Living In Fear Or In Faith?
Our country is in mourning over the hateful act of a husband and wife who forever changed the lives of the people attending a company Christmas party in San Bernardino, California.
A few weeks ago, terrorists in Paris, France murdered 130 people. The world is becoming a scary place. A soccer game, a pub, a theatre, and a Christmas party no longer feel safe. But how do we help our clients respond when they are tempted to stay home bunkered down in fear? When they are overcome by the evil around them? Each terrifying situation challenges us anew to learn how to live by faith, trust God more, and overcome evil with good.
Don’t get me wrong. Fear is a normal human response to evil, terroristic attacks, and anarchy. And, if our clients or we face such evil, our fear response enables our body to kick into action so hopefully we can protect others and ourselves.
However, it’s tempting to live fearing what might happen. In addition to living in fear of what might happen, many of our clients also chronically struggle with living in fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of death, fear of conflict, and fear of change. As they do that they orient their lives around avoiding what they fear rather than around serving and glorifying God. That is not how God wants his people to live.
The Bible repeatedly tells us to fear not. God tells us “do not be afraid.” Why? Because he knows we are naturally fearful creatures and that life can terrify us to a place of being ruled by our fears rather than the love of Christ.
It’s interesting to me that the psalmist says two seemingly contradictory things in Psalm 56 about fear. One is, “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:11).
And then he also says, “When I am afraid, I will trust God” (Psalm 56:3).
What this tells me is that sometimes our faith is big so we don’t feel fear, even when circumstances around us are scary. Other times, we are so filled with fear we will be overwhelmed by it if we don’t trust God. It’s both/and not either/or.
To teach our clients to not be ruled by fear, here are four things you can help them do.
- Name their fear. Whatever it is, their fear needs to be named and faced rather than avoided or ignored. It’s only when someone faces his or her fear and moves towards it in courage do they put faith into practice and trust God with the outcome.
For example, if your client found a lump in her body somewhere and she feared cancer, naming her fear of the possibility of cancer and taking appropriate action would help her have the best chance of living longer if it is indeed cancer. Ignoring it or avoiding it will not make it go away. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is relying on God’s strength to walk towards fear in faith.
- Get some support. In our individualistic, independent society it feels shameful to admit we need help, especially for Christians who are supposed to already know how to trust God. Yet, God created human beings to need one another and to need him. We were not designed to walk through life all by ourselves. The victims of the shooting in San Bernardino will need support to process the tragedy they experienced. I needed support when I was called to write a book and feared failure and rejection. Sometimes we need to borrow someone else’s faith so that we can face our fear and move through it.
- Help him or her take responsibility for their life and how it’s going. Sometimes people stay victims when they do not need to. They are afraid to make a change, take a stand or speak up against what’s wrong. They allow themselves to be mistreated, abused, and terrified and feel paralyzed d, without availing ourselves of the opportunities to get help, get support, or implement consequences including availing themselves of the laws of our land God has put in place for our protection.
- Teach them to center themselves in God and not in fear. By practicing step three, taking responsibility, our client must choose whether she is going to center herself in love or fear, trust or unbelief, God’s truth, or human reasoning. When we center ourselves in God and live by faith, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We’re not supposed to. We are not given the gift of omniscience.
But Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow today (Matthew 6:34). Tomorrow will have enough problems of it’s own. When tomorrow comes and if it is scary, God will give us what we need to face it with faith. Living in the “what ifs” cripple us for today.
Today Help your client ask herself this question: Today, aAm I going to live in faith or fear? Am I going to live in faith that God knows my story and faith that God is bigger than my story? Am I going to live in faith that God has a plan for my life and he is my helper in times of trouble?
The psalmist reminds us that when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death – we don’t need to fear evil. Why? Because God is with us (Psalm 23:4).
As the Christmas season approaches, I’m reminded of the words of this beloved Christmas carol. Allow it to speak to your heart.
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
We all have a choice. You can either walk forward by faith and in faith or cower in fear.
I pray you choose faith, even when you still feel fear.
Posted on December 16, 2015