Rock climber completes historic ascent and says, "We should be less afraid to be afraid"

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Rock climber completes historic ascent and says, “We should be less afraid to be afraid”

December 31, 2020 -

© vitaliymateha/

© vitaliymateha/

© vitaliymateha/

Emily Harrington is an American free climber, using just her hands and feet to scale rock faces with a rope to catch her if she falls.

Last year, she was trying to climb the famous 3,200-foot El Capitan peak in Yosemite National Park by using the difficult Golden Gate route. She fell but fortunately escaped with cuts and bruises after she was rescued by fellow climbers. She later posted photos of her injuries on Instagram, including a large abrasion on her neck, with the report: “I’m banged up but gonna be OK thankfully. Not much to say except I took a bad fall and pinballed a bit, then somehow hit the rope with my neck.” 

Undeterred, she tried again earlier this month. Harrington fell twelve hours into the climb, her hands slipping when she was approximately 2,800 feet off the ground. She hit her head, causing a deep gash. However, she used makeshift plaster to stem the blood flow and started again. 

This time, she succeeded. 

The thirty-four-year-old completed the task in twenty-one hours, thirteen minutes, and fifty-one seconds, becoming just the fourth woman to climb the monolith within a day and the first woman to free climb the Golden Gate route in under twenty-four hours. 

Harrington says she regularly feels fear when climbing but states, “We should be less afraid to be afraid. It’s a very valid emotion and it’s something we shouldn’t shy away from. In a lot of ways, we can use it as fuel and as strength.” 

How is God redeeming this?

Is there a year when we’ve needed such encouragement more? 

If you’re looking for discouragement, read this article in The Hill, titled, “Why 2020 really was the worst year ever.” It won’t tell you anything you don’t already know, but it reminds us just how challenging this year has been. 

I often state my belief that God redeems all he allows, though we do not always see or understand his redemption in this day or life. In response, radio interviewers, readers, and friends have asked me often across the year: How is God redeeming this? 

One answer I suggest is that 2020 has proven our finitude and need for what only God can do. I’m not claiming that our Father caused the pandemic and other tragedies this year but that he wants to use them to draw us to himself. 

As difficult as these days have been, it is still a fact that modern society has achieved greater financial wealth, technological sophistication, and medical advancements than any previous generation in history. It is not a coincidence that we are witnessing a tragic rise in secularism along with our material prosperity. 

In fact, this is a symptom of human nature and a fact of human history. 

Singing hymns at midnight 

As the children of Israel were poised to enter their Promised Land, Moses assured them, “You shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10). However, he then warned them: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth'” (v. 17). 

Instead, he instructed them, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (v. 18). 

The end of a year like 2020 is a great time to refocus on the only One we can trust to lead us into an uncertain future. As Emily Harrington noted, we can use our fears “as fuel and as strength.” But the Bible teaches that we use our fears best when we give them to our Father in faith. 

When we do, we learn to find God’s strength even in the hardest places. Like Paul, we can sing hymns to God at midnight in a Philippian jail, knowing that the “other prisoners” are listening (Acts 16:25). We can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), for joy is a “fruit” of the Spirit working in and through our lives (Galatians 5:22). 

“There are only two kinds of people in the end” 

What fears in 2021 are most on your heart today? Would you name them and trust them to your Lord? Would you submit to his leadership as this year ends and the new year dawns, resolved to follow him into his best? 

In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis observed, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done'” (his emphasis). 

As a result, he added, “No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

Will you knock today?

NOTE: Today’s the last day for year-end giving so that your gift will be DOUBLED (up to a grand total of $175,000) and for you to deduct it from your 2020 taxes. Plus, please know that your year-end gifts are vital to ministries like ours and will position us well to meet the deep spiritual needs of 2021. Please give now.

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