Last week, I sat with my loved one at a nursing home and listened to her express her fears. She feared being left alone most of all. It seemed all too easy for me to tell her not to worry and trust in God. Easy, because I wasn’t the one confined to a bed, whose future appeared uncertain, and who had to rely on others to attend to every need. When my visit concluded, I was the one able to leave and go home.
The following day, the word “fear” rose up from somewhere in my heart and planted itself in my mind like a roadblock. Thoughts of battling my own childhood demons surfaced. One clear memory involved watching my mother drive away, having dropped me off at summer camp I planned to attend. I begged her not to leave me and sobbed as I watched her go. Now, her and I were in a role reversal of sorts. I was the one driving away, leaving her at a nursing home, alone and afraid. I understood her pain because God willed me to endure similar pain decades earlier.
Before going further, I need to acknowledge that some fear can be a good thing. For example, I fear God, and revere Him above everything. I also fear, or respect, things like weapons, electricity, hazardous chemicals, lethal viruses, etc. Respecting them and following proper protocols keep people from harming themselves and others. For the purposes of this argument, I am addressing fear that is undesirable and destructive.
I’ve come to understand that no matter how hard I try to rid myself of it, fear will always accompany me as I walk through life. The struggle is to keep fear behind me. I have had moderate success over the years attempting to walk by faith and seeking to understand or learn more about the things I fear. However, each season of life I enter, as well as each time I have said, “yes,” to something God has asked me to do, a new set of unknowns lie in wait.
If unchecked, fear can grow like a weed, producing doubt and worry, which serve to choke out faith (see the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-11). Maybe that is why the words, “fear not,” appear so many times in the Bible.
When I looked up some references to “fear” in my Bible, I noticed the disciples of Jesus also struggled with fear. On one occasion, in the midst of a raging storm Jesus said to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid” (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40). In another incident, Peter, wanting to imitate Jesus as he walked on the surface of angry waves, impulsively attempted to do so. He fell victim to fear and began to sink. After Jesus rescued Peter, he said to him, “You of little faith…why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
Jesus’ words remind us all of what can happen when shallow faith clashes with fear. If doubt could speak for itself, I believe it would say, “God does not really care about the concerns I face, and He really isn’t in control of the world he created either.” In the face of uncertainty, fear robs people of hope.
Conversely, holding on to faith cultivates hope. It embraces God and trusts him no matter what. It binds us to the belief that God indeed does care about every person’s concerns and is acutely aware of the trials they face.
Bill Gaultiere, on his website www.soulshepherding.org advises us to respond to fear the way that David, the psalmist did. David prayed and trusted in the Lord.
“When I am afraid I will trust in you. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” (Psalm 56:3-4)
It’s always good advice to read your Bible. It’s the living Word of God. It will speak to your heart. I offer this advice to myself (and to Mom): hold fast and stand on promises you find in the Bible. Pray that God will strengthen your faith. The God of the Bible is alive and at work in the world today. He can, and will, deliver you in times of trouble or give you the strength to endure.
A singular thought has emerged from my pondering. If I am striving to become a person of unwavering faith, I must choose faith over fear—everyday. So don’t abandon your faith when you need it most, embrace it and squeeze it tighter than you ever have before.