by Angela Manzanares
How to Beat Fear and Live Out Our Purpose
Swallowed in the crowd that filled the church auditorium a few years ago, God woke my heart for what felt like the very first time. “What would your life look like without any fear?” He challenged me in love. “I have plans for you beyond your wildest dreams, but you’re going to have to trust Me with your whole heart in order for Me to take you there. Think of individuals that’ve made a meaningful impact on history—they were just normal people that weren’t afraid to serve, lead, and speak up when they needed to. I have big plans for you. I’m a God of the impossible, and it’s time for you to start living like it.”
At 20 years old, my eyes were finally opened to limitless possibilities. Sure, growing up in church taught me that God could do the impossible, but it wasn’t until this specific encounter that I started to dream like I believed it. Excitement of truth set my heart on fire, and I started burning for so much more. So long were the days of chasing “the American dream” of finishing college, simply getting a job I didn’t care about just to pay the bills, settling down, and dying unfulfilled. I wanted my life to have eternal significance. I wanted to do whatever I could to make God the norm in our culture. I felt driven to be a positive role model, to be a voice of truth and encouragement in a world so heavy with darkness and misguidedness.
With this passion coming alive in me, I boldly decided “Okay, God. You can have all of me. Do whatever You want with my life.” This sparked the beginning of a new way of living for me. Following this road of fresh thinking, I started to daydream about publishing books, speaking all over the world encouraging others to live fearless lives—ultimately leading souls into a relationship with our Creator. Awakened to my calling, I couldn’t continue living life according to my own, safe plans anymore. It’s always a challenge to not remain confined to the mediocrity of my comfort zones, but it was important for me to lay everything down and accept God’s invitation to experience the literal adventure of a lifetime.
Up until that point, I always played it safe, always too afraid to take risks out of fear of failure. Making excuses, I shied away from using my gifts and talents because blending in was much more comfortable. Fully surrendering to God meant confronting all of those fears that held me back from who He had really made me to be. I committed to myself that I would never let fear be the reason I didn’t do something. “If it scares me, I’ll do it,” I told myself. That set me on a journey of laying down my life, which has led me to finding my identity, my purpose, and my voice.
LAYING IT ALL DOWN
The first thing I needed to surrender to God was my fear of being single. Ever since having my first boyfriend at 14, I always felt the need to be in a relationship. I used relationships with guys as a source of security since I didn’t feel complete without the affirmation of someone wanting me and being committed to me. At that time, I was in a 3-year relationship with plans of getting married once I finished college. I had my future all mapped out. But my whole life, it had always been me, God, and a guy. I grew up singing songs claiming, “All I need is You, Lord,” but I wanted to honestly live that out. It was in no way easy, but I laid down that relationship. For me, it also represented laying down my security, my “planned out” future, and my own desires. In another moment of surrender I said, “God, here you go. I have no strings attached to anything. It’s just you and me now. Do whatever You want with my life.”
Ending that relationship and jumping into singleness was one of the hardest but best decisions I’ve ever made. There were painfully lonely times, but God became my comfort. I stumbled through worry and uncertainty, but God became my peace. And instead of experiencing an imperfect version of love through another person, I experienced perfect love from the One true source of it. Not long after this set of breakthroughs, God began to lead me further away from other fears. He told me “I’m so proud of you for all the fears you’re overcoming, but there’s another big one—your fear of singing. I want to use you to bless others in worship, but you’re being selfish by letting fear keep that gift locked up.”
I had no clue what I was getting into or what it would look like, but I took another leap and said “yes” to singing. A few, short weeks later came the perfect set-up. The church I attended at the time had youth leader worship team tryouts. I’ll never forget the drive over—trembling with my stomach in complete knots, trying to mentally prepare myself to sing in front of people for one of the first times in my life. Nervous and afraid, I went with this conviction in my heart, “God, whatever You want to do with my life and my voice, do it. Whether I make the team or not, I’m doing this for You and to show fear that it doesn’t control me.” By the end of auditioning, everybody was shocked that I could sing (including myself, to be honest) and I made the team, which opened up a whole new world of worship-leading and musicianship for me.
