From Fear to Faith: What Living With A Chronic Disease Has Taught Me

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

As we have now put 2017 behind us, the year that started my journey with Crohn’s, and embrace 2018, two words stand out in my mind: fear and faith.  These two small but powerful four letter words have become very significant for me this past year and perfectly sum up not only my health journey, but my spiritual one as well.

Living with an autoimmune disease has forced me to realize that I am not in control.  Now this realization does not come without a certain amount of fear.  After all, doesn’t everything in our human nature scream for control and drive us to do everything we can to keep it?  In the end, this only leads to stress and anxiety.  And yet according to scripture, we are called to have ‘a sound mind’.

A good friend of mine gifted me with Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts (if you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do).  In it, Voskamp devotes a whole chapter to the very subject of fear and faith.  One quote in particular that struck me was this,

“Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt.  Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear.  To lack faith perhaps isn’t as much an intellectual disbelief in the existence of God as fear and distrust that there is a good God.  If I don’t emotionally believe, practically believe, in the goodness of God, am I a believer?  Don’t the believers have to believe?  Don’t the saved have to trust the Savior?  For yes, salvation from sins, but this too: the salvation from fear.”

-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

So how do we counteract fear and move to faith?  I don’t claim to be an expert or have it all figured out, because I definitely don’t, but as I’ve begun the journey, here are some things I’ve learned that will hopefully help you on yours.

1. Spend more time in prayer…

I know this may seem pretty obvious but its true that prayer is the most powerful weapon God has given us against fear.  As Ann Voskamp notes in her book,

“Worry is the facade of taking action when prayer really is.”

-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

And isn’t it true?  Hands either open or pointed towards heaven in prayer show a posture of trust and release of control while fists clenched in worry or stress denote a lack of trust, a fight for control.  One of my goals for 2018 is to spend more time in prayer.

2. Practice an attitude of gratitude…

While the realization that I am not in control of my future has brought with it a sense of fear, one of the blessings that has come from it is the understanding that everything I have is a gift given by my Creator.  This has led to me to try and be more more intentional about giving thanks to God.  In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp shares what prompted her to write the book in the first place.  It began with a dare she was given by a friend, a dare to name one thousand gifts.  In other words, to give thanks.  As Voskamp reflects on the dare she was given she shares,

“This living a lifestyle of intentional gratitude became an unintentional test in the trustworthiness of God… and in counting blessings I stumbled upon the way out of fear.”

-Ann Voskmap, One Thousand Gifts

When we stop and reflect on the gifts that God has given us, we are able to see where he has been faithful in keeping in promises in the past, making it easier to trust him in the future.  It just so happens that at Christmas I was also gifted from another one of my lovely friends with a Five Year One Sentence Journal.  In other words, every day for five years you write down a sentence that summarizes either your feelings on or the events that happened that day.  I am personally using it to write down what I was thankful for that day.  In this way I am being intentional about practicing an attitude of gratitude.

This leads into the next point:

3. Embrace Humility…

Time and time again the Bible speaks to the importance of humility.

“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

and,

“Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)

Why does the Bible spend so much time on the subject?  Probably because it again goes against everything in our human nature and requires practice until it becomes ingrained.  Again, Ann Voskamp has a lot to say on this subject.

“The quiet song of gratitude, eucharisteo, lures humility out of the shadows because to receive a gift the knees must bend humble and the hand must lie vulnerably open and the will must bow to accept whatever the Giver chooses to give.”

-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

In other words, gratitude leads to humility and humility leads to faith and when faith is finally birthed and fear has fled, joy, true joy that is not dependent on circumstances, is found.

Right now I am doing well and while I am so thankful to God for the healing that has taken place in my body, the healthier I get, the more distance I get from the pain of my flare up, the easier it has become to forget about my need for God and try and go the journey alone again.  But the truth is, I could end up back in flare in any moment.  This time of remission is a gift and I need to recognize is at such.  It is not something I am owed by God.  No.  I am nothing and He is everything.  Sure I praised him when the healing began but have I let it grow my faith and have I humbled myself to the point that I could still praise him if it was taken away again?  Could I say with Job,

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

I don’t think I’m there yet, but this is the journey I am taking in 2018 and I invite you to join me.

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