When I was 16, I took a missions trip to the Philippines to help build a new church. It was my first experience in a more tropical location. Our first night was spent sleeping on pews of a local church. As we lay down, we noticed that the ceiling was covered in geckos – those lizard-like animals that are ubiquitous in many countries. There was one urgent question for our hosts: “Will those things fall on us during the night?” One man replied, “No. Well, they don’t fall very often.” It was not the reassuring answer we had hoped for.
Over time, we grew used to the geckos and recognized them as harmless creatures to our environment. It was the first of many ‘fears of the unknown’ I would have when living, working or travelling to new places.
When you move to a new country, there are always lots of ‘fears of the unknown.’ We fear that we might never learn how to drive in the new city, never learn any of the language, never figure out how run a generator or get running water. We worry about finding food that’s familiar. We fear about the safety and well-being of our children. We fear that we will never feel at home.
The longer we live in a new location, the more confident and certain about our situation we become. We look back and wonder how we could be so ignorant or unlearned in what now appears to be straightforward. But while we are in the middle of adapting, those fears are very real. And then, just when we get feeling comfortable, it’s time to learn something new.
The fear of the unknown can cripple our ability to follow God’s plan and to live according to his will. Hebrews 11 talks about Abraham and his trip into the unknown:
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)
We are all on this pilgrimage looking for the city of God. Sometimes, we think it is easier to take matters into our own hands than trust God for his daily provision and grace. Sometimes, these fears cause us to stop moving forward and we retreat to our comfort zones, yet the journey of faith is always going to cause us some discomfort.
To follow God means to be obedient to him. We live as strangers in this world by faith. Trust in God to overcome the fears you face by faith.