For a long time I thought that faith was the absence of fear. That if I had faith, I wouldn’t ever be afraid. That in my faith, my anxiety would be gone, my uncertainty would disappear and my crooked paths would all be made straight.
But that has not been my experience. I look at the twisting road of life that goes up mountains and into valleys and I can’t see where it leads and I am afraid. There is a shaming voice in my ear that tells me I just need to trust that God is good and if I just knew God, I wouldn’t experience these emotions—as if emotions are sin and feelings are always wrong. So I try harder and harder to control those feelings which results in them being pushed lower and lower into my being until suddenly I burst out with tears and pain and words and moans and then finally, finally I feel relief.
Because when I release the fear, giving it voice and expressing it with honesty and truth, then God meets me.
God doesn’t want me to portray to the world that everything is ok, that I am ok, that I have it all together and don’t experience fear. He doesn’t want me to pretend to be someone I’m not. God knows my limitations and God knows—and loves—the true me.
But I fear the voice of shame is right. This voice tells me to be afraid is to not have faith, so I keep trying to pull it all together before God and everyone else. My prayers are rote and I repeat self-help mantras to myself without any real conviction that they are true. God feels distant and insensitive as answers and reassurance of his presence do not come.
I keep holding it in, keep holding it together, because I don’t know if it is safe to let God know that I feel forgotten. That I feel afraid of the future. That I am uncertain if He cares about our financial well being. I feel afraid that if I let it out, I will be told to pull it all together again.
Meanwhile, the ache grows inside of me.
A week ago I finally admitted to God and my husband how scared I have been. I couldn’t hold it together anymore and intermittent tears became weeping, snot flowing, gut cries. I poured out my fear. That I have been forgotten. That I don’t matter. That my calling is lost. That my sense of purpose is blurry. I confessed my fear that we are going to lose everything because money is tight. That I am trying to take steps of faith, but the fear that clenches my chest is louder than God’s voice.
I let it all out.
I kept speaking and crying until there was nothing left to be said. Until there was finally stillness.
And my husband, bless him, was silent through it all and just let it happen.
At the end of the emptying I turned to Jesus to see if He was there. I learned to ask this question while ministering to other women, “Where is Jesus in this pain?” Miraculously, He always shows up. Jesus always loves and greets the tears with mercy, the mourning with comfort. I confess, when I turned to Him this time it was more of a challenge. Will you be here for me now?
His presence was a surprise and I felt warmth flow through me. “I love you,” He whispered into my soul.
It turns out when I feel my worst, God isn’t trying to silence my feelings. He wants me to let them out so that they don’t have a hold on me anymore.
At times fear feels like it serves me. It feels like control. If I hang onto fear then I have a sense that maybe I can stop what is coming. The fear drives me to do more. Even when those things are not the best choices, at least I feel like I am doing something.
God is calling me a different way. After emptying my fears I hear the still, small voice tell me,
Keep doing this. Keep being honest about your feelings. Keep pouring yourself out to God. Keep living a life of faith.
This life of faith doesn’t look heroic like I want it to. It looks like waiting for God’s promises to be true. It looks like crying “How long, Lord?” as the psalmists did with no clear answer. It is full of dependence, not independence. Abiding in Christ because the world is scary without him.
I am still waiting. I don’t know how my story will pan out. Instead I continue to pour out my fears to the God who hears my cries and accepts me in them. He loves me through them. He heals me by them. This daily life, of tears and relief, of pain and healing, this is what my faith looks like. Where my faith and fear collide.