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Fear and Faith

It seems that it is embedded in my thinking that fear is opposed to faith and faith is opposed to fear and ne’er the two shall meet. The two are mutually exclusively and not compatible…or so I am prone to think. But, then, I read the Bible.

Moses said to the LORD, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Ex. 4:10-13

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:7-8

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him…Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. 1 Sam. 17:4-7,10-11

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. Dan. 3:17-18

Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matt. 26:38-39

This is just a skimming of highlights from the whole story of God’s redemptive work. There is no part of the process of restoration that hasn’t required great trust in the One who has promised to complete it. Moses was afraid and didn’t want to trust God’s plan. Joshua was called into battle against those far more intimidating and apparently powerful, not to a vacation by the sea. The opponents of God’s people have always been lawless, unpredictable and terrifying.

The opposition to “God’s call” is often that “it’s dangerous” or communicated with the question “is it safe?” Before we moved to this neighborhood, people might communicate their hesitancy with our decision by saying something more passive like, “Well, I’m sure you’ve thought through all the issues because you wouldn’t be doing it if you hadn’t.” Have we thought through every possible scenario? Could we control the outcome better if it were possible to know every single challenge that may come our way? The icy fingers of fear that rip into my insides through these critiques seem to imply that if it feels scary, if we haven’t got a plan for every single possible circumstance, it must not actually be God’s will. If we feel scared, we shouldn’t be here.

And just this week, I’ve started feeling scared. Has anything new happened? Nope. It has been as quiet and peaceful, if not more so, than any place I’ve lived since childhood. But word of gangs by a nice guy we met on a walk today, the hibernation of most of the neighbors who stay behind closed doors all the time, the fear of an old friend who lives in a different part of the neighborhood but couldn’t believe we were moving in…all these remind me that God hasn’t called us to a spa. He has called us to a place so outside of our experience and understanding that we must look to Him, cling to Him and trust in Him.

God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Gen. 17:15-16

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Dan. 7:13-14

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:18-20

I have no clear goal for our residence here. I have no measureable objectives to know that we’re on the right course. I have no job description for this particular phase of living by faith. I don’t know the why or the what or the when or the how. All I know dimly is that He is with us, He is for reconciliation and unity among His people who are called from many people groups and cultures and that He asks us not to lean on our own understanding. Is my heart beating fast with anxiety? Yes. Might He grow my faith in this very experience? Absolutely. He will use my fear to grow my faith and I will wait expectantly for Him to do so. I have to trust Him through the valley of the shadow of death, and know that both His rod and His staff will comfort me.

Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.

You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.

Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.

“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth

without knowing whose it will finally be.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?

My hope is in you. Psalm 39:4-7

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