There’s a lie that I’ve bought into many times and I know I’m not alone in it. It’s a seemingly little lie, but it can wreak havoc in our lives if we aren’t careful. Somewhere along the line we all get sold the notion that to be afraid is to be without faith, that these can’t exist at the time. In reality, that’s just not true.
Deep down we all know it. You don’t have to go far to find catchy slogans or wise proverbs all weighing in on this point, but when it comes down to it we can’t quite get ourselves on board with it in the heat of the moment. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight to preach the truth of the matter to ourselves though. The trick in all of this is not the exclusivity of these two notions, but rather the relationship between them.
The presence of fear is not a failure, but our reaction to it can be. There’s not a warrior in human history who hasn’t felt fear the first time they charged into a battle. You can dedicate your life to coaching yourself around fear, positively visualizing scenarios, sharpening your reactions, or training yourself to handle whatever’s coming and still feel that drop in your stomach that announces the presence of fear. Fear isn’t a condition, it’s a reality. Being completely devoid of fear is simply unrealistic.
What we do with that reality makes all the difference. That’s where faith comes sweeping in. Faith stands in the gap between us and fear. It reminds us of truths God’s given us and promises he’s made. It tells us the trouble we find ourselves in won’t last forever, or that something far better is on the horizon. Victory is coming. Hold on.
But how do we close the gap between fear and faith? Ultimately it comes down to a choice. It’s a conscious decision to give your time, energy, and purpose to one over the other. I’ve always seen this choice stunningly illustrated in Jesus’ behavior in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Just before Jesus is arrested and turned over to the authorities, he takes his disciples out to the Garden of Gethsemane for a time of prayer. For their part, the disciples start of praying along with him and then pass out for a snooze. Jesus, on the other hand, starts waging a full-blown spiritual battle in prayer. If you look across all the gospel accounts that go into detail on his time in the Garden, they’ll focus on different parts of this episode, highlighting a variety of moments. They all make a point however of pointing out one thing: Jesus is in agony from how distressed he is.
Luke, ever the doctor, even goes as far as mentioning that Jesus actually sweats blood. This isn’t some flowery, poetic language. This is a real, documented condition that occurs when a human is so stressed and afflicted that their blood vessels actually burst and are sweated out of the body. I have been very afraid and distressed in my life, but never to the point of sweating my own blood. There’s no way around it, Jesus is in the throes of utter fearful distress at what’s coming for him. The Messiah, the savior of the world, is struggling with that age-old battle of fear.
And how does he face it? Prayer. This whole section of the gospels is dedicated to showcasing that despite the incredible strain of fear Jesus is under, he is making a conscious choice to lean into faith. As he pours out his agony and distress to his father, he finishes with the well known and absolute mic drop words “Not my will, but yours be done.”. You can’t earnestly pray those words without faith. Jesus used his time of prayer to make a conscious and dedicated effort to align himself closer to necessary faith than current fear. And we all know what he ended up going on to do for humanity.
What if instead of spending valuable time and energy beating ourselves up for feeling fear, we challenged ourselves to have just a fraction more faith than fear? Because at the end of the day, it’s less that these things are completely exclusive from the get-go, but more that the closer you lean to one, the less power the other has over you. So what if when your feet hit the floor in the morning, and everything that weighed on you the night before comes rushing back, you simply said, “Today I will be more faithful than fearful”?
Don’t wait for the day fear is not an issue, because that day is never coming.
You’re human. Fear is going to be a reality. If you wait for fear to be absent to start moving for the kingdom, you’re going to stay in the same spot forever. So instead make the choice for faith over fear and leave the door wide open. Faith can reach deep inside of fear, but fear’s got nothing on faith. The more you invite faith in, the more cramped fear gets until it doesn’t have any wiggle room. It’s not a big change that happens all at once, and it doesn’t need to start with anything but little steps. Just the act of being more faithful than fearful.
I would strongly recommend reading Hebrews 11 in its entirety if you want to go on with your day feeling absolutely fired up on the subject of faith. As it is, I’ll leave you with just the opening verse that packs the faithful punch and the reason why we can rely on it in the first place. “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for. It is the evidence of things we cannot see.”
Don’t wait on faith, choose it. Choose it and watch fear’s power turn to dust. As I said before, the presence of fear doesn’t mark us out as failures, but what we do with that fear holds much more staying power. Join the ranks of a lot of fearful people who have gone before you, and have more faith than fear.
Let’s find some joy,