There is much in this world that can arouse fear: political crisis, health concerns, relational conflict, financial stressors, on and on. Yes, there is much in this world that would engender fear in us. Fear is a normal response to such life dynamics. And when we find we are emotionally thin or depleted from life demands, the propensity toward fear, anxiety and worry is only increased.
A fear inducer for me is my health. Years ago I contracted a virus that apparently got into my nervous system and messed with my autoimmune system. I now live with the daily symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There are times when the symptoms become quite strong and fear an almost automatic response. These moments are also an opportunity to exercise faith expressed in simple trust in my God’s goodness, presence and care.
Faith is a hallmark of mature spirituality. Faith is a cultivated posture of one trusting in the goodness, presence and care of God – here and now, amidst whatever life is throwing one’s way. A person who is mature and maturing in Christ, is growing in faith despite circumstances.
We make a choice to cultivate faith. This does not merely come about by sheer willpower and effort. Rather it is born of intimacy with Christ. As we get to know Jesus better and better, we come to know who our God truly is. Our God is our Father, and we are his children. He watches over us, cares for us, provides for us. The entirety of our life is in his good and powerful keeping. We can take seriously Jesus’ admonition to not worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25). Thus, as we abide in Christ, we can grow in faith.
But there is choice in the everyday circumstances as well. I can choose to trust or I can chose to give myself over to worry. I can allow anxiety to take seed and flourish in my heart and mind. When hard times come, I can either lean into God trusting his goodness, or I can give myself over to the whims of my mind and the temptations to try to rule my own world with frenetic, anxious self-managment.
As many of us know, fear can be a horrid master. It paralyzes us from making wise choices. It can cloud our perspectives. It can even sway important decisions. Turning our mind’s attention from that which concerns us, toward God, is an essential act of faith. Sometimes we are stuck and need the help of another person to walk us through an anxious time. Seeking a journey mate can be a wise act of leaning into faith rather than fear.
Faith is a mark of a mature believer. Cultivating faith allows us to be free to live out what God has put in us to do with our lives, despite uncertainties and adversities.
Some of us may need to take a quick assessment. There may be dynamics in our lives that are breeding fear in us of which we are not fully aware. What causes fear, anxiety or worry to surface within you? What are fears that you have not put words to? Here is an exercise you can practice: Sometime over the next week, maybe on your Sabbath (cause I know you are all taking Sabbath serioulsy!), take whatever fears and worries you are having, get alone with God for a chunk of time, and talk through those concerns with him. Then quiet yourself and allow yourself to be tended to by God. Turn your thoughts from your fears -toward God. In other words, instead of contemplating what worries you, contemplate God. Turn your gaze to the One who is always gazing upon you. Do this regularly, even daily as needed. Allow God to strengthen your faith by showing you his care and then step courageously back into your life, walking in faith.
It would be an illusion to assume we can eradicate fear from our lives. As I mentioned, fear is a normal human response to life. We might experience victory in one area of life only to have God show us another layer or different circumstance he invites us to trust him with. All of life is an invitation to learn to trust him more deeply.
Shepherds: How is your faith cultivation? How are you journeying toward God with whatever prompts fear, anxiety or worry in you? When you are with others, if you sense fear is a factor in their lives, ask them about that dynamic. Be gentle in your reception of any confessions of anxiety. Lead them to the One who is Peace and gives peace. Help others to grow in their faith by offering helpful exercises or practices that help them to commune with Christ. Pray for them and follow up with them regularly.
What has helped you in your growth of faith over fear? What helpful practices have you offered to others? I’d love to hear from you. And please pass this onto anyone you think might find it helpful. Thank you.