The Confusing Difference Between Fear & Faith

And when He entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves, but He was asleep. And His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us. We perish.” And He saith unto them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Matthew 8.23-26

Yeah, disciples, why is your faith so small after seeing all those miracles? That was my first thought, as it always is, right after reading this story. But, this time, I had a new thought: What about their actions showed a lack of faith? Why did Jesus rebuke them for coming to Him in their time of need? I do this all the time, come to Him in my darkest hour pleading for deliverance. God tells us to come to the throne of grace with boldness. We are told to make our requests made known to God. Doesn’t this show the presence of faith in Jesus, the fact that they sought Him in the midst of the storm?

I prayed for the Holy Spirit to show me the answer. Because I am one of those disciples on a daily basis. Is my faith small, too? As usual, on my morning drive I received this thought: It wasn’t that they asked for help, it was how they asked for help.

I was reminded of the time I flew above a storm. After an eight hour layover, my friends & I finally began the last short leg of the flight home from a mission trip in Central America. We climbed steeply up through the electrical storm until finally we were riding above the black clouds, looking down on what looked like the largest mountains I had ever seen, first invisible, then illuminated by fierce lightning. It seemed like we were only feet above these mountain peaks, but we were safe. I was looking down on the origin of the storm instead of looking up at it for the first & probably only time in my life. I was mesmerized by the thought that I was being given a glimpse of God’s perspective on us. He was both in the storm with us & above the storm.

This situation was so terrible & unique that I didn’t know how to respond. One one hand I felt that I should be terrified, like my friend across the aisle who was crying with his head buried between his knees. But I also felt the most perfect peace, the one they talk about in the Bible that passes understanding. I felt so very close to God. I still prayed that we would land safely. But I had a choice to pray out of fear or out of faith & I chose faith. I remembered that He was conducting this storm like an orchestra, pictured our guardian angels flying alongside us, & I thanked Him for showing me a small fraction of the grandeur of His creation. This image has stayed with me, bolstered me through so many times when my faith was tried…

I think that’s what Jesus was teaching His disciples. Their perspective was from the boat, looking up at the storm, realistically assessing the scenario – they were going to die. They made their request known to Him, but they were asking from a place of fear. What if, instead, they had prayed like the leper or the centurion? “Lord, I know you can. If you will, please answer my prayer.” In full faith & complete surrender to His will. Sure, the reality was that they were taking on water, the leper had an incurable disease, the centurion’s servant was on his death bed, & my plane could easily have been struck from the sky. But as realistic as these statements are, His ability to speak calm to the storm was just as real. He spoke healing to the leper, life to the servant, & peace to my heart. He doesn’t change, but our focus does. I don’t think Jesus was upset that they woke Him from sleep to ask for His help. I think He was disappointed that they were more affected by the wind than by His presence in the boat with them.

So how am I supposed to stay in that faith perspective when it’s so easy & natural for me to pray from a place of fear? That was the next question I asked in the car. Then this: by knowing Him. Simple.

It’s like getting coffee with an old friend. I wonder if she will be different, will she think that I am different? Then I sit across from her & look into her eyes & I see her heart. She is who she used be & I can be who I really am. We pick up right where we left off. Good friends are like that. We don’t talk about the fact that it’s been way too long, but we also know we will never go without these coffee dates for that long ever again. That’s like our God. He is always the same no matter how long it’s been since the last coffee date. No variableness. No shadow of turning. The more we know the character of God, the easier it will be to have faith in Him. The longer we go, the more room we make for questions that fuel our fear: Will He remember me? Does He still care? Is He mad that I haven’t called in a while? I’m convinced that the peace I experienced in the plane came from the experience I had just left on the shores of Honduras. I was out of my comfort zone, fully confronted with the Lord & His work. It was more like a road trip than a coffee break. This made all the difference when the time came for that frightening flight.

It took less than 24 hours for the next real opportunity for me to pray in the midst of a storm. I guess that’s the new norm when you have a 2 month old in your care! Instead of dwelling on the aspects that made me fearful & praying that He would remove them, I thanked Him for being above it all & asked for wisdom, guidance, & healing for my son. It’s been years since I met Jesus for the first time, yet I’m still learning His simple lessons.

Maybe we can’t help the storms we find ourselves in, but we can control where we stand. Are you standing in a place of fear or faith?

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