musings of a saint and sinner

Saturday, July 22, 2006

fear vs. faith

Walter Brueggemann writes about Isaiah’s challenges to trust God in the midst of situations of risk. We live in a time today when national security is one of the top things on people’s minds. We fear Islamic extremists, terror to our troops in Iraq, North Korean missiles. If we think too long and hard about any of these threats, we can easily start shaking in our boots, just as King Ahaz did when he faced similar threats (Isaiah 7). History (of a nation or of an individual) teaches us that we people do dumb, shortsighted things when we are afraid. For Israel, this was seeking foolish alliances with other world powers, like Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-8). Brueggemann writes, “[F]oreign policy must begin at a different point, namely, reliance on Yahweh [the LORD].” But what does that look like? In Isaiah 37, King Hezekiah faces intimidation from a foreign power, just as Ahaz did, but his response is totally different. He is afraid, but he takes that fear to the LORD. Because he starts with God, his decisions are wise and careful. They are informed by faith instead of fear.

Foreign policy isn’t the only area in which we need to resist fear and turn to faith, however. In Isaiah 38, we see King Hezekiah face a deathly illness and respond again with prayer. Today, we face many things that leave us shaking in our boots, ready to reach out to anything to trust in but God. A father with cancer. Unemployment. A car breaking down. Wondering if you are making any difference at work. Wondering if you will be single forever. Wondering if you will always struggle to make ends meet. We are tempted to buckle under the pressure and trust in someone or something else, other than God. Settling for an ungodly dating relationship. The faithless fear that we will not survive the death of a loved one. Anger that gives us the illusion of control. Unwise financial investments. And so on. We need to be challenged to trust in God alone--with no substitutes. Trusting in God does not mean that we will always escape hard times, but it does mean that God will always be with us “even in the valley of the shadow of death.” We trust God that that whatever He sends our way, He will enable us to deal with. And He will use it all for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).


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