I was walking to the lake near my house, praying, when I looked up and saw the giant standing in my way.
“Saw” is a tricky word; saying that I sensed it might be more accurate. I’ll leave you to decide whether the being was a spirit, a metaphor, or a sign from God. In any case, I had a strong impression of a figure about nine feet tall with arms folded, glowering down.
Huh, I thought. That’s there.
I paused and lingered. I felt no fear, only awareness, and with it confirmation that this battle was spiritual in nature. Like the taking of Canaan, my desire to write as a full-time occupation was a territory dispute, and as in the beginning, giants roamed the land.
That evening I attended the weekly prayer meeting at my church, and I felt compelled to pray against fear—its domination, effects, and control on the lives of God’s people (including me).
Afterward, a good friend rushed over and told me, “Just before you prayed, I saw a giant figure standing in the middle of the room, and I knew someone needed to pray against it—and then you did.”
That’s how we discovered the giant’s name.
It was Fear.
Giants in the Land
The story of Israel’s reaching the promised land is legendary. After their release from slavery, Moses brought them to the borders of all God had promised them—but they glanced at the giants in the land and refused to go any further.
Mutiny ensued. God was merciful: He sentenced them to wander the wilderness for forty years rather than being enslaved in Egypt again.
Giants did inhabit the land. No one disputes that. But the Israelites were strong enough, with God’s help, to defeat them.
In the end, the giants didn’t keep Israel out of God’s promise. Their own fear did.
We all have our own promised land, though it may differ for each of us. A dream in our hearts and a pen in our hand.
But when we press forward, the giants are towering on the sidewalk or along the borders.
I’ll never finish this book.
If I do finish it, no one will read it.
If they do read it, they’ll hate it.
No one will understand what I’m trying to accomplish.
I’m not good enough.
I have no right to call myself a writer.
If I’m this vulnerable, my efforts will backfire.
I’m going to fail.
I had wrestled many of those fears by the time I faced the giant on the sidewalk. I had published more than twenty books on Amazon. I had built an audience of readers using paid advertising and was engaged in an ongoing conversation with them. Six months before, I had officially gone full-time as a writer, making better income than I’d ever earned in the previous decade and a half as a freelance editor.
More than all that, though, I finally felt like I was doing what I was meant to do. Writing wasn’t a hobby or a part-time fling. It was a calling. I cared about it more deeply and passionately than I’d ever let myself before.
Then my world collapsed. I got sick with a mysterious and debilitating illness. A series of financial crises compounded to throw my writing business into a tailspin. The chances were high that I would lose everything.
Fear threatened to knock me off the path of my calling and, like the Israelites, send me fleeing from the giants blocking my way.
Living by Faith, Not Fear
I know of only one antidote to fear. Its opposite—faith.
In Greek, faith is defined as trust, belief, knowledge of truth, and loyal allegiance to God. When fear is crashing against your soul, faith is an anchor that you cling to through stubbornness, vulnerability, and love.
The stubborn refusal to let go of God’s calling or to doubt His nature even when fear is screaming at you to cut yourself loose.
The vulnerability to persevere through terror—one step, one word, one day at a time.
And love. Love for God. God’s love for you. Love of the writing process. Love for your readers, who can be served through your work. Love of the vision—the calling you can feel deep within your bones and do not dare abandon.
This love, this faith, keeps writing even when it’s hard. It keeps putting new work into the world, keeps finding new readers, keeps investing time and heart and muscle. This love risks bad reviews, being misunderstood, going broke. This love risks. That may be the whole point.
The Parable of Taking Risks
Jesus’s parable of the talents tells the story of two servants who took risks and one who didn’t. The one who didn’t—who let fear drive him—was the only one who received a rebuke.
The first two servants, who invested the talents given by the master, could have lost everything. They gambled.
Like you do, when you dare expose your heart and imagination to the world. Like you do, when you chance not being good enough. Like you do, when you decide the risk is worthwhile—because the gift is meant to multiply, and the call is too valuable to ignore.
The master rewarded the risk-takers.
Undoubtedly they experienced fear. It loomed in the borders of their promised land too.
But they said, like Joshua did about the giants, “Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!”
The only way to conquer fear is to push forward despite it.
Familiarize yourself yet again with God’s Word, His nature, the truth of His promises, and His calling to you. Armed with those, march into the land. For me, I needed to continue calling myself a writer and refuse to back down, even when I was tempted to quit and get a “real” job. I had to make financial sacrifices so I could keep writing. I sought a diagnosis and surgery to solve my health crisis, and then I learned to carry on from there. (I share my story, in extensive detail, in my book Left Turn to the Promised Land: One Author’s Journey of Writing, Business, and Walking by Faith.)
So write, publish, answer the call. Bare your heart and go.
A year and a half has passed since I encountered the giant on the sidewalk. I’ve written and published two books since then. I’ve been through surgery, and my finances are on the road to recovery. I’m not fully in the promised land yet. Giants are still ahead.
So I press on.
Rachel Starr Thomson’s memoir-slash-creative-guide-for-writers, Left Turn to the Promised Land: One Author’s Journey of Writing, Business, and Walking by Faith, is available now from Amazon and other online retailers. She is the author of numerous novels, short stories, and works of nonfiction, and she blogs on the kingdom of God at RachelStarrThomson.com.