Fear and Faith

In downtown Seattle, just a couple blocks from Pike Place Market and the rest of the seawater-smelling tourist destinations, there’s a store called Columbia. Towering plate glass windows are set in the faux lodge exterior and long banners proclaim sale percentages; 12-foot adventurers forever pose in the most exciting moments of white water journeys and snowcapped summits. I’ve walked in before, to find the familiar clothing racks of all the other downtown stores, the main differences being the prices of their jackets and the slough of “heat technologies” advertised on every tag. If I were to buy one of those jackets, I could put it on, walk back onto the streets of downtown Seattle, and it would doubtless keep me warm. Yet, that’s not all it was made for. It was made for a blizzard, and for all the cold and confusion, I’m sure that a blizzard would be where I’d finally discover this jacket’s real utility and delight. After a few such encounters, that jacket would likely become a dear friend of synthetic fabrics when I opened the closet each morning.

Faith is a blessing in the streets of the city, but it’s a gift and a shield for more than that. I’m learning that in times of fear, we discover the true utility and delight of faith. I commend Philippians 1–Paul’s declaration of faith and faithfulness in the midst of prison, suffering, and immanent death–to every high school freshman who will consider it; the passage deeply changed me as a 14-year-old. Yet, I also commend it to pastors, professors, VPs of sales, because perhaps you’re actually afraid. You may have read of faith before, you may have even received and practiced it to the extent that you were able, but have you taken up faith for today? Have you considered faith for the things you’re afraid of in your church, your job, your home?

Last night, Annie and I were talking about the future. She told me that she was sure that God would work things out. “What do you mean?” I asked. “What do you mean by ‘work things out?'”

“I believe He’ll help me find meaningful work,” Annie replied.

I thought about that for a few moments and considered how to respond.

“Why?” I finally asked. “Why do you think He will provide that? When I say that God will work things out, I just mean that He will work things out for us to survive.” The cynical side of my worried that she would respond, There’s no proof we’ll survive either; God’s people starve all over the world.

To my surprise, Annie went the opposite direction. “I believe He’ll give me meaningful work because He is faithful and He wants the best for us. He might not give me the work I want, it might be hard, but whatever He gives us it will be for our good.”

The good He intends for us may be the opposite of what I currently want, but today, faith in His goodness means pushing back against that fear that distrusts His plan. I’m thankful for this conversation with Annie, because it is a reminder to trust God in a way that goes beyond logic and the apparent. I’m afraid these days, and I need God’s people around me, my wife in particular, to remind me what faith is and what it might look like in December 2012. At 14, I intellectually wrestled with hypothetical death; this morning, I’m struggling with the real possibility of run-of-the-mill debt. Perhaps this is a smaller concern than the persecution I see in Philippians, but it’s manifested itself in my heart in a much bigger way than my fears have before. I’m showing my hand here–I am yet to shed the cowardice that comes with a charmed life–but I am not the point. The point is, the God in whom we put our faith will be faithful in this and so much more. Only in times of fear can God teach us that we have nothing to fear. His perfect love casts fear out.

Today is a day for faith. You may not always feel like your faith has grown over the months and years, but as you look forward at the rest of 12/13/12, will you make space for your faith to grow in the circumstances God has placed you in?