What does it look like to live life boldly and confidently in Christ? How do we set aside fear and step out in faith? Harriet Tubman spent most of her 90 years living out exactly what a life fueled by God’s spirit and strength should be. Born into slavery, Harriet escaped to the North when she was 27 years old. She left behind family and friends, including her husband.
Harriet could have chosen to establish her life as a free woman, to stay safe and away from the men who were looking for her. Instead, she took a leap of faith and returned at least 19 times to the South via the Underground Railroad to rescue her family and dozens of other slaves trapped in lives of suffering. In all those times and with a $40,000 bounty on her head, she never got caught, and she never “lost a passenger.” Even when she went to rescue her husband and he wouldn’t go with her, she wasn’t deterred. Instead, she took other slaves who wanted to escape and didn’t let the rejection discourage her from continuing her work.
And she didn’t stop there. When the Civil War started, Harriet served as a cook and nurse until she eventually chose to become an armed scout and spy for the North. She was the first woman to lead an armed raid in the war, helping to free over 700 slaves during the expedition.
Even in the late years of her life, Harriet continued to speak up for the vulnerable, take action against injustice, and give freely of her material possessions, time, and heart. She worked with Susan B. Anthony to promote women’s suffrage. She gave property to the church to specifically build a home for elderly former slaves who couldn’t afford care elsewhere. Her life was one of self-sacrifice, and she didn’t let fear stop her from doing what she knew she was called to do.
Harriet’s entire life pointed towards her faith in Christ and the confidence that she had in Him. Some say that her final words were a paraphrase of John 14:3, saying “I go to prepare a place for you, and where I am ye may be also.” Others say her final words were “swing low, sweet chariot.” Either way, she knew she would be seeing Christ face to face. Of the work she did on the Underground Railroad, in the Civil War, and in the late years of her life, she also pointed people to her faith in God, saying “’Twasn’t me, ‘twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.” She grabbed hold of what God had planned for her and never let go.
What does it look like for us to live life like this? Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat in faith, and that’s what we are called to do as well. Harriet stepped out and refused to let the waves keep her from leaving a legacy of freedom, justice, and mercy for countless people. She kept her eyes on Christ and fully trusted that God would use her, protect her, and guide her.
I speak from experience when I say that taking risks is not easy. I’m not talking about risks like bungee jumping or investing in stock or confessing your feelings to your crush. I’m talking life-changing, take-the-plunge, all-in, trusting-God risks—the risks that led Harriet to bring hundreds of slaves to freedom. These are the risks that are usually stopped by feelings of being not enough, too much, unqualified, and unprepared. But by putting our expectations and dreams fully in God’s and focusing our lives on Him, we can follow in Harriet’s footsteps, living fearlessly and faithfully. We live in the victory that Christ already won on the cross and show His love and grace to everyone around us.
So instead of living lives led by fear, what if we are led by faith? What if we take that risk to say “I trust you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me” like Harriet did? It can be so easy for us to get discouraged—by rejection, loneliness, mistakes, challenges. We can let our lives be ruled by fear, and in reality, we’ll probably stay pretty safe by avoiding risks and not stepping out of that boat. But in doing that, we miss out on so much of what God has to offer us—thriving, full lives led by a bold, confident faith that reflects His glory.