The stretching revealed deeper insecurities. And there was one day in particular that marked a more defining turning point for me in my battle with fear. In that moment, God revealed to me the root of why so many of us shrink back from our callings. Putting my makeup on in my bathroom getting ready one day, I felt so nervous about leading worship at a church prayer gathering the next night. I had some kind of a bug, my voice was giving out, and although it was my 3rd time on stage that week, leading this time around felt like more pressure than singing the usual background vocals.
Stepping out from what I was accustomed to, I found myself shaking, feeling small and completely unqualified. For a split second, the thought crossed my mind,“Is this worth it? Why do I put myself through the nerves and the nausea? God, I can’t go on like this forever. Help me.” Feeling layers of fear, I had a decision to make. Should I say it was a good run and plan to close the worship-leading chapter of my life before it had a chance to take off, or should I continue to fight the fear head-on until every last bit of it was gone?
I felt like I needed to be perfect. I thought, “The world has so many other gifted people, and I’m just some random girl that decided to be obedient. What could I have to offer?” I didn’t want to disappoint people. I felt like every worship set I led had to turn into a super powerful, spontaneous set like the Bethel videos I saw on YouTube. But that’s when God told me, “Your worship doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. You don’t need to be the best singer or worship leader out there for Me to love your worship. You’re learning. Give yourself the time and grace to grow. If you’re fighting your way through this fear and can only manage to sing the simplest song imperfectly, that is more than enough for Me. That is beautiful, costly worship.”
THE FIGHT TO FREEDOM
God’s words hit home like usual, and I started singing the lyrics to “You Make Me Brave” by Amanda Cook until I was shouting them, and until I believed. He helped me get to the roots of my fear so it could no longer control me. I began to realize I buried myself with all these different pressures that so many of us experience once we step out where He leads. Singing in surrender sparked truth within me and I thought, “Why on earth would I let fear rob me of what I was made to do? God, You spoke to me. You called me to this, so help me face and overcome this fear once and for all.” For the sake of obedience, of the refusal to let fear win, and of my hope to someday encourage other people battling fear, I waged war (against fear) with worship in my bathroom.
Within moments, all of this pressure, comparison, and anxiety started to vanish. Immediately I felt a rush of freedom—the freedom to learn, the freedom to not be perfect, and the freedom to just be myself. The next night ended up being one of my top favorite times ever leading worship. Without all the nerves in the way, I was able to actually sing out what was inside of me. I remember looking around, seeing a room full of people singing, shouting, cheering, dancing, and excited about what God was doing in our lives and in our city. I experienced a new level of freedom I hadn’t felt before. I felt so alive in that moment, and every word I sang felt like driving another nail into fear’s coffin.
It’s been about 5 years, and worship-leading has become one of the most unexpected and beautiful journeys of my entire life. I’ve been honored to lead at different churches, conferences, and have been a part of my church’s team at Jesus Culture Sacramento for almost 4 years now. Before I let God in, singing always gave me intense anxiety; it’s been so rewarding to find one of my greatest passions on the other side of that fear. But it hasn’t come without a fight. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Satan tries his hardest to keep us too afraid and insecure to live out God’s plans for us in the world.
God showed me that I have a voice. And now that I’m secure in the truth, I want to use what He gave me to stand on the other side of a victory and be a resounding reminder that you were made to be brave too. You were made to be free. It’s time to leave behind the pressures of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and striving. There is no fear that has any right to control you. It’s time to let God breathe on the little spark in your heart until it’s a raging, unstoppable fire that won’t let you die alone in comfort. Just like He showed me, your voice is a weapon, and it’s time to use it. Even if you’re trembling, have no clue what you’re doing, and feel completely unqualified, I encourage you to just start somewhere. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that He can only help you “walk on water” when you finally decide to take the first step. What would your life look like if fear didn’t stop you?