Faith, and Fear: From Those Who Have been There.
Earlier this week there was a horrific terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Ca. Understandably and predictably these has created a sense of fear in many people around the country, including Christians. One way people who like me who write and teach on Christian scripture make sure we are on track is to compare our thinking with respected leaders from the past.
Given this week’s events I thought it might be fruitful to examine what three leaders from the past, who had much to fear had to say on the subject. Corrie Ten Boom was a survivor of Nazi Concentration camps. Not only was she herself imprisoned as a member of the Dutch underground helped many others to safety. In one of her quotes she says, “ Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear. “ So fear among other things breeds worry, and worry makes our thinking inefficient. The last thing we need in a crisis is to loose our ability to think straight.
Watchman Nee spent the last 20 years of his life in prison, persecuted for his faith by the Chinese communists. Nee tells us, “ The sight of any trouble strikes terror into the heart of those who do not have faith, but those who trust Him say, “Here comes my food!” So here from someone who has face incomprehensible fear repeatedly over many years, that faith is our answer to the fear this world wishes to put in our hearts ! We also must as people of Christian faith stand together consider this also from Boom, “When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.” Its easy to see, that if we let the fear of this world separate us, the devil wins !
But what else might we as Christians do when fear strikes at our hearts ? Back to Nee, and Boom’s thought from a moment ago. Consider what Nee says here, “An unpeaceful mind cannot operate normally. Hence the Apostle teaches us to “have no anxiety about anything” (Phil. 4:6). Deliver all anxious thoughts to God as soon as they arise. Let the peace of God maintain your heart and mind (v. 7). “ Similar to Boom, Nee tells us that “ An unpeaceful mind cannot operate normally.” So what does he tell us to do about it ? He refers us to Phil. 4:6, which teaches us in part “ Deliver all anxious thoughts to God as soon as they arise.” So obviously prayer must be a vital part of our response. And in spite of what some have argued recently, we have here first hand testimony that prayer works ! This is reinforced by the words of Emil Kapaun who said “ No sincere prayer is ever wasted.” Father Kapaun was a Catholic chaplain during the Korean War. Interestingly he won the Medal of Honor mostly for what he did AFTER becoming a prisoner of war. Father Kapaun certainly knew fear !
So while fear is a very natural, normal reaction to certain circumstances it is easy to see that it can distort our thinking and lead us away from God. It is only by turning instead toward him through our prayer that we can gain any measure of mental or spiritual clarity and then safety. Our ability to do this also hinges on our ability to band together as Christians when things get tough or scary. God after all gives us one another for a reason. So that we might reinforce each other’s faith. Fear and Faith like light and dark cannot coexist. When fear knocks at the door, embrace faith !