Originally published May 9, 2013.
I remember the conversation as if it happened only a little while ago, one of those pivotal moments when your perceptions change everything. It was one of our first adult conversations; he was no longer the professor on a pedestal and was becoming a colleague in ministry, and I felt brave enough to confide in him. “I have been struggling with fear. I think Satan is attacking me with this.” He thought for a minute and said in his gravelly voice, gentle and hesitant despite his many accomplishments: “Well, that is possible. But you know what another word for fear is?” I waited. “Isn’t fear just another way of saying you don’t trust God?” Everything stopped…and turned… right there over lunch, and my life changed.
How could I say I loved God if I didn’t trust Him to take care of me? How could I believe Him for something as large and someday as eternal life if I could not believe that He was at work right here today in my life? For the first time I realized I could believe a lot of stuff about God with my head and never let it trickle down into my heart, could still wonder down deep if He was good and if He loved me…which made no sense at all. And the girl who was always so cautious and fearful told God she was sorry and wanted to change, though she didn’t know how, echoed the father’s prayer when he brought his son to Jesus: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
This has been my faith walk ever since, “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19) And the further I go the more I find that when it comes right down to the bare roots of us, we are all on that path. Because the real question our hearts are figuring out is if we believe that He is Who He says He is. It was the very first question in the Garden and still every new situation is a crossroads of faith: “Can I trust Him in this? Does He love me still? Can I depend on Him to do what is best here?” It’s a growth process, and it’s also a cycle. The more I see Him clearly, the more I trust Him…and the more I trust Him, the more I love Him; and “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18)
No wonder this faith-journey takes an entire lifetime of experiences and situations. I am a slow learner, it seems, and life has cut deep in more places than I realize, taught my heart all the wrong things. But now when the fear creeps in and tries to take up residence, I know that this is what it feels like to not-trust– and with all my heart I want to be so convinced of His love and goodness that His peace will rule there. It takes purposeful cultivating of faith, and intentional choices to trust in each new situation, and when fear is clawing at me so that it is hard to breathe, it sometimes takes jumping off the cliff into reckless faith regardless of the way I feel. “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
Someone shared with me recently, “Our whole lives have been this way, one thing after another, and you have to wonder when we will ever get a break? When can we just live and be happy?” I thought of our clean small town in light of the orphanages and the refugee camps and the cancer wards and the slums of the world. I thought how hard it is to trust anywhere, in the face of loss and pain, and told her that maybe there is no such thing as just living happy, and maybe that’s not what life was all about anyway. How you experience life is more about what you see when you look at the world; more about Who you are learning to trust. You can see the hurts and wonder where He is… or see that all is gift and Love standing right there in our midst with blood and tears running down. Maybe life is really about seeing Who God is and knowing we can rely on Him in everything…. “help me overcome my unbelief!”
Amy Carmichael went to India alone as a young woman over a century ago, and spent her life rescuing the children sold into temple prostitution while her own strength slipped away in long illness. She spent many of her later years confined to her bed and used the time to write to her little flock about her relationship with God. Her utter trust is so childlike in its simplicity that you would think it came easily to her, but when you read Amy’s story you see how her trust was forged and pressed in hardship and pain and danger…every situation a crossroads of choice, and she kept saying yes to Him. I am learning to recognize that fear is the opposite of trust, and even if I can’t always change the feelings, I can at least choose to say “Yes, I trust You” and move ahead in spite of them. “I do believe…”
The LORD is my light and my salvation–so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?Psalm 27:1
…we trust all that the love of God does; all He gives, and all He does not give; all He says, and all He does not say. To it all we say, by His loving enabling, I trust. Let us be content with our Lord’s will, and tell Him so….The more we understand His love, the more we trust.Amy Carmichael