Fear stands in opposition to faith, but it is fear also that provides the opportunity for faith. Without uncertainty, man is not forced to consider what he truly believes. He can live his life without ever questioning, without ever examining, without ever considering. He can live his life without knowing, without believing, without trusting.
How, then, is he to live?
But fear brings us face-to-face with faith. It requires man to think about where he stands. Does he stand in the strength of himself or in the confident assurance of God? Does he stand counter to himself or counter to God?
And really, that's why the question of faith evokes such fear. Man realizes in an instant that he must stand against something. Either he forsakes himself and what his intuition or senses or wisdom is telling him or he forsakes his God and what his Creator and Guide and Wisdom is telling him. Which sounds like an easy choice, but anyone who has been there knows it's not so simple.
It's looking at two roads diverged – one with a rainbow and one with a shadow – and knowing in yourself that the rainbow seems safer. But having a sense that the shadow is where you are called. It's having to choose between what you can see and what you can't see. You can see the rainbow in the sun; but it takes rain to make rainbows. Can you see the rainbow through the rain, too, if you are being called to such a season?
It's looking at the hard road ