Fear or Faith

Have you ever encountered someone who was facing a serious illness or even imminent death yet they seemed to be totally at peace? Have you ever met someone who was a hypochondriac and worried and stressed over everything thing? Yes, some people allow even their smallest problems to seem monumental while others with monumental problems are full of inner joy. How can this be? What is the difference? Where can we all find that joy?

I have observed that fear is generally rooted in alack of faith and trust in God. Those people who are facing sickness and death and yet are joy filled usually have placed all of their trust in God. They have a deep relationship with Him and as a result grace fills their hearts and they radiate an inner strength and joy.

All of us can find things to worry about. The list of our fears is endless. We worry about money, health, death, our children, our aging parents, securing tickets to the big sporting event that we “have” to see, job promotions, layoffs, news of terrorists, politics, buying a new home, selling an existing home, getting into the best college, putting food on the table for our family and the list goes on. If we are not careful our fears will paralyze us and negatively impact the quality of our life.

If we harbor inner fears they can ruin even the best of days. The disciples had just had a great day. They had just witnessed Jesus feeding 5,000 people using just one little boy’s loaves and fishes. Now at the end of this day and its stunning miracle, while on the way to Capernaum fear raised its ugly head.

Matthew 8:23-27

He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.”

As we dig in a little deeper into fear itself we discover some interesting things.Fear is sometimes described by the acronym F.E.A.R where the letters stand for False Evidence Appearing Real. I suspect we have all experienced this in a nightmare or scary dream.

The dream seems so real, that we react to it often waking up in a panic even though it was false reality. In other words, our brains overreacted to false evidence. If we can be honest with ourselves we overreact with fear to many situations in our lives. Interestingly enough most if not all of the time whether we react with fear or trust the reality is the situation is beyond our control and fear and worry do nothing to help.

Jesus’ challenge to us to place our faith in Him is not just for our spiritual wellbeing but for our physical wellbeing as well. Let’s examine some of the science of FEAR. We have all heard about the flight verses fight reaction in the brain when confronted with fear. Where does this come from? The underlying culprit is a chemical in our body called Cortisol. The human body’s response to fear and anxiety (stress) is exactly the same whether a threat is real or imagined.

In our cave man days this important hormone in our bodies helped us to have the proper reaction to facing imminent danger like the attack of some wild beast, hence the fight or flight response. The endless issues we fret about today usually don’t rise to the same level of high alert yet our body reacts with the same biological response and that is cortisol.

Under normal daily circumstances cortisol is good. It is secreted throughout the day by our adrenal glands and plays a vital part in our daily biological rhythm. During periods of stress or fear our muscles need more oxygen and glucose therefore the heart must pump faster and the heart pressure must increase and, you guessed it, Cortisol is the hormone that makes those things happen. However in our modern world and our over propensity to worry over the “small stuff” we can trigger too much cortisol in our system and as a result we can literally and physically worry ourselves sick. Prolonged high levels of cortisol can damage the heart, contribute to obesity, and weaken the immune system.

That’s enough of the science for now. The fact is, too many of us are just plain miserable, stressed and anxious when we could be joy filled and at peace if we could just place our faith and trust in Jesus. This often unfounded fear is actually taking a toll on our health. Our lack of faith can give us a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach. It is at times when we are consumed with fear that Jesus would tell us to just trust in Him. Examine the interaction between Peter and Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. When Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water, but then took his eyes off Jesus, he too became fearful and began to sink. Look how Jesus responded when Peter cried out “Lord, save me”: “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt? After they got into the boat, the wind died down.”

Is Jesus calling out to us today with these same words: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” The scriptures are filled with passages telling us not to fear and to trust in God, yet for some reason we find this so hard to do. Here are a few very encouraging passages to help us learn to “chill out.”

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

We know that through His cross and resurrection Jesus has even conquered death. When we have lost a loved one, fear can paralyze us in its grip. This is especially true if that death was sudden and unexpected or if the death was the death of a child. In Mark’s Gospel when the synagogue official’s daughter died Jesus’ response to the official, was “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Yes even at our most trying times Jesus wants us to reach out to Him.

My friends in our secular world when we have crowded Jesus out of much of our daily lives is it any wonder that fear, stress, worry and anxiety are running rampant? A faithless world is a desolate world. Faith on the other hand gives joy. While fear weighs us down, faith allows our hearts and souls, in the mists of the most trying times, to experience a spiritual weightlessness.

It is faith that gives us joy. We have this joy through faith, because we have the knowledge of God’s unwavering love for us. Romans 8:28 tells us “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose“.

Today rather than living under the oppressive weight of fear, place you trust in our Lord, turn your concerns over to Him, let them go and begin to experience an anti-gravity weightlessness right here on earth and allow your soul, wrapped in the comforting arms of Christ, to fly like the angels no matter what you might be facing.

Dear Heavenly Father I ask you this day to allow me to escape the gravity of fear and to experience the joy that comes through faith and trust in your Son Jesus Christ. Amen!

Brian Pusateri
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