One Way Fear Loses Its Paralyzing Power

As fears go, it was a little bit ridiculous.

I was afraid of yeast. More specifically, of baking with yeast.

You won’t find this fear on any list of documented phobias. I know—I looked.

But as irrational as it sounds, it was real for me.

I’m a good cook. I don’t shy away from trying new recipes. As much as I loved the idea of making homemade bread or yeast rolls, though, I never once tried it—not in more than three decades of baking.

I didn’t know how to do it. I thought it was too hard. I thought it was a skill reserved for women whose mothers had baked before them, and their mothers before them.

What if my water wasn’t the right temperature and the yeast didn’t activate? What if I didn’t knead the dough properly, or long enough? What if the bread didn’t rise?

What if the whole thing was a complete and total disaster?

Honestly, it was easier to buy my bread at the grocery store and leave this culinary chemistry experiment to someone else.

That’s how I used to feel, anyway.

Then earlier this year, something happened. Another fear—one I’d harbored for quite a long time—actually materialized.

This was not a silly, irrational fear. This was the fear of a specific something hard happening to a specific someone I love.

I dreaded the possibility for years before it was actually confirmed. But as the reality of what was going on sunk in, I started to see a way forward. One step at a time, one visit at a time, one prayer at a time, one day at a time.

I began to do the next thing, and the next. Even when it was uncomfortable or difficult.

And somewhere along the way, I realized I wasn’t as afraid of it anymore.

The fear was losing its paralyzing power. And not just in this particular situation, either.

I started to look at other things I had always avoided in a different light.

What’s the big deal? I thought. Why I am I so afraid of that?

Suddenly, baking bread—facing my fear of yeast—didn’t just seem like an item on an ambiguous bucket list. It became something I needed to do. Something I actually wanted to do.

If I messed it up, so what? If the bread didn’t rise, who cares?

It wouldn’t be the end of the world. Life would go on.

I wanted to conquer my fear of making bread on my own, so I didn’t tell anyone what I was planning to do. Not even Randy, who used to work in a bakery, knew about my little project.

I found a highly rated bread recipe online and studied the helpful how-to video that accompanies it. I purchased yeast, bread flour and a thermometer to test the water temperature.

I can do this, I thought.

Then one morning when I had no other pressing plans, I got out all the ingredients and plunged right in.

I made bread—all by myself.

And it wasn’t scary at all. It was fun.

While the loaves were rising in the pans, I had to make an unexpected trip to rescue a sick girl from school. But even without me eagle-eying the clock, the bread rose perfectly. It baked perfectly. It smelled heavenly.

I did it.

These last few months, here’s what I’ve been learning about fear. We spend an awful lot of time thinking about it, being afraid of it, beating ourselves up about it.

Fear can almost become an idol, I think.

Then God, in His infinite wisdom, gently places us in a position where we have no choice but to face our fear. Shutting down is not an option. We have to move forward, straight into the thing that we feared so much.

Don’t let anyone tell you fear and faith can’t exist in the same place. They can. Nobody would ever take a leap (or tiny baby step) of faith if they did not.

But believe this too: God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

He’s also given us His presence. Right there in the middle of the fear. Right there in the middle of the mess.

His presence is what gives us peace. It’s what gives us strength to do the next thing.

It’s like following a bread recipe. You don’t start at the end. You start with the first step. And you keep going until you’re done.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

P.S. I’m linking up this week with Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, #HeartEncourgementThursday and Grace & Truth.

36 Responses to One Way Fear Loses Its Paralyzing Power

  1. Liz says:

    Love this, Lois! Such a great correlation! Your line about a culinary chemistry experiment – YES! I actually have found a great crusty bread recipe that requires no kneading…it’s a big favorite around here, but maybe not so great for sandwiches. Anyhow, just doing to next small step is the best way forward through our fears! Blessings!!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Your bread recipe sounds delicious, Liz. Although it’s funny … I always thought I couldn’t learn how to knead, but I think it’s my favorite part of making bread. That, and watching the yeast activate (back to the chemistry thing)! I hope you have a wonderful week!

  2. I tend to gravitate towards activities when stressed, too. I haven’t taken on baking bread, yet. I go more the cleaning route. Vacuuming, dusting, decluttering. I am also a former journalist. I found you at the Grace and Truth Linkup.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I have phases where I do the tidying up bit too, Sheila. Sometimes when everything that’s out of my control is a little messy, it makes me feel better to have some semblance of order in my house! I’m glad you stopped by last week … it was nice to meet you!

  3. Hi Lois, I can ALMOST smell the bread from your photos…the loaves look amazing! You make very wise observations here. It’s good to try new things to conquer fears. Linking up with you at #graceandtruth.

  4. Linda Stoll says:

    Oh, I’d love to break bread with you, Lois! Oh, to shrink the miles.

    I’ll bring the tea and the mugs and maybe some pretty napkins.

    Wouldn’t we have a blast?

  5. Brenda says:

    “Don’t let anyone ever tell you fear and faith can’t exist in the same place.” Amen, Lois. Thanks for that reminder this morning. — (I tried bread last year, and I felt the same way, it wasn’t hard at all, but rather relaxing. And it smelled sooo good. 🙂 ) ((Hug))

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I know what you mean about bread-making being relaxing, Brenda. I loved the feel of the soft, warm dough as I kneaded it (once I got the water temperature right, of course)! And the smell–oh my! 🙂

  6. KellyRBaker says:

    This is great, Lois! I call myself a Baker-baker. I know, corny joke. But I do bake, from scratch and by using the bread machine. And I’ve had total fails with the machine where one “can’t go wrong.” But the fear for specific little things? I get it. Your thought on fear possibly becoming an idol is definitely food for thought. But I love this: “Don’t let anyone tell you fear and faith can’t exist in the same place. They can. Nobody would ever take a leap (or tiny baby step) of faith if they did not.” So good!

