Originally published on March 10, 2014.
Fear came knocking this week. I am not by nature a brave or adventurous person, so I know that visitor well. I am very familiar with it in all of its manifestations, have learned in the trenches to fight back with the Truth of God’s Word, found that maybe faith isn’t so much about banishing fear as it is about stepping off the cliff anyway and believing that there is Someone whose everlasting arms are beneath you.
Nevertheless, this week fear showed up on my doorstep again. It underlined the uncertainties of trying something new, pointed out all the ways this could flop sideways into chaos and frustration for a whole roomful of people, and I would be responsible. It called on the telephone with a whole list of what if’s for the future, all the possibilities for pain and loss. It chirped in text messages about questions left unanswered and days long waiting, wondering what end will be written to their stories. It tied itself in knots about wrong choices made that will have any number of miserable consequences, and fretted about people not having more sense. It crept in through the cracks… seeping into my dreams at night, hovering in the background of everyday activity, piling up in my heart till I could hardly breathe under the weight of it.
And by the end of the week I could see how George MacDonald was right in that old classic children’s tale, when he observed “But that is the way fear serves us: it always sides with the thing we are afraid of.” (The Princess and The Goblin) And I see yet again how fear magnifies the waves around me, drains my strength, makes me forget the One who walks with me and speaks “Peace, be still” to the storm. I am no Peter, to jump out of the boat at a moment’s notice. Never mind that he actually managed to walk on water with his eyes on Jesus for even a few minutes; the fear-tentacles pulling Peter down into deep dark water is what always stands out to me in that story, and the way Jesus grips His hand hard. ” ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’ ” (Matthew 14:31)
See, it wasn’t about the stormy waves at all. It was about what a man could trust and where he could plant his feet solidly enough to stand. And if there is one thing I have found, it is that Jesus keeps calling us into the unknown, asking us to follow Him, and we need to know what to stand on. Someone remembered in our small group about a saying she always heard at home: “When fear comes knocking, answer it with faith.” Indeed, faith is the only good answer to that familiar, unwelcome visitor. Faith ignores all the uncertainties, all the what-ifs, all the unknowns and mistakes and regrets, and does what is right anyway. Faith stands in the middle of the dark amid crashing waves that threaten to swallow up the world, and fixes its eyes on Jesus, finds peace. Paul wasn’t writing a pleasant Thought for The Day when he said “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” (Philippians 4:6) He was telling us what to do when fear rises, giving directions on how to find calm when storms surround.
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) Pray, ask specifically for help, give thanks…. it reads like a prescription for peace.
It’s a choice, of course, like everything else in our faith-growth process: which voices we will listen to, what we will focus our thoughts on…how to answer the door when fear comes knocking.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.2 Timothy 1:7
You call me out upon the waters:Oceans, Hillsong United
The great unknown, where feet may fail.
And there I find You in the mystery;
In oceans deep,
My faith will stand….
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders;
Let me walk upon the waters,
Wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger,
In the presence of my Savior.