Dec 7, 2012
A while back I wrote “Moses Teaches Joshua About Faith And Feelings.”
A Christian Counselor wrote an email expressing some disagreement.
I asked if he would be interested in an email exchange on this topic, and he graciously agreed.
So last week I posted his first email, and my response (the comments are also helpful).
And here’s —
His second email
Thanks for your response. It is important to dialogue about these issues so there can be learning, not only of scripture but of a broadening of our understanding of our human (sin) nature and ultimately our need for Jesus.
I understand what you have written and it’s clear that you have overwhelming Biblical support for your answers. But there are a few areas that could be expanded upon.
One area is the idea that God wants us to have such solid faith that we feel no fear. I don’t know anyone who has set out on a track to pursue such a faith and has achieved it. It seems unattainable while we are human beings. Maybe you know of some people that have appeared to achieve this to a high degree and you can comment about how they live.
Can this also apply to all feelings? If we strive to have such a strong faith will we feel little of our own feelings? Or, could it be that such a faith is meant to encourage the elimination of “uncomfortable” feelings (such as anger, confusion, sadness) while little leaving only the internal space for the more “comfortable” feelings (peace, joy, contentment)?
Another area is this — if Joshua 1:9 is only an exhortation then wouldn’t it follow that God knows that as “stiff necked” people we will feel fear? I can see how God wants us to rely upon Him in times of fear to protect and support us and more. But it is very hard to believe that since God made us in his image, knowing that we would be fearful people, that He would not want us to rely upon any other form of managing that feeling other than by faith in Him. As counselors we are trained to help people toward self-mastery. My Christian take on that is called self control. How would that enter into the equation here?
Here’s my response
Dear Christian Counselor,
Thanks again for pursuing this, and for your gracious response.
First, a clarification.
When the Bible calls us not to fear, it’s not talking about the pounding heart, shaky knees, and rushing adrenaline you feel if a car almost hits you. Those symptoms are given to us by God for our protection.
What the Bible is talking about is the emotional dread we feel over some possible loss or pain.
So with that in mind — a quick review.
I believe God’s Word says fear is caused by not trusting all that God promises to be to me in Christ Jesus (Isa 12:2; Matt 8:26; Psa 56:3-4; Mark 5:36).
This should not make me deny, stuff, or ignore my feelings.
This should encourage me to come to God as I am, admitting and confessing my fear to Him, and trusting that through Christ I am forgiven, welcomed, and loved.
Then I should find which promises I am not trusting, and pray over them until I feel the Holy Spirit strengthen my faith, free me from fear, and fill me with peace and joy in Christ.
It sounds like you are in general agreement with that – but you have some questions —
Question: If faith in God’s promises means we never need to fear, does that mean it’s possible to actually be free from all fear?
Answer: I do not think the Bible teaches that in this life anyone achieves a state of perfect freedom from fear. But I do believe every fear I face in this life can be overcome by trusting God’s promises.
So day by day, when I feel fear arising in my heart, if will I turn to God as I am, confessing what I am feeling, and praying over His promises — unbelief will be broken, faith will be strengthened, and peace and joy in Christ will be restored.
Question: If we strive to have such strong faith, will we feel little of our own feelings – or will we eliminate the uncomfortable feelings and increase the comfortable feelings?
Answer: The more we trust all that God promises to be to us in Christ Jesus, the more we will be free from feelings like fear, jealousy, bitterness – and filled with strong feelings of peace and joy in Christ.
Question: Does God want us to manage our fear only by faith in Him? Don’t we want people to grow in self-mastery and self-control?
Answer: When I am afraid and turn to God’s Word, I hear God say “If you trust all I promise to be to you in Christ Jesus, you will be free from fear” (Isa 26:3-4; Mark 4:40).
So I’m not sure why I’d want to pursue other means.
[Someone helpfully commented that medication can help when fear has chemical or organic causes. I agree. What I’m focusing on in this post is emotional causes for fear.]
And I agree that God’s Word calls us to self-control, which in this case would mean responding to fear by turning to Jesus Christ and using prayer and His Word to fight the fight of faith until the Spirit frees me from fear and fills me with peace.
Some final thoughts
I hope this persuades you that fear is caused by not trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ Jesus, and that fear is overcome by coming to Jesus Christ as we are, confessing our fear, asking for His help, and praying over His promises until we feel the Spirit strengthening our faith so the fear is replaced by peace and joy.
I’m also hoping you can see that, rightly understood, this approach would not cause anyone to deny feelings, stuff feelings, or ignore feelings.
I look forward to further questions or interactions.
Thank you for your time on this, and for your gracious spirit,
I’d love to hear them. Leave a reply below — thanks.
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And here are some related links you might find helpful —
Fearful or Worried?
Facing a Trial? Jesus is the Super-Piling
How God comforted Hudson Taylor
Will-power vs. Spirit-power
(Picture is from everystockphoto by wrestlingentropy.)