Fear is a Good Thing


Let me put this out there. Over the next month, I’ll find myself with a long span that will fill inevitably itself with fireplaces, family, friends, and falafel (first food with ‘f’ that I could think of). It will be a joyous time of crisp nights with hot cider, memorable moments with my wife and extended family, and decorating our family cat, Murph. But there will be a margin. Oooh, that margin.

The project is sitting on the desktop of my Macbook. I started it four months ago, before another semester of grad school kicked in and the church calendar took off. It’s a book idea I’ve had for some time. I love it. I hate it. And now I have to face it. Yet if I’m honest, I have to tell you I’m afraid to do so.

I know that I’ll try my best to fill the margins with every movie the honorable Rev. Thomas McKenzie tells me to see. I have one Jennifer Trafton and two Pete Peterson works waiting to be read. And I will get to all of those. But I also know that family only stays so long, and that presents only take a few minutes to unwrap. But the church calendar slows considerably for us these days, while the school takes a longer break. Thus, the marginal space will continue to call and ask me what I’m doing with it.

I’ve been journeying into some Emerson lately and an essay, “Heroism,” emerged with a particular quote that Emerson remembered hearing in his youth: “Always do what you are afraid to do.” There are a few key things ahead for our church next year that I’m afraid to ask our community to move toward. There are issues in my marriage that need to be addressed that either my wife or I am generally afraid to bring up. And there’s this stupid book that makes me believe no one would ever want to read it and that it’s a dumb idea in the first place — any excuse to mask the fear.

It reminds me of something else I read in The War of Art (seriously, read that book!) where Steven Pressfield writes, “Fear tells us what we have to do.” I hope my holiday season is filled with cheer and peace and joy and love and every other descriptor that adorns a Christmas card. But I also hope it’s filled with fear — at least enough to point the way to where I’m supposed to go.

Matt Conner is a former pastor and church planter turned writer and editor. He’s the founder of Analogue Media and lives in Indianapolis.


  1. SarahN

    Hi–I’ve been reading (and loving) the Rabbit Room since the summer but this is my first time commenting. I have to say something because THIS IS ME. Everything I have done that I was afraid to do has been rewarding, but I still sit here afraid to further the book that I’m struggling to write, intimidated by a work project (I teach dance) that I need to be prepared to teach on Monday. It’s something barely recognizable as fear. I blame it on laziness, procrastination, but what it really comes down to is the fear that I will have wasted my time, that I will reveal to the world how lame I really am. It’s that fear that will (I pray) eventually make me reckless enough to just do it. Thanks for this post.

    P.S. Thanks to everyone on the Rabbit Room for everything–your posts inspire me every day and got me through a very difficult summer/fall. God is good! (all the time)

  2. Abbye West-Pates

    Matt – thanks for this perspective. I immediately did this mental scan of the things I could/should be doing, writing, engaging in, etc. and what keeps me from those things. One of the first things, actually, is relationship with a particular neighbor, the mother of some precious girls our family spends time with. What keeps me from entering deeper relationship with her? Fear.

    “We’re too different,” or “She’ll think I’m crazy,” or “She’ll write me off and not talk to me,” etc., etc., etc….

    This post has caused me to confront something important… thanks.

  3. Ron Block


    “Persuade men that fear is a vile thing, that it is an insult to God, that he will none of it—while they are yet in love with their own will and slaves to every movement of passionate impulse and what will the consequence be? That they will insult God as a discarded idol, a superstition, a thing to be cast out and spit upon. After that how much will they learn of him?” George MacDonald

  4. Jesse D

    Fear is my besetting sin; my worst enemy from day to day. I’m raising support to go onto the mission field, and from one day to the next it’s fear that keeps me from doing what I need to do, whether it’s making phone calls to churches or asking individuals for money. But to think about fear as an indicator – a sign pointing to what needs to be done – this is a paradigm shift. This was both an encouragement and a challenge to me, Matt. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Eric

    I agree with your sentiments. As long as the fear isn’t crippling or turns our eyes from the LORD, it can be a helpful indicator. God, speaking to Israel-in-peril says this:

    ” . . . do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (NIV Isaiah 41:10)

    I figure this can be true for us today as well.

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