  7. Yaasss!! I get so bound up in fear – that I won’t be able to, that I can’t. Then I do and God shows up, and I’m like – well, that was a lot of wasted fuss. Now, that’s not always the case, but more often that not God proves to be SO MUCH bigger than my fears when I let Him have them. I love your bread and your words. Hugs, sweet friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thanks so much, Tiffany. Yep, I’ve wasted a lot of fuss on those kind of fears too … and just when I seem to be overcoming them in one area of life, I find another spot that needs work. I guess that’s how God grows us, though … if we had to face everything at once we’d probably just give up completely. (Or maybe that’s just me!) Hugs back! 🙂

  8. We don’t want to think about fear being an idol, but you are so right.
    I’m coming over for some fresh bread! 🙂

  9. Lesley says:

    Well done for facing your fear! I’ve never baked with yeast either but you’re inspiring me to consider giving it a try! I think it’s true with many things that we fear that once we start actually taking steps forward to face them it’s not as bad as we might have imagined.
    I totally agree that faith and fear can co-exist. I think often faith is taking steps forward despite the fear. That verse from Psalm 56 sums it up perfectly.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “Taking steps forward despite the fear.” That’s a great way to describe faith, Lesley. You’ll have to let me know how it goes if you do decide to bake some bread … it’s really quite rewarding! Plus you get to eat the results, which makes it even better. 🙂

  10. This made me so happy!! I have a silly fear of yeast too- but only in bread baking. I make homemade pizza crust with yeast that’s good- but years ago when I tried bread the failure made me question my kitchen abilities (silly, I know) and I get too scared everytime I consider trying again. You’re urging me to be brave Lois, thanks for taking this valiant step and sharing how it went : ) And more importantly for calling fears what they often are: idols. There’s so much freedom, even in the heavy fears-coming-true-times, in His presence.

  11. Trudy says:

    I can almost smell that fresh bread, Lois. I’m sure it tastes yummy, too. My husband recently got me a Kitchen Aid mixer that has a dough hook, so I tried out making Dutch currant buns. I was so tickled how the mixer could do my kneading for me, and I could just walk away. I proudly put the dough in the bowl to rise. Then my husband called, and I told him I didn’t know what happened, but my dough wasn’t rising. He asked, “Did you add the yeast?” “Yes…” I replied. At the same time I looked in the fridge and saw I had forgotten the yeast! So I tried softening up the yeast with a little warm water and sugar and kneading it into the dough. It rose some, but not like it was supposed to. We ate them but had to soften them a bit in the microwave. My hubby said “These are good, but imagine what they would have been like if you had added the yeast at the right time.” We still have a chuckle over it. I WILL try again. Maybe I’ll try that Amish bread recipe, too. 🙂

    I love that you bring up how faith and fear can coexist. Thank you. Love and hugs!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      That’s a great story, Trudy–and it totally sounds like something I would do as well! I hope you do try those buns again … and maybe my recipe too. It really is very easy! Hugs, friend!

  12. ~ linda says:

    Such a real example of taking a first step into an unknown place or task or relationship. I love making bread so I know how to, but never realized the pains that go into doing it as it has been too many years since I first made a loaf. I still get concerned that the yeast might not take, but that has not happened in years. One foot in front of the other. I will keep this word picture before me when I fear.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Linda, now that I’ve made bread, I wonder why I waited so long to try it! But rather than dwelling on all those years I could have been baking, I’m just enjoying it now (and trying to find another easy recipe to try)! So nice to hear from you this week!

  13. Lois, I loved this post. I’ve had a fear of baking with yeast. I’ve done it a couple of times, but with eating gluten free, I’m not quick to use recipes that require yeast 🙂

    It’s interesting you wrote about fear. God’s been talking to me about fear and the hold I’ve allowed it to have on an area of my life. He’s showing me it’s time to relinquish my hold on fear (which looks like excuses…..) and act in faith. Trusting God to be there with me in each step I take.

    Your bread looks divine!!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thanks, Jeanne. Yeah, I can see how eating gluten free would limit your need for yeast considerably! I can relate to the conversations you’re having with God about relinquishing your hold on fear and acting in faith … I have those areas in my life too. I think it’s almost easier to have to face fears when you have no choice about it than it is to confront them voluntarily … God’s always giving us opportunities to trust Him more, isn’t He? 🙂

  14. Mollie says:

    I love the pictures of the bread mom! ❤️

  15. Lois,
    I LOVE this because I have (yes, still have!) the same fear of yeast! Every year I try (again) to make my grandmother’s nut roll recipe and it calls for fresh yeast which I can’t find anywhere here. I substitute the dry but somehow the rolls never turn out quite right because I’m sure I’m doing something wrong with the yeast. This year I tried a new recipe and — (no success story here :)) it still wasn’t quite like my grandmother’s. But your bread looks so lovely — I’m inspired to keep trying! Thanks for this beautiful post! xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      That’s too funny, Valerie! I’ve never even HEARD of fresh yeast, so your grandmother’s nut roll recipe sounds like it would far surpass my baking skills too! (It sounds delicious, though.) I’m guessing you might find the bread recipe I used (see the link in the post) a little easier, if you felt like giving it a try. 🙂 I’m glad you liked the post … it was a lot of fun to do this!

  16. Lydia says:

    That’s beautiful, Lois! Your willingness to face your fears inspires courage in the rest of us. Thank you for sharing this and all of your stories. And your bread is delicious! 🙂

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