Taking the First Step When Reaching Out is Risky

One day several years ago—most likely during some winter break from school—I came into the kitchen at breakfast time.


At first, nothing seemed wrong. But closer inspection revealed that younger daughter Molly, who was sitting at the island, was looking forlorn with a lone tear trekking down each cheek.

Older sister Lilly was at the table, eating Cheerios and reading the newspaper.

I discovered there had been a bit of an incident while they were boiling water for hot chocolate. Though the mess had been cleaned up, a hand was still stinging, a heart still hurting.

Seeing the need for reconciliation, I quietly spoke to Lilly, who offered up a half-hearted apology. Going about my business, it occurred to me that what Molly needed, more than anything, was some sign of affection from her sister.

“Go give her a hug,” I said to her.

She looked away, obviously reluctant.

“What if she pushes me away?” she whispered.


As I recall this scene—with the benefit of hindsight and a few more years of mothering under my belt—I think I should have directed the “go hug your sister” instructions to Lilly, not Molly.

Wrong call or not, though, this little anecdote throws wide the door to a rush of tender thoughts, doesn’t it?

Reaching out to others—with the hand of friendship, words of reconciliation, offers of help, a personal story, overtures of affection—can be risky business.

The what-ifs are plentiful: What if I stumble over my words? What if they misunderstand my motivations? What if she slams the door in my face? What if they say no? What if she lashes out? What if I’m met with stony silence?

Pick one—any one—and it’s probably enough to give me pause. Even the possibility of rejection can, at times, trigger a numb ache from long-healed-over scars.

There is, however, one what-if that supersedes all of these: What if it’s the right thing to do?

I know. That’s not the chase-the-ache-away answer I want to hear either. But it’s true. There are times when I just have to take a deep breath and do what’s right—even if I don’t want to, I’m scared to, or I don’t really know how.

There’s a phrase that comes to mind about now, one that originated with Theodore Roosevelt. Our 26th president was an avid outdoorsman who loved to drag his colleagues, family members and even foreign diplomats along with him on exhausting cross-country hikes he called “scrambles.”

His motto for these excursions? “Over, under or through—but never around.”

I don’t know about you, but I want that to be my approach to life.

I don’t want to skirt the issue. I don’t want to avoid hard things. I don’t want to miss anything important because of fear or worry or lack of perseverance.

But I have a long way to go before these desires become reality in my life; maybe you do too.

So what can help us take that first step? What can help us start that project, reach out to that person, take that position—when the what-ifs loom large?

We can overcome our fear with truth—the timeless truth of scripture.

Such as:

“He Himself will deliver you from the hunter’s net, from the destructive plague. He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. You will not fear the terror of the night, the arrow that flies by day, the plague that stalks in darkness, or the pestilence that ravages at noon.” (Psalm 91:3-6)

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

“He said, ‘Don’t be afraid, you who are treasured by God. Peace to you; be very strong.’” (Daniel 10:19)

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

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

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13:6)

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

The message is clear: God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) And reflecting on Him—His character, His presence, His provision, His sovereignty over the outcome—all of these strengthen us to act despite the what-ifs.

Over, under or through—but never around.

Lois Flowers

P.S. Linking up this week with Angela Parlin at #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Crystal Storms at #HeartEncouragementThursday, Crystal Twaddell at FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.

24 Responses to Taking the First Step When Reaching Out is Risky

  1. Lydia says:

    Thanks for these thoughtful words and encouraging verses, Lois! A song I really like that echoes the theme of “what if” is “This Cup” by Sara Groves.


  2. Dang. Another post that came exactly when I needed it (even though I’m reading it almost a week after you posted).

    I was in an extremely intimidating situation a few days ago — one where I stepped out in faith to be among people hostile to the Gospel — and it felt awful. I haven’t known how to process it and have been emotionally tender since then. It made me feel very weak and small.

    But His power is made perfect in my weakness!

