When I was in high school, I played for the Yeshiva basketball team. All year long, we anxiously awaited the opportunity to travel to the national tournament in Miami. The day finally came and we arrived at our beautiful host residence. This was no ordinary house – it was an exquisite mansion on a sprawling estate. During our grand tour of the property, we discovered a stunning crystal blue lake just beyond the deck with its own diving board.

The lady of house sensed our delight. “Would you like to meet our pet fish?” she asked, her eyes twinkling.

I nodded my head and the woman drew some strange food from her pocket, whistled, and a huge flesh-eating piranha with razor-sharp teeth surfaced from the lake.

I gulped and said, "I guess nobody uses that diving board."

She laughed. "Our son uses it all the time! He loves it!"

"Even with the piranha?”

"Who, Bubba?” she replied. “Bubba doesn't bother anybody, as long as he's fed."

Later that afternoon somebody piped up and said, “Anyone brave enough to jump in that lake?"

You could hear a pin drop.

Projecting the invincibility of a teenage athlete, I heard myself say, "I'll do it. No piranha is going to eat my flesh!"

I confidently walked to the edge of the diving board and peered into the lake. Suddenly, I froze, paralyzed with fear.

I turned around. The whole team stood with crossed arms, waiting to see if I would make good on my boast. I couldn’t let them down.

With my heart in my mouth, I said, "Here goes."

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath … and I jumped.

For a split second, my feet dangled precariously in the air. There was no turning back. My heart beat ferociously, but in a matter of seconds, I went from experiencing intense fear to sheer joy.

Throughout that afternoon, we fought with each other for the chance to jump into the lake over and over again. It was a magnificent day.

In life, we often find ourselves at the edge of that diving board. We are presented with an opportunity in front of us, a challenge, and we are scared stiff. We can't turn back, but we can't take that next step either.

Sometimes we feel confident, beautiful, and capable of taking the next step. Other times we feel insecure, unsure and unworthy. We carry this duality with us at all times. Part of us envisions conquering mountains, jumping off cliffs. Another part cowers in fear, wishing to be anywhere but here.

Who are we really? The fearless conqueror or the timid coward? How do we overcome the fear?

God Has Your Back

Imagine skydiving out of a plane. You might be terrified to jump initially, but strapped to your back is a paratrooper with years of experience. He knows exactly when to jump, when to pull the cord, and when to land. You can make the leap, because you know that somebody has your back.

Facing our fears head on is enables us to move past them.

In life, our personal paratrooper is God. Finding the faith to take the plunge is hard. We naturally resist situations that scare us. Yet facing our fears head on is enables us to move past them. God has our back. And it's okay to be afraid.

Facing challenges can turn the lion within you into a coward. Realizing that God has your back takes effort. Here are two suggestions to help concretize this idea.

One way to remind ourselves that God is right there with us is through informal prayer. You can connect with God throughout the day by using casual and conversational prayer.

For example, it’s 8 PM and the kids are supposed to be sleeping, but they are doing anything but. My oldest is bouncing off the walls, the baby is clinging to my hip, and my middle child is wailing in my ear. My patience is withering away as the minutes tick by. A part of me feels like yelling, but what I really want is to control myself and handle the situation in the calmest way possible. I close my eyes and quietly whisper asking God to help me get through this stressful moment. I take a deep breath, and I feel calmer.

By bringing God into our everyday challenges we can feel His presence in times of real distress. Praying to God in our moment of fear reminds us that He is always right there. We are never alone.

God’s Guiding Hand

How can we practically work on feeling that God has our back during the times it doesn’t feel that way?

When I first began learning Torah in depth, a teacher requested that we create a daily gratitude journal to document the Divine Intervention that we can pinpoint in our daily grind. Our entries could be as simple as catching an elevator door as it was closing, or just meeting the right person at the right time. At first, I was skeptical of this program; it seemed somewhat childish, and I didn’t really know what to write down. But as I began logging my daily entries, I was blown away with the results. I felt genuinely happier, and came to realize that God is truly guiding us through life. “It is good to give thanks to God… to tell in the morning of His kindness, and in the evening of His faithfulness” (Psalms, 92:2). It is good to thank God in good times (the brightness of day) so that you have something to draw from in dark times.

Do something that intimidates you.

Logging all of the times that you notice God’s guiding presence helps us to realize that we are not alone, even when we are afraid. In this way, we can draw on the strength from the Almighty and push past the fear.

Take heart in the fact that you do not have to be perfect. You simply have to act, knowing that God won’t let you fall. Do something that intimidates you! Say, “Yes.” Commit. Decide that you want change more than you fear it. I am not suggesting jumping into a piranha-filled lake or going skydiving. But put yourself in a place where your feet are dangling and you have no choice but to move forward.

Take the jump. You are never alone.