Thursday, February 15, 2018

fear and faith


Sometimes God waits for me to come to Him to ask questions, read the Bible, and dig for answers, and sometimes He initiates the conversation. I’ve had an ongoing conversation with Him about anxiety lately, and it has been bothering me. In the Enneagram work I’ve been doing, it has become abundantly clear that my primary sin struggle is anxiety. I’ve been working to unpack that, notice it without judgment, and examine it. In the video I watched last week in my Enneagram Journey class, Suzanne Stabile listed each personality type and the corresponding passion/sin, as well as the remedy for that passion. For my personality type (a 6 on the Enneagram), she said that fear (anxiety) is the passion, and the remedy is not courage, but rather, faith. As I’ve thought about why she made that distinction, I’ve realized that courage is what is needed in circumstances that are frightening, potentially dangerous, or difficult. In contrast, faith is what is required in relationship with someone who is worthy of trust.

I read recently in Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God Bible study, “You don’t need more faith; you need a more comprehensive and accurate view of the faithfulness of your God.” Like everything, the most effective method for growth in the area of faith is to get to know Jesus better. To know Him is to love Him, and the more we understand His true character, the more our faith will grow because we will find out through relationship with Him that He is faithful (worthy of our faith).

During the same week, I read in Beth Moore’s The Quest Bible study that, “The same soil that has been fertile for fear is fertile for faith. If you can find your fear you can always know where to send your faith.” This helped me to realize that as a fearful person, I actually have a great capacity for faith, but I still wasn’t sure how to transform fear into faith. 

As a young child, I frequently had unexplained stomach aches, which became less abstract anxiety when I was a teen. From a young age, I have known I was a worrier and have read and memorized scriptures about not being anxious. I always saw the scriptures as something to read over and over in my attempt to will myself into not being afraid. Honestly, it wasn’t very effective because my focus remained on circumstances outside the context of my relationship with Jesus. As I have come to fall more in love with Jesus, I see the admonishments not to worry less as a stern chastisement and more as compassionate, gentle encouragement from a loving father who is pained when He sees His children wrapped up in fear. 

The Lord has pretty obviously been speaking to me about the connection between fear and faith, but I was still didn’t understand how to move from one to the other. Yesterday, He seemed to initiate the conversation with the eagerness of a child excited to share a new discovery. When I woke up, the voice that I have come to recognize as His—a thought that seems to come from outside of myself—said, “I want to show you something.” I pulled up the verse of the day on my Bible app and read 1 Corinthians 13:13 in the Amplified version:

And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.

My mind zoomed in on the explanation for “faith” given in the scripture: “abiding trust in God and His promises.” Suddenly my struggle with anxiety, caused by a lack of faith, made perfect sense in light of what I have learned through the Enneagram. Faith is essentially trust. Enneagram 6s are skeptical, struggling first with overwhelming self-doubt and then with trusting others as we turn our self-doubt outward and onto others. My anxiety will never go away as a result of me summoning up the courage to do difficult things, though that can be a good and noble pursuit. For me, the way to peace will always and only be found in deepening trust in and intimacy with Jesus. 

I thought of the many times God says to “be strong and courageous” in the Bible, which is often followed by some variation of, “…for I am with you.” When the Lord tells us to be courageous, He is doing something more beautiful than I realized—He is validating us while simultaneously calling us into greater faith. As a parent, I would not tell my child to be brave if she were not facing a situation that warranted bravery. I am well acquainted with her fears because of my relationship with her, and I know when she is about to attempt something that will be particularly difficult for her because it will require her to face one of her personal fears. When I encourage her to be brave, I am acknowledging that she is about to do something that she perceives as scary or difficult. However, I encourage her to not allow her fear to keep her from doing something that will be good for her. 

When God tells us to be strong and courageous, He acknowledges that He is asking something of us that will require bravery based on His intimate knowledge of our unique fears and insecurities. However, He also invites us to view our circumstances through the lens of our relationship with Him. We may be weak, fearful, ill-equipped, and inadequate, but He says of Himself, “Take heart! For I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) and “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). We must acknowledge our fear before He can help us move beyond it, and this glorifies Him because it prevents us from diminishing the greatness of what He does in and through us. When we become too enmeshed in the shame of being anxious, we miss out on witnessing the miraculous work He can do in delivering us into peace and deeper faith. If we can admit our anxiety and bring it to Him, we can then shift the focus from our circumstances to our relationship with Him. Through faith, or “abiding trust,” in Him, we find peace. Ironically, the anxiety that indicates a lack of trust in Him can be the very thing that increases our faith if we develop the habit of bringing our struggles to Him. 

When we let go of the assumption that He is as displeased with us as we are with ourselves, the real work of healing can begin as He calls us into deeper faith and trust. As my faith in Jesus has begun to grow, He has taken me on greater adventures than I could have imagined for myself. I am grateful for new adventures and the abundance of life in Him, as well as the moments of anxiety that draw me swiftly back to Him. Maturing in our faith may simply be “shortening the leash,” so to speak, so that we never get very far away from Jesus. In your weakness, behold His unfathomable might. He turns water into wine, sorrow into joy, and, blessedly, fear into faith.
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1 comments:

Heather said...

I don’t struggle with fear as much, but my husband and son do, and this is helpful for me to read. Thank you!