I’ve never been one to take risks.
My brother studied abroad for a semester in college. Me? I never entertained the idea. In fact, I earned my degree through distance education. I took tests at a local college but did all my studying at home where I could work at my pace in my environment in my way.
It’s safer to avoid risks. Wiser, right? As Boundless intern Vallie Weis recently shared, I stick with my group of friends, in the same circles, following the same routines I always do.
A riskless life
Sometimes I wonder what I’ve missed out on by not taking a risk and trying something different from my usual routine. Of course, several times God has rearranged my routine for me, pushing me out of my comfort zone and growing me in new ways. But what have I missed out on by always choosing the safer route?
Maybe I should have taken that trip with a friend. Maybe I should have sought out a small group. Maybe I should have taken initiative with that friendship.
“Safe is just another word for regret,” Matthew West says in his song “All In.” What could I have learned by taking a risk? How much would I have grown?
But instead of getting bogged down trying to decipher impossible what-ifs, I can flip that question to the present: What can I learn now by taking a risk? What new opportunities are right in front of me that I’m missing because I stick with what I already know?
The tricky thing is, I don’t want to take a risk just for the sake of risk-taking. I don’t want to be risk-averse, but I also don’t want to be risk-prone. How do I strike the balance between trying something new and doing something … stupid?
“Apollo 13” is one of my favorite movies. Every time I watch the NASA team in Houston troubleshooting air filters, or the three-man crew rocketing through space as they try to stabilize their little craft, I marvel again at how much scientists and engineers accomplished before calculators were commonly accessible. Seriously. NASA engineers could talk with astronauts and monitor their vital signs while they were in space, but they solved their math problems by hand.
Those astronauts — and many others — risked their lives for that 13th mission in the Apollo program. And for what?
“Risk” is defined as “the possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen.” Nobody goes around choosing unpleasant or unwelcome things. Risk isn’t an end in itself. We take risks to gain something. We risk something to get something else. That begs the question: What are we willing to risk? And for what? Every astronaut who puts on a spacesuit and gets strapped into a rocket knows that they are taking a serious risk. But those risks have allowed us not only to learn more about space, but scientists continue to make new discoveries in everything from solar energy to cancer treatment.
Paul told the Philippians that Epaphroditus risked his life to “complete what was lacking in your service to me.” He told the Romans that Prisca and Aquila “risked their necks for my life.” The early church leaders said that Paul and his friend Barnabas “risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The stakes were high. But these were worthy risks.
Before making a decision that seems risky, ask yourself these two questions: What am I risking? Is the goal (or desired result) worth that risk?
Specifically, what could you lose if this goes south? Comfort? Loss of sleep? A friendship? Of course, the essence of a risk is that you don’t know if the risk will actually end up bringing the desired result. But what could you gain from this risk? A deeper relationship with God? Closer bonds with friends or family members? Strangers’ respect? The opportunity to share the gospel?
What are we really risking?
“The mercy and the sovereignty of God are the twin pillars of my life,” John Piper wrote in a devotional. One, God is in control of everything — everything. Two, that same God promises to work everything out for the good of His children. For us.
With those two truths rock solid under our feet, we really can’t take much of a risk. With our eternity secure and God on our side, all the other risks we take — our popularity, our temporary job prospects, our comfort — pale in comparison.
Copyright Lauren Dunn 2023. All rights reserved.