Down With Fear!!
Grown-Up Growing Up, Part 2
July 30, 2014
Jennifer Hagler Photography
By Laura DiFatta
My oldest son Jake told me once, “you could be a professional talker.” Well, that might be true, but I know something else I could be a professional at: worrying. Worrying is so common that we might be fooled into thinking it is harmless. The problem is this: worry isn’t content at staying small and harmless. Indulged worry gives birth to fear. And fear wants to consume us. Worry and fear go hand-in-hand like ugly little ghouls.
Throughout my life, I have wrestled with being fearful. As a little girl, I remember fearing rejection and vampires, recitals and being fat. As a grown-up, I have battled fears that covered topics like relationships, health and security. And I have a vivid imagination, too. Any number of things could get my heart racing. Then, when I became a mother, fuel was poured on that fire big-time!
Fear has it’s roots in our trusting in our own (limited) resources. Fear escalates when we think about and begin to worry about all the things we cannot control here and now and all the things that could possibly go wrong in the future. We indulge our fear when we imagine bad things happening, forgetting that God provides His Presence and His sufficient grace in our moments of need, not before. Fear swells and sometimes threatens to swallow us when we let our eyes drift and settle on circumstances rather than on God who promises to help us, hold us, rescue us, sustain us, and give us a future in eternity.
In one of the clearest illustrations of boldly putting faith to work against fear, Peter–Jesus’ disciple–saw Jesus walking on the water and jumped out of the boat he was in to walk on the water toward Him. He actually did it! He looked at Jesus, trusted Him and actually walked on the water! That is until, “he saw the wind, he was afraid” and he began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus reached out and caught his hand. Jesus’ question to Peter confronts us in our fearful sinking in difficult circumstances, too: “Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 28-31)
In growing from fearful toward faith-filled, I’ve had to practice the regular discipline of:
1) getting to know God better, and
2) actively participating in believing/trusting Him.
Well-placed trust is fear’s mortal enemy. Where trust flourishes, fear dies.
When our family walked through deep crisis, God had our undivided attention. He taught us a lot about trusting Him in those many months. We learned beautiful, personal lessons that have continued to strengthen us to this day. I have been reminded of that this week as I have witnessed friends walking through crisis. God is providing, God is proving Himself very personal to them, God is showing His sufficient grace to them, God is mobilizing His people to love them in many ways.
In our inadequacy, His adequacy shows forth! But, to grow in faith, not fear, we have to trust God to do what only He could do. His Word tells us to actively fix our gaze–our mind’s focus–on Jesus, who begins and perfects our faith. God longs to connect our faith with His power! He will not allow anything into His beloved children’s lives that He will not provide for. In other words, He provides for every need.
In our crisis, there were many, many moments where facts and faith collided. We had to “walk by faith and not by sight.” We made the conscious choice day by day to claim as the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 31:14, “But, I trust in you, O Lord,” and, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) We chose to believe as Abraham did: that God “gives life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were.” We are told that “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.” (Romans 4:17-18) We chose to believe God’s word as Truth we could stake our faith in: “I have made you and I will rescue you.” And that brought freedom from fear.
Hope is a by-product of choosing to place our trust and faith in God. Hope springs up, it really does. When trust is well and wisely placed– that is, in God— hope begins to fill up the spaces that fear used to occupy. So if trust and faith are the weapons we use to combat worry and fear, then hope is a spoil of victory!
Reading God’s Word and praying it, speaking it to my own heart and letting His power, love and hope occupy more and more territory in my mind has brought healthy growth to both my heart and mind. There is nothing like learning of the power of God and His personal and attentive love to reassure a heart and mind and to fan the flame of trust.
Another remedy for fear and worry is having an eternal perspective. Do you know one of the main reasons Christianity is growing in third world countries and countries in which Christianity is not permitted? It is because Christians who live in those places and face the reality of hardship and death daily, believe and trust this Truth: This life is not all there is! They don’t cling too tightly to the little they have, but instead they cling to Christ, to faith and to an eternal perspective that God loves them no matter what and has provided a home for them in eternity. And they really believe God’s promise that anything we suffer during this life will seem, by comparison, light and momentary in the light of the glory of Heaven! That doesn’t invalidate our suffering here, it just makes clear how awesome Heaven will be! I have personally seen and heard believers in some of the harshest places on earth talk of the hope they have because of their trust in God!
I have already learned the hard way that I am not in control. Period. But…I know this: we have a God Who loves us. He has me and you and those we love in His hands. God is so personal and generous with His love and provision, His strength, His Word, His grace, His perspective and his hope and joy for those who call on Him in faith. When I am tempted to fear how bad things might affect those I love, I tell my Lord Jesus like the father of a very sick child did 2000+ years ago, “I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” And He does. (Mark 9:24)
There is a magnificent Japanese Maple growing just outside my front door. My boys have enjoyed perching in it’s branches through the years. We have been in this same home for 17 years and I have recently noticed how remarkably thick it’s trunk has gotten. This past Spring, it’s branches grew so wide and thick that I could hardly see my house from the road because of all the bright green leaves! I never actually saw it growing, but for years and years it has quietly been growing and it’s roots are deep. It is healthy. There is a verse that this reminds me of in Jeremiah 17:7-8, “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” That is how I want my faith to be. I pray that for myself and I pray that for my husband and boys as well.
God promised that He will provide like no one and nothing else can. He can be trusted. Will you join me this week and beyond in choosing to combat fear with faith? Do not indulge fear. Instead, boldly say along with me, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3) and “I look to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.” And choosing faith, look upward, waiting on Him expectantly.
“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and He guided them to their desired haven. Let them gives thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and hi wonderful deeds for men.” (Psalm 107: 29-31)
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.” (Psalm 107: 6)
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:5-8)