Can fear and faith co-exist?
I used to think I didn’t have a “fear problem.” Until life began to go haywire last year. My stomach was frequently in pain. Sleep? What’s that? Shallow breaths? Yup. Thoughts that focused on all the things that could go wrong?
Yup, that too.
In October 2021, God showed me how fear snaked through many of my thought processes and heart impressions. And had been for years.
How could I, a Jesus-follower for decades, be dealing with fear?
When my doctor suggested I see a counselor, I realized I had to get a handle on how to deal with fear. I spent the last couple of months of 2021 considering my One Word for 2022. I didn’t want to focus on fear, but I knew it would be about dealing with anxiety.
We all experience fear at times in our lives. If fear is left unchecked, it skews our understanding and how we perceive the people and situations in our lives.
A Biblical Example
When I read Exodus 4 recently, I was struck by how the Israelites reacted after being freed, but Pharaoh changed his mind. Most of us know the story. God had acted on their behalf, and after many plagues, Pharaoh told them to go. The Israelites wanted their freedom . . . until it became dangerous. When Pharaoh and his army chased after them, fear ruled the Israelites.
The Israelites had heard God’s promises of freedom but seeing Egypt’s army probably terrified them. And the people believed what they saw rather than what God had promised.
Wrestling with the uncertainties between fear and faith will happen, but only one of these will have the final say in our hearts. We must choose what we believe. When life gets hard, will we believe what we see, what our circumstances tell us?Why We Must Choose Between Fear and Faith—4 How To's—Wrestling with the uncertainties between fear and faith will happen, but only one of these will have the final say in our hearts #tellhisstory #fearandfaith Click To Tweet
Or will we believe what we know about God and His character?
Only we can determine which one wins out in our lives.
Fear and Faith Defined
Fear—Merriam-Webster defines this as an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger; anxious concern
Faith—Merriam-Webster: belief and trust in and loyalty to God; firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust
Are these two concepts complete opposites?
This is what I know. When fear runs rampant in my thoughts, I’ve put more trust in myself than in my Father.Why We Must Choose Between Fear and Faith—4 How To's—When fear runs rampant in my thoughts, I've put more trust in myself than in my Father. #tellhisstory #fearandfaith Click To Tweet
Though difficult, we must acknowledge when we’ve given fear the upper hand in our hearts and minds. When we don’t trust God to honor His word and go with us into each situation, we place ourselves on the thrones of our lives.
We always have a choice. Does life become painful and difficult? Yes. Circumstances can overwhelm us. We may feel afraid. The question is, what will we do with that feeling?
Will we allow it to move into our hearts and grow? Will we nurture the fear with all the worst-case scenarios that breed in our minds? This encourages fear to grow and overtake our hearts, thoughts, and bodies.
Or will we talk with Jesus? He understands being afraid. He tells us to come to Him with our burdens. When we choose to trust the One who loves us most, we practice faith.
God knows we’re going to feel afraid sometimes. But we don’t have to stay in that place.
Four thoughts about choosing between fear and faith
Turning our thoughts and heart from fear to faith takes intentional decisions. Here are some thoughts to help:
Understand how fear manifests in our lives. For me, my thoughts circle around the idea or worry continually. I’ve struggled for years with a desire to control every aspect of my life. I know; it seems ridiculous. But God showed me my reason for doing this is because I nurture this idea that if I controlled the situations in my life, I wouldn’t have to feel any pain. Silly, right? This was me not choosing to trust God. At all. I had to confess this to the Lord.
Identify the thought or idea causing us to feel fearful. Write it out. Talk it out. Get it out somehow. And ask for truth to help us see the scary thing from a different perspective. Look for the ways this thought or idea has led us to behave.
When we recognize the physical sensations of fear ratcheting up in our bodies, stepping back and taking slow, deep breaths for a couple of minutes may help. Label each thing we observe with our five senses. Being mindful slows down the fast spin fear sometimes twirls us into. It also opens our capacity to think clearly and pray dealing with fear in our minds and hearts.
Accept we may need to see a counselor to help us reframe our fear to face it head on. Having someone else in our corner who has resources and wisdom can help us work through the underlying issues that may be causing our fear.
On January 1, 2022, I was still trying to nail down my One Word for the year. I asked Hubs what the opposite of fear was. He first said, “Courage.” That didn’t resonate.
“I think it has to do something with trust. What are some synonyms for trust?”
He reeled off a few words. And then he said, “Cling.”
“That’s it!” I typed the word into my phone.
The beautiful thing about clinging to Jesus is that He also clings to us. I want to hold tightly to Jesus when fear tries to derail me. And the beautiful thing is, even when I struggle to hang on, Jesus clings to me, to each of us. Often we’ll be in a place where we’re forced to choose between fear and faith.
Faith and fear cannot exist at the same time. I don’t think so. One will always rule in our hearts. We must decide and feed either fear or faith to guide our steps. Fear directs us in one direction and leads to internal and external chaos.
Faith directs us into peace as we choose to trust the Lord more than ourselves. Which will you choose?
What about you? What are your thoughts about fear and faith co-existing? What’s something that helps you choose faith when you feel afraid?
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