    The battle is the Lord’s, not mine. I have nothing to fear, for He is with me. Thanks for sharing SEVERAL passages that reinforce this truth.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Suzy, thanks for sharing how this post spoke to you at just the right time. My writing efforts have been a bit disjointed lately due to so many divergent issues crowding my head, and this post was one I started a long time ago and just quickly finished last week so I could have something to post! It’s good to know God can take our frazzled efforts and use them to encourage others. I’m especially glad these verses came when you needed comfort after what sounds like a very draining experience! Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  3. Such a poignant and thought provoking post Lois. I really enjoyed this read. The powerful verses from God’s word remind that He is with us as we go straight through the fires and trials of life. Oh what a comfort that is to know our Savior is always near. I believe reaching out is key. We must listen for the promptings of God to send that email, make that phone call, or just give a hug. It is what Jesus asks us to do…be a light shining bright for Him. How appropriate, especially as we celebrate His birth this month. Have a fantastic weekend and may God richly bless you and yours.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you for adding these good thoughts to this conversation, Horace. I think you’re right … we need to listen for God’s promptings, and then act on them. Blessings to you this week!

  4. Cheryl says:

    Such a powerful post! I love the quote you shared by Theodore Roosevelt. I will try to remember that one. So thankful to be visiting today from Holley’s link-up! God bless you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m glad you visited too, Cheryl. I first ran across that Roosevelt quote in a children’s book my daughter read in fourth grade … I’ve never forgotten it either! 🙂

  5. Trudy says:

    This is so good, Lois. I can’t even count the times I missed out on something because of fear of rejection or of worrying about the what-ifs. I daily need this reminder of “reflecting on Him—His character, His presence, His provision, His sovereignty over the outcome—all of these strengthen us to act despite the what-ifs.” Thank you for this encouragement! Blessings and hugs!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I think it’s safe to say I would be unable to count those times as well, Trudy. But what’s past is past, and God will strengthen us as we move forward, right? Have a good week, my friend!

  6. Oh, Lois, you spoke right to my heart. Too many times, I’ve let the fear of the what-if’s supercede my “gonna-do-it-anyway” mindset. Thank you for the reminder that God’s truth is what chases fear away. And that if “it’s” the right thing in God’s eyes, He’ll enable us to do what He’s asked us to do.

    Beautiful post, my friend!

  7. Lisa Appelo says:

    Wow…I love that Roosevelt quote of over, under or through but not around. You’re right that it’s applicable to so many things. I’m gonna hang onto that one for the next hard thing that must be done. Grit and grace as they say!

  8. Ouch that is a tough one. But yes, if it is the right thing to do, that is more important than our possible wounded pride. We need these words now more than ever.

  9. This right here —> “I don’t want to skirt the issue. I don’t want to avoid hard things. I don’t want to miss anything important because of fear or worry or lack of perseverance.” I’m living in that right now, and I had that conversation in my living room with God yesterday. I don’t want to be unused and uncultivated – till up the soil and plant in me, Lord. I have past hurt and pause too – enough to fill a field – but I’m tired of letting them keep me from His good plans and so yes – over, under and through! Love you, friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “I’m tired of letting them keep me from His good plans.” That is profound, Tiffany. I have a feeling you (and I) are not alone in reaching this point during this season of our lives … maybe that is by God’s design too? Maybe it wasn’t even possible for us to be useful before–not in the ways He has for us now and in the future–until we had lived through those hurts and reached the point of wanting His will more than ours. So much to process here. But I’m with you, my friend … over, under or through!

  10. Lois,
    These questions are so good to consider when we think about what holds us back from reaching out and moving forward. For me, it’s just what you shared — the risk of being misunderstood and not doing it with enough grace and kindness. But I don’t want to skirt the issue either — I’m with you on considering the right thing to do and face fear with truth! Thank you for these words tonight!

  11. Ooooh, I’m the around girl when it comes to relationships. This is a true challenge, here, Lois — to be the one who risks the hug.
    Such good words.

  12. Linda Stoll says:

    Your thoughtful musings make me wonder how much we’ve missed along the way – substantial conversations, new opportunities, maybe even reconciliations – because we didn’t follow through on the invitations that have come our way.

    ‘What if …’

    A really good question. Thanks, Lois.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Your words are a good reminder that we need to be aware of people who might be reaching out to US, Linda. I know for me, it’s easy to get caught up in the times I’ve been pushed away, but I know there are times when I was the one doing the pushing. Thank YOU for prompting even more thought, my friend.

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