I remember receiving the phone call like it was yesterday when I would have given nearly anything to find freedom from fear. The police in our son’s out-of-state college town wanted to speak with us about some trouble he’d encountered.
That moment started a cyclone of emotions and a paralyzing struggle with fear that simply blindsided me. Although I struggled to identify exactly what I was afraid of, over the next many months, the Lord walked me through a painful and gut-wrenching spiritual journey of discovery and surrender.
As early as the onset, I trusted the Lord and believed—even through this trial—that He had a good plan for my son and our family. Still, I experienced a gripping level of trepidation that nearly stopped my ministry in its tracks and began to have a crippling impact on my life roles of wife and mom. Every part of my life felt as though it were under attack.
The Beginning of Breakthrough
One day my pastor suggested I borrow a book called Fearless by Max Lucado. He pulled it from his bookshelf and I placed it inside my handbag to take home. It sat on the desk in my home office for weeks. Every day as I walked by it, I’d think, “I should read that.” But I was unable to muster the strength to take even the smallest step toward freedom. It was as if I were too sick to reach out and grab a cure.
At last, I picked up the book and opened it. On the first page was nothing more than a Bible verse. It was Matthew 8:26, when Jesus asked His disciples,
“Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”
That was all I could take.
Tears spontaneously filled my eyes. I slammed the book closed and dropped it on my desk as the words penetrated my heart like a dagger. I couldn’t make myself read another word for quite some time.
But as only He can do, the Lord used His living Word to plant a seed of truth and understanding into my life. Matthew 8:26 swirled in my thoughts. It stayed in my mind when I slept, while I showered, and walked through my daily tasks. Slowly, over time, the Lord used that one verse to help me understand the powerful impact of fear and its relationship with faith. Jesus used His Word to reveal a path of victory over fear that has stayed with me many years later.
The Opposition of Fear and Faith
In Matthew 8:26, Jesus referred to His disciples as “men of little faith” because of the fear they experienced. That unfolds an interesting dynamic. Faith and fear are like opposite platforms on a scale.
As our fear increases, it diminishes the manifestation of our faith. Conversely, if our faith increases, it diminishes our fear.
Fear and faith are in opposition and have a direct impact on one another.
It can sometimes feel difficult to hold fast to our faith, which leaves us vulnerable to the enemy’s fiery darts of fear. Even when we can’t identify that “thing” of which we’re fearful, effects of fear can be paralyzing. Just because we follow Christ doesn’t mean we’re exempt. I can tell you from first-hand experience that fear
- Masks our joy
- Keeps us from pursuing our calling
- Causes dissension in relationships
- Makes us feel separated and discontented
- Can manifest in physical symptoms
- Holds us in captivity
- Makes us forget how big God is
Wielding the Shield of Faith
During that season in my life, there was little question that I was in bondage to fear. Each time those fiery darts made impact, I felt the sizzle and smelled the scorch. But God, as He always does, provided a way of protection. Ephesians 6 addresses the full armor of God and teaches that our shield of faith will “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v. 16).
The Greek word thureos describes a large, oblong shield that protected every part of a soldier. It was an essential piece of equipment that was covered in leather to help defend against flaming arrows. The thureos was about waist high and at least as wide as an average person. Warriors became so skilled at using their shield that other pieces of armor often escaped any impact at all.
The illustration aptly demonstrates the power of faith. As Paul referenced a shield of faith, he selected the word thureos to make his point. Our shield of faith offers such complete protection, other pieces of armor (the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, and shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace) rarely receive impact.
“Imagine yourself holding up your shield of faith. All is going well until your eyes see something astonishing. Within your field of vision is something you never imagined and you stand, mouth gaping, feeling your left arm, which holds your shield, begin to slump. What you see with your eyes affects your faith and it begins to falter, ever so slightly. As your faith begins to weaken, your shield moves out of position and you are suddenly vulnerable to the enemy. We may have other pieces of protective armor, but when the enemy fires a flaming arrow, we’re sunk. In my estimation, fear is a flaming arrow!
Think of what was happening to the disciples in Matthew 8. The storm was fierce. It was what the disciples could see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and feel upon their skin. What emotion did they experience? Fear. It can paralyze our brains and make us completely forget (even if just temporarily) how BIG God really is.
I’ll just come out and say it: Fear seems to make us lose our minds and forget the wonders He has performed in our lives and all the ways that He has proven Himself trustworthy. The disciples had many reasons to put their faith in Jesus. They saw Him work many mighty miracles, and yet were afraid when the storm on the sea arose.” *
As believers in Christ, we love the Lord. We have learned to put our trust in Him and He has proved faithful through His work in our lives. We have seen Him perform modern-day wonders and bring us through hardships, trials, and heartaches. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He is incapable of dishonesty, yet at times, fear consumes us.
Why are we afraid when Christ has proven Himself so faithful? Why do we fear when the Lord of lords is on our side? What is it that makes us waver in our faith?
Can you see the progression?
Our situation becomes frightening and our eyes fix on our situation.
We turn our focus to what we see (our situation) as opposed to what we cannot see (God’s activity).
Our faith is compromised, which causes our shield to move out of position.
We become a vulnerable target for our enemy, which causes deeper fear and a shield that shifts even further.
Faith Delivers Freedom from Fear!
There is good news! Just as quickly as our fear can cause us to lose faith, our faith can conquer our fear. Remembering to raise our shield of faith and duck behind it, even as we quake and tremble, our faith can overtake our fear. And here’s the thing – it can happen in a split second!
Because God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7), the enemy of our souls will not win this battle. With this in mind, take courage. Raise your shield and fight the good fight, knowing God is your defender.