Faith v. Fear
Some decisions are easy to make — at least it’s easy to tell what’s right vs wrong. Suppose your spouse is out of town, and some attractive stranger proposes to have sex with you. Or you find a cash-filled shopping bag lying on the ground. Or you’re doing your taxes, and you won a few thousand bucks playing the slots last year.
It’s obvious that you decline sex with the stranger, you turn in the cash, you report your winnings on your tax returns.
Other decisions are not quite so clear-cut.
- They want me to take a really exciting and meaningful job in another state, but my husband worries about the effect on the kids.
- My girlfriend just dumped me; should I try to start something with that woman who started coming to our church?
- My boyfriend didn’t dump me, but I don’t think we’re meant for each other.
In these cases, one could imagine responding from fear, or from faith. Here’s what I mean.
- really exciting… job in another state
We could decide to go
- based on faith that God will help us take care of the kids, and that he will use the work I do at my job to bless the world; –or–
- based on fear that if I pass this up, I’ll never have another chance!
Alternately, we could decide to stay
- based on faith that God will provide future opportunities, –or–
- based on fear about the kids.
- just [got] dumped… start something with that woman who started coming to our church
I could decide to ask her out
- based on faith that God has a plan for me, the plan likely includes marriage, and if I just put one foot in front of another, we’ll find each other; –or–
- based on fear that if I’ve got to get a move on right now or I’ll end up miserable, old, and single.
Or, I could decide to wait
- based on faith that when the right person comes around, it’ll be more evident to me; –or–
- based on fear that this one will end in disaster too.
- boyfriend … aren’t meant for each other
(You’ve got the idea.)
The point is: I could take any of these permissible actions based on faith, or based on fear. Whether we head in this direction or that one, it’s better to head that way based on faith, rather than on fear. 2 Thessalonians 1:11 asks God to bless “every act prompted by your faith.” (Another translation is more dramatic.) More than that, Romans 14:23 tells us that whatever isn’t from faith is sin. And the author of Hebrews talks about how important it is to combine information with faith. As I’ve said elsewhere, our actions reflect whether our faith has legs.
In the past, I’ve read those passages as addressing the question “You believe; so what?” As I re-read them now, though, it seems they also ask: “What influences/directs your decisions?”
And I wonder if this is related to what Gordon Smith says about making a decision from a place of desolation (despair, fear) vs. consolation (confidence, faith)? — as I wrote about earlier. Maybe it does; this interview in Christianity Today, and this paper from the PCUSA both connect consolation with faith and courage.
May wisdom and faith guide all our decisions. May the Lord “fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 MSG). Amen!