Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fear and Faith

Despair.com is a website containing a collection of demotivators. They are pithy statements which humorously look at many of the situations we face during our daily lives. On their website, fear is described in the following manner: “Until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore, you will not know the terror of being forever lost at sea.” It points out that fear is often related to risk. If we remain in safe territory we may not experience fear. When we branch out into the unknown we find ourselves facing uncertainty and apprehension. This can lead to fear, which can be very paralyzing. It keeps us “close to the shore” so to speak. It also keeps us from discovering new things. We can become afraid to try something new, or to make a mistake. Where would we be today if Columbus would have taken this attitude when he was sailing about the Mediterranean? He would have never headed out into the unknown and discovered America.

This description of fear could just as well be a description of faith. “Until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore, you will not know what faith is.” Walking in faith requires us to leave the shore. We have to be willing to face the terror of not knowing what is going to happen. Abraham left the shore when he departed from Ur for the land of Canaan. He had no idea where he was going. But he stepped out in faith, believing God. David left the shore as he picked up the five small stones before advancing to meet Goliath. He was willing to accept the risk that he could be killed. Peter stepped out of the boat, and for a brief moment walked on water until fear interrupted his journey. The book of Habakkuk has been described as a journey from fear to faith as Habakkuk wrestled with the perilous times in which he lived and God’s seeming inactivity. Each of these four men put fear behind them trusting that God was leading them in their journey of faith.

As these episodes illustrate, there is a close connection between fear and faith. Essentially they are the opposite sides of the same coin. Both involve stepping out into the unknown. They differ in regard to trust. Faith requires trust in God, trusting that he is leading. Fear, on the other hand, indicates the absence of trust. Whereas fear paralyzes, faith liberates. Fear closes in upon us. Faith opens up new possibilities.

Today we live in a world that is particularly susceptible to fear. We are facing many things which can give us cause to fear. The financial and economic crises have affected us all. Many people have lost their homes over the past few years. The threat of global terrorism is always on the horizon. Drug wars along our southern borders have escalated. Unemployment is reaching new levels. Cities and states are facing bankruptcy. It is uncertain whether or not the stimulus package will be able to bring us out of the economic doldrums. Life is becoming very unpredictable. We don’t know what is going to happen. There is much we can fear. Yet it is precisely at this point that God asks us to trust him. He asks us to trust that he is bigger than all of the problems that face our world today. He asks us to put out from the shore, trusting that he will provide. Are you still hovering about the shore, or have you put out into the deep?

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