing bridges. Sometimes the fear is associated with the height of the bridge. At other times, it might be associated with the water spanned by the bridge. With others, it is just the bridge itself that strikes terror into their hearts. When those people approach a bridge, they experience panic attacks or are overcome by feelings of dread. Like all fears and phobias, the fear of bridges is created by the unconscious mind as a protective mechanism. At some point in the person’s past, there was an event linking crossing bridges and emotional trauma. It is not the bridge itself that is the barrier. It is the underlying emotional issue.
I am not making fun of those people. In fact, I am one of them! I know what it is to be afraid. I know what it is to stand at the foot of a bridge and be frozen in my tracks. It first happened to me when I was a small boy. For me, that experience has become a life lesson in how to cross the bridges of fear.
Let me take you back to that little foot-bridge that stood between me and God. It did, because on the other side of that bridge, was the church I attended. I had to cross that bridge to get to the Sunday night service. At that little bridge, I had to make a decision about who was bigger—my God or my fear.
The bridge is still there. Although it looks much less ominous to me now than it did when I was a small boy, I still remember the feeling that I had as I stood there weighing my decision. The bridge was old and rickety. Undergrowth grew all around the edges and draped itself across the wooden handrails. All the creatures that a little boy’s mind could imagine lived under that bridge. Compounding the problem, was that it had to be crossed at night.
Maybe that is a small problem to you, but it was a big problem for a little boy. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was making a decision that would shape the rest of my life. Standing at the foot of that bridge, I mustered up everything I knew about God. It rested in one verse of Scripture. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” Psalm 56:3
There were two things I knew as I stood at the foot of that bridge. I knew fear, and I knew God. I had a decision to make about which was stronger. On that particular night, I chose God. I began repeating my Bible verse over and over. I backed up a few steps—enough to get a running start–and then I bolted across that bridge repeating the verse as fast as I could. I made it across by acknowledging my fear and my trust in God.
Since then, I have learned fear is not only faced by small boys. It is faced by all boys, and all girls, all men and all women. Some fears we outgrow—like my fear of the bridge. But new fears take their place, and sooner or later, those fears have to be faced. During those times, the decision that I made as a small boy has to be made all over again. Which is stronger—my God or my fear?
There are people who have a fear of crossing bridges. But there are bridges of fear in every person’s life. The root of all fear is sin. Fear reflects a lack of trust in God. The first mention of fear in the Bible comes from the third chapter of Genesis. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. God came to the garden and called Adam, but Adam hid himself. He hid himself because he was afraid. He never knew fear until he knew sin. Fear springs from a disconnectedness to God—a distance between us and God. That distance is unnatural. It is something God never intended. Perfect love casts out fear. But where that love relationship is broken, fear abounds.
The next time God speaks to fear is when it surfaces in the life of Abram. He addressed a fundamental fear residing in every person because of sin. It is the fear of following God. Maybe you are standing at the foot of that bridge right now. Listen to what God said to Abram: After these things, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Genesis 15:1
Sin leaves us with a fear of the God who loves us. We are afraid to be obedient. We are afraid to follow where He leads. Some people have a phobia about crossing bridges. It sends them into a panic attack. Others have a phobia about following God. When God speaks, many of the same physical reactions result. Fear consumes them and freezes them in their journey.
Back in the early 90’s, I took my wife and girls whitewater rafting for the first time. It was one of our most memorable events as a family. But we almost missed it. Do you know why? I was afraid to drive over the mountains. I wasn’t afraid of the mountains. I was afraid that our vehicle would break down on the way. We had a good car, but I had a fear that it would run hot climbing the mountain, and I almost backed out of the trip. I was tentative all the way. I sat on pins and needles afraid that something would happen to the car. That fear almost us from a tremendous experience on the other side of the mountain.
What does God have on the other side of the mountain for you? How will you know if you don’t follow Him when He speaks to you? You will be frozen in your tracks, and you will miss what God wants to teach you and show you. You have to find a way to deal with your fear of following God.
God invited Abram to walk with Him, and promised, “I will be a shield to you. I will watch over you and take care of you.” God makes that same promise to you today. As you stand at the foot of your bridge of fear, you have a decision to make. Which is stronger—your God or your fear? What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee. Psalm 56:3
There is yet another bridge of fear in my life that I face from time to time. It is the fear of the sudden fear spoken of in Proverbs. Be not afraid of sudden fear or of the desolation of the wicked when it comes. (Proverbs 3:25) Sudden fear is the unexpected phone call in the middle of the night. Sudden fear is that calamity that rolls into your life like an unexpected tsunami. Sudden fear is finding yourself riding in the ambulance on the way to the emergency room. Sudden fear is anything that happens that is absolutely beyond your control.
I have been in some of those places. My heart has been ravaged by sudden fear. I have had the ambulance come to my home and carry away one of my children. I have carried one of them limp and lifeless into the emergency room. I have stood outside the door of another emergency room as the doctors raced to save a daughter’s life. When those things happen, all at once, I am a little boy again, and I find myself standing at the foot of that bridge. My fears, like a flood of great waters, begin to flow over my soul. In those moments, I have to decide which is stronger—my God or my fear. In those moments, I find myself going back to that one verse that serves as a rock to my soul. What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. Psalm 56:3
Do you know what the Lord said through Isaiah? “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:2-3a)
There is another bridge of fear I have identified in my life. It is the fear of the future. What is going to happen tomorrow? You don’t know. I don’t know. Will it be something bad? It might be? How does a person live from day to day in dread of what the future might hold? I live from day to day by faith in the One who holds the future.
Does that mean I am never afraid? No! In fact, I am often afraid. There are still many bridges of fear in my life. However, I have learned to face those bridges of fear with faith. Sometimes I have to get a running start and say my verse over and over all over again like I did when I was a boy. But I find that if I live my life with faith in God, He will help me to cross my bridges of fear. May God also comfort your heart as He takes you to the other side!
Photo by Jake Melara