Sunday, November 22, 2015

In the Face Of Fear

"Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

Maybe it's just me, but these sound like fighting words. I've never really liked when people tell me I have no reason to feel the way I do about something, whether that be scared, excited, hurt, or something else entirely. I also would feel a little embarrassed and maybe a little put off if someone asked why I have so little faith. Both questions together just seem a little too uncomfortable and offensive for my liking.
Then how come, coming from Jesus, they bring such comfort?

In my last post, When Storms Come Raging, I talked more about the passage in which these questions can be found (Mark 4). This passage tells of how Jesus calmed the disciples' fears with only a few words in the face of an overwhelming storm. While this is a great story about Jesus calming a literal storm, it is sometimes hard to transfer the meaning behind stories to our day to day lives.
How exactly do we find peace amidst the storms of our lives?

In the last year, I have heard a lot of speakers, authors, and pastors talk on the topic of forgiveness and letting go of fear (two things that definitely should happen if you are to have true peace in your life). Since this is all about storms, and storms often bring an extra large helping of fear to the table, the thought seemed very fitting.
I can't remember who was speaking, all I remember is they said that the only way to conquer fear is to not allow it to rule over you. Meaning, do not dwell on fear. A Graham Cooke quote I heard recently perfectly explains how this works. He says, "Take your eyes off the negative and you will disempower it." Anything you focus on, anything you dwell on, you give power to. You allow it to rule a part of your life and consciousness.
The speaker continued by saying that you can't ignore the fear either, because that creates pain where it does not need to be. For the fear will not just go away, it will linger beneath the surface and make you feel like there is something wrong with you for having that fear. And that shame will keep you from actually facing and eradicating it once and for all.
So then what do we do?
As he instructed, and I have implemented on more than one occasion, we must look our fear straight in the face. We must recognize that it is there, but not dwell on it or allow ourselves to slip into a pit of self-pity. Then we must turn to God in prayer and say, "I am afraid."

Believe me, I thought it sounded silly too, the first time I heard it. But it's just like what the disciples did in that boat. They turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, I am afraid."
I have had several chances to do this since hearing that speaker, and each time it was one of the most freeing things I could have done. There was something about recognizing my fear, not bottling it inside, and actually turning it over simply with no complicated prayers or formulas, just saying, "I am afraid," that lifted this huge weight off my shoulders. And that's because I could almost hear Him saying to me, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
The words don't come in a condescending or condemning way, but gently, as a father comforts a child who is scared of the dark. It is in those words that you know you really have nothing to fear. And the warmth and peace that comes from that has always been overwhelming enough to keep me in tears long after the fear filled ones have ceased.

Trust me, I know it sounds too simple to work that way. In all honesty, I was a little uncertain about it the first time I tried it. But I was scared and I was desperate and I was tired of feeling that way. But I can also tell you where that uncertainty came from.
I, like many, have trouble seeing God in the midst of the storm. When urgent or life altering matters press heavily on your mind, it's easy to forget He's there.

I think the biggest thing overlooked in the story of Jesus calming the storm is that He was there the whole time. He had never once left them alone to face the storm by themselves, but was sitting in the very same boat they were worried was about to capsize. It wasn't until they turned to Him with their fear and called on His name did He calm the storm.
He hasn't left you, but so long as you continue to cling to your fear and your need to be in control, He can't do much to calm the storms raging inside of you.

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