58. Faith Over Fear

FAITH OVER FEAR

The catch phrase caught me!   Like most people,  I did not own a “face mask” prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.  As it became obvious that it was not wise to be out in public without one, millions of people across the globe began searching for their own protective face coverings.  Almost overnight an industry popped up composed of both professional manufacturers and local entrepreneurs.  It quickly seemed like every sports team,  cause, and conceivable design were available for the consumer willing to pay a few bucks rather than attempt to sew one themselves.

That’s where I got caught!  I already had a couple of the disposable masks designed for jobs around the house, including one of the now famous N95 professional masks.  I even had a homemade mask a friend had given me featuring a fishing theme.  But I wanted something that fit both my face and my personality better!   So, like folks all over the country, I began searching the internet for something that I could proudly wear in public during this extraordinary season.  As you might guess, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of choices out there before I settled on a black mask with the words, “Faith Over Fear”  in white letters on one side.  In the midst of all that has been going on during this season, I loved the sentiment!

I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase during the quarantine,  the current racial tension in our country, and the ongoing pressures of life in the “new normal”.  Nothing is the same as it was just a few months ago. Not only has the pandemic created “social distance” from others, but it has altered the course of our economy, our financial security, and in many cases our outlook on the future.  No one really knows at this point what’s going to happen next, how long these disruptions will last, or what changes will be implemented that will alter the landscape of our lives.  It’s enough to create more than a few furrowed brows.

In the midst of all that life goes on with all its complexities. Just yesterday I was humbled to conduct a memorial service for a 15 year old who died in a tragic car crash.  She was an incredibly talented young woman who passionately pursued all that life held for her.  She excelled in multiple sports, had a beautiful singing voice, and almost unlimited potential.  Yet her life came to a sudden and unexpected end in the midst of what is already an unprecedented season of turmoil.  In fact, stories like hers are happening every day in places all around the country to families just like hers who are already trying to navigate the unsettling reality of 2020.

In such times our faith can be shaken.  With so much bad news dominating the headlines, and the absence of so many of the normal distractions — like sports,  going to the theater or dining out — it would be easy to give into fear.   In addition, while churches have become very creative in producing online content, those who are people of faith are greatly missing the opportunity to gather in person in shared fellowship.  Perhaps never before have so many of the routines of the masses been disrupted by such a compound series of events.

Fear, by its very definition, means “the absence of trust”.   We fear heights because, to some degree, we’re not sure whether or not we’ll fall off the edge, the ladder will hold us, or the zipline is strong enough.  We fear failure because we aren’t convinced we have the skills to succeed or that others will recognize our efforts.  We fear the unknown because a voice in our head keeps telling us “it could be bad”.  We fear for our relationships because we have doubts about the person we’re in relationship with or the influence others may have on them.  We fear the future because we don’t necessarily believe God is looking out for our best interests or has the ability to take care of us.  Fear can be rampant in our lives because of the “absence of trust”.

Faith, on the other hand, is just the opposite of fear.  Faith says “I do trust”!  I trust people to do the right thing. I trust that the situation will turn out for the best.  I trust God will supply the resources I need.  I trust that there are some answers to all those seemingly unanswerable questions.  Faith is a statement of our convictions.  It expresses what we truly believe, no matter what the circumstances may be.

The idea of having “faith over fear” is a conscious choice we make in spite of what may be going on around us.  We may not have control over all the variables of whatever situation we find ourselves, but we can choose how we will respond to those things.  Fear is so impacted by those things that it will alter the course of our decisions.  Faith is so unmoved by those things that it will stay the course or plot a bold new course to accomplish the desired purpose. Fear reacts negatively; faith reacts positively.

Faith is not blind, as some seem to think.  When we act in faith it’s not like we are unaware of what is going on around us. Reality can’t be ignored! Our “fearful” circumstances don’t change just because we’ve made a choice to respond to those circumstances in faith.  If you lost a job, you’ll still be unemployed.  If you find yourself in debt, you’ll still owe your creditors.  If your relationship has been broken, there’s no magic faith formula to make it instantly better.  Faith may certainly lead you to a different set of actions, but it will not eliminate the circumstances you find yourself in.  It will just change how you respond to those circumstances.

As I was preparing for that memorial yesterday I kept looking at the mask I had purchased.  There was nothing I could do to change the narrative of the story.  As much as I wanted to help relieve the pain for her parents, siblings, family and friends, it was obvious that no matter what I said their daughter, sister, grandchild, niece and friend had passed from this life to the next.  All I could do was to try to help them try to find a way to face this reality with faith, not fear.  That’s easier said than done in the stark light of such a tragedy.

The thing is, that principal is no less relevant to those of us not walking through such a deep valley as it is to those who are. We, too, must learn how to respond to the twists and turns of our life in a way that does not give into the fear of the moment.  Like a muscle that must be trained,  we have to exercise our faith in the little crisis experiences of life if we hope to be able to do so in the dark night of our soul when it seems as if our whole  world is falling apart.  Faith doesn’t just happen because we want it to.  We have to develop it so that our natural response becomes “FAITH OVER FEAR”.

I’d like to say I have this all figured out, but I don’t.  Life has thrown me enough curveballs over the years that I’ve developed some skills to respond in faith. But there are still times when my natural response is based more on fear than it is on faith.  Like you I’d prefer if God would just lay out all the answers ahead of time so I don’t have to walk through those experiences feeling like I’m in the dark. But, even in my most optimistic moments I know that’s not really what it’s like.  It’s called a walk of faith because I have to keep moving forward even when it feels a bit uncomfortable and unsettling.  I may want to just stand there and let Him light the entire path in front of me…..then again, maybe I really don’t want to know everything the lies ahead.  Perhaps it’s best just to take the next step in faith, one at a time,…….even those scary ones!

I like the little black mask I’ve purchased.  Every time I pick it up to put it on it reminds me that I may not have it all together, but I can take the next step.  On days like yesterday, that’s the best I can do.  I’m not sure where the path is leading right now, and you probably aren’t either.  None of us have lived through a season quite so tumultuous on so many levels all at the same time.  Yet despite the turmoil this has stirred up, both personally and in the larger community,  I have a sense that the more I respond in faith rather than fear,  the better I’ll be myself and for those I attempt to serve.

It was the catch phrase that caught me,  “Faith Over Fear”.  At first glance it was just a nice thought, a positive message in the middle of the chaos all around. But it’s much more than just a catch phrase.  There’s a lifestyle inherent in these words that I want to learn how to emulate.  There’s a conviction stated in the concept that requires a specific dedication of my will.  I don’t think I fully comprehend all that is needed to truly live a life of faith, but I do know that it requires me to “trust more” and “fear less”.  I want to take that next step and walk into the unknown future with confidence that God will reward faith that is expressed in action.

After all, if we can’t trust Him, who can we trust?