Isn’t faith the opposite of fear? If we want to overcome fear, shouldn’t we focus upon faith?
Yes, however greater clarity is needed. To overcome fear we need to focus upon a form of faith that is obtainable and reliable in every situation – thanksgiving brimming with faith fulfills the needed prescription. Here’s why.
Scripture contrasts fear and faith in story after story. Joshua’s and Caleb’s faith in God’s promise enabled them to overcome any fear created by fortified cities and tall people. Similarly David’s faith in God, who had delivered him from wild animals and who had promised Israel that “five would chase a hundred,” led him to subdue every fear about fighting a giant formidable champion warrior.
However if God has not promised a particular outcome for our troubling situations, how sturdy can faith’s legs be? The breeding ground for fear can be a long list: health, employment, finances, relationships, competence, an uncertain future and so forth.
Consider what might happen when worry and fear threaten as new developments threaten financial holdings. Perhaps someone prays fervently to God for him to prevent a financial loss. Or maybe someone counters another type of fear by being certain that God will deliver.
Let’s stop and think for a moment. Are we the puppet master for God? Must God answer every prayer of faith according to our will? The obvious answer is no.
Someone’s faith might be strong that God will not allow a particular disaster to strike, yet it does. Then because faith was not accurately focused, this individual might erroneously begin to believe that faith is futile. The problem is not with God, but with the nature of our faith. Let’s take a closer look.
Overcoming fear with a faith that is unshakeable, even when God does not respond according to our will, seems to require a specific application of faith. The fiery furnace in Daniel 3 is a classic story setting us upon the path of a healthy faith focus.
In response to the crisis Nebuchadnezzar created for the three servants of the Most High God, they acknowledged God possessed the necessary power to rescue them. Furthermore, they even asserted their confidence that he would save them! Their faith was strong! However, they also framed their rock solid faith within the realization that God might not rescue them. This did not undermine the strength of their faith.
As it turns out, God did rescue them. They knew this is not always the case. It is very significant that they accepted the possibility of the worst while affirming faith in God.
How can we fortify a healthy faith capable of overcoming fear and being sustained even when God does not answer according to our will? Thankfulness reminds us of God’s power and goodness. Thankfulness refocuses our attention and perspective. Thankfulness reinforces faith.
Here are some steps that can help:
- Focus on God’s power, love and mercy. Review God’s track record from scripture! Know that God has the power and that God cares. Then praise God for what is true about God.
- Be thankful for your past. How has God previously answered your prayers? Spend time in prayer praising God for these blessings. Thank God for his provisions in the present and past – whether that be life, time with loved ones, available resources, a certain measure of health, the promises of the new covenant, and so forth.
- Be thankful for the moment. Fear often revolves around future “what if” scenarios. Focus on the present while expressing gratitude to God for what you have in that moment. You might not have health, but do you have life and the hope Jesus provides?
- Do what is possible. Is there some achievable good? Do it. If something is beyond your control, acknowledge your limitations while seeking God’s help.
- Accept the worst remembering the best. While material goods might be lost or health might fail or relationships might disintegrate, what can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Paul’s answer is nothing is capable! Even if the worst scenario becomes reality, this does not mean we have lost everything. Place the crisis within the perspective of the eternal and ultimate. God is still with us. God can still provide and support. And if we faithfully follow our Lord, God will provide ultimate relief one day.
As a doctor might say, “Repeat this prescription as frequently as needed.” It can foster a thankful faith capable of triumphing over fear.