By Chris Bates
My brother and I have that kind of brotherhood. It is like the A River Runs Through It-type bond. We’ve spent literally lifetimes together in trout rivers, duck blinds, fishing boats and on numerous outdoor adventures. We enjoy a true friendship, mutual admiration, and a special sibling connection both outdoors and inside.
Standing beside him outside of the surgical unit that day many years ago was, unfortunately, a permanent horrific memory. My sister-in-law was having life-threatening complications following an otherwise routine procedure, and my brother and I stood there together with other family members feeling completely helpless and overwhelmed. The fear was extreme and palatable.
Amazingly she survived the nearly life-ending incident followed by a very challenging recovery and long-term healing process. Support and faith were surrounding her, my brother and all involved. Through that entire experience, I witnessed her own faith strengthen and grow, and the same holds true for all of us. It was the kind of life experience that happens completely by surprise, for which we cannot possibly prepare—or can we?
Of course we cannot predict traumatic events for loved ones or ourselves. We often cannot foresee less emergent but still life-shifting happenings like unexpected job loss, the end of a relationship, loss of someone we know, financial challenges, or countless other tragedies. Highly emotional events naturally cause fear in all of us. Fear is going to happen, and often it leads to anger, sadness, and other sets of emotions. The challenge for you and me, and all of us, though, is how we use our faith to be prepared. Those with a deeply rooted faith that Christ has us, no matter what, benefit from a soul-deep security that can help lessen fear.
“Fear knocked and faith answered, and no one was there.” That saying comes from unknown origin but speaks accurately to faith being the offset to fear. Fear simply vanished because faith was that strong. It also implies that when we have faith, we have no need to fear. We are reassured time and time again in scripture that we are to trust in God. David wrote in Psalm 27:3–5, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.”
How do we achieve that kind of faith? My own experience is that it must be worked for and sought. First, scripture tells us to ask for faith, and that God will reassure and direct us. Additionally, we are told to take action. Action steps in our lives return favor to God for the gift of salvation that He offers to us, and for which He gave His own son to provide.
James 2:26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” As we take actions, then we find purposes for our faith. We use faith as fuel to love our neighbor as ourselves, to serve His name using the talents that He has given to us, and to seek from God the purposes that He has for each and every one of us. We walk as disciples to go and plant those mustard seeds. Faith then strengthens us, and fear diminishes. We find our purposes with God and grow strong in Him.
Tecumseh was a Shawnee Chief, and his inspirational poem defines living a purpose-filled life that defeats fear:
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
So we ask for faith, take action in our lives, and find purpose each day. When challenges, tragedy, or other fear-inducing things happen, we will naturally feel fear. Stories like what happened to my sister-in-law may happen, and you may face your own fear. If we have built up that strength through faith, we will each have the ultimate sword to use in battling those feelings, and also have a quiet reassurance that all is well through Christ.
Chris is President & Founder of Agora Company, a marketing, website, and advertising company based in Jackson, and can be reached at Chris@AgoraCompany.com. He and his wife, Stacy, and their children live in Madison.