Faith or Fear?

I don’t think I have any true phobias.  I hate snakes but growing up in Texas can do that to a person.  I don’t like bugs but that may be due to my being a ‘bug magnet,’ and I strongly dislike them flying in my face.  I have issues with heights sometimes and would never do a Wallenda-type stunt, but I would love to experience a zip line.  I have a limit to how long I can be in a large crowd before I need to retreat and regroup, but that is because I am, by nature, an introvert.

Most of what I am truly afraid of involves losses from which I cannot protect myself:  death, economic upheaval, broken relationships, and lost time are the key ones.   Events that are beyond my control.  I live in a broken world where bad things happen, sometimes senselessly, even to really good people.  I can’t control what other people do.  I have no influence over how the financial markets operate or the events that mold them.  Sometimes, time passes unused or is spent waiting, waiting, seemingly wasted.  I find myself making choices trying to avoid these kinds of losses.  I am afraid of encountering them because it hurts me when I do.

In my “Friend of God” post from August 28th, I list five Hebrew words for faith.  They are usually translated “believe,” “trust,” “refuge,” “hope,” and “wait.”  Reading this list I see a picture of how to live in faith, not in fear.

Believe God is who He says He is.  The Creator of the universe, my Savior, the only Victor over evil, the Comforter of my soul, Father, King , the I AM.  Believe it enough to lean on Him when times are good and when times are not good.  Believe that He will be there to lean on.  Israel, delivered by God from slavery in Egypt, sustained in the wilderness by God, still did not believe Him enough to lean on Him.

“In spite of all this they still sinned And did not believe in His wonderful works.”        Psalm 78:32

Trust God will do what He says He will do.  This is about knowing God well enough to understand He is faithful to me.  Knowing God is essential to walking with Him.  When I try to walk with someone whom I do not know, it is usually a trying experience.  I have no basis for anticipating their next move.  I don’t know how fast they will go, if they will defer to me or take the lead.  If I am walking with a friend, I have experience enough with them to anticipate how they will handle a variety of situations and obstacles that arise on our path.  I know how to adjust my speed or my position to accommodate them.   If I have enough experience with God, if I have a well-founded knowledge of Him from His word and prayer and meditation, I know what He expects of our relationship.  I know He will take the lead.  I know how to watch Him to make sure I can follow Him closely.  I know He will be true to Himself.  If my knowledge of God is too limited, I will wrestle with Him for the lead position, stepping on His toes or tripping myself.

“Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have not strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude.  O Lord, you are our God; let no man prevail against You.'”  2 Chronicles 14:11

–Use God as my refuge.  This is the point on the faith continuum where I begin to see how to deal with fear, to see God as a refuge from what frightens me.  Seek Him out as my safe place from evil.  Use Him as a shield, my Protector from spiritual harm, when I choose to face my fear.  Remember that His promise never to leave me is always true.

“…for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?'”  Hebrews 13:5b,6

I have been at several places of choosing in my life where there didn’t seem to be a wrong answer or a bad choice.  The choices usually consisted of two potential paths, although once there were three options.  One possible path commonly appeared comfortable, familiar, ordinary.  It was full of budding experiences that have proven positive in the past and it felt safe.  But there was no apparent potential for Godly change beyond what was ordinary and harmless.  The other was full of unknowns, but it held a promise of spiritual growth and greater eternal blessing.  I know that God can and will use whichever I choose to grow me spiritually.  Am I cheating myself, though, if I forget that He is always with me and is my refuge, if I give in to my fear, and thus choose the more apparently secure path?

“My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.  On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.  Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him;  God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:5-8

–Stand firm on the hope God provides.  The healing salve of hope that enables the warrior to stay in the battle.  This life is not the end!  The Gospel story does not end at the crucifixion.  Jesus is resurrected!  HE IS ALIVE!  Nor does my story end at death or heartache or destitution.  God applies hope to my tragedy, gives it meaning and purpose, uses it to heal the spiritual wounds I sustain.  I can stand, face my fear, engage it head-on, knowing He provides the unwavering and certain hope that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God… .  (Romans 8:28b)

–Always wait on Him to lead me.  I often prefer to be out in front, taking the lead, taking charge.  I see life from a lot of different angles; I like to analyze a situation to the nth detail, weigh the possibilities and make plans to accomplish what I determine is the best course.  But God calls me to wait.  To wait on Him, His timing, His path, to accomplish His goals.  Wait and listen to Him, wait and watch what He is doing around me, wait and get out of His way.

“Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27:14

There is courage to be found in waiting for the Lord, knowing He will not lead me down the wrong path.  He may lead me on a difficult path, but as the shepherd who leads his flock through the dangerous mountain valleys, it is not without purpose.  He is leading me to the luscious mountain meadows where I will eat my fill of His goodness.  To get to the mountaintop with Him, I must follow Him through the valley of the shadow of death and face my fear.  By waiting on Him I am assured He will be with me, ready to protect me from any danger.

Faith or fear?  I aim to choose faith.  When my family and I moved to New England, it was an act of faith.  We had never lived or visited here, knew the numbers of faithful Christians were small, knew no one.  It was the riskiest of the choices we faced–spiritually and financially.  But God led us here.  My husband and I knew, without any doubt, deep in our spirits, this is where God wanted us to be.   It has not been an easy road and we faced many fearful situations, but I know it was the road God intended for us.  My children are faithful Christians today because they grew up in an environment where they had to own and defend their faith or lose it.   At the end of my husband’s life, he was a leader in God’s church because he saw how much he was needed.  He had been one who would usually sit back and let others more qualified than he (in his mind) take the lead; here, there were very few more qualified than he.  The riskier choice, the more fearful choice, was the path to deeper faith and a closer walk with God because God led us to it and through it.

“And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.  Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’   And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’  And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?'”  Mark 4:37-40

All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan

NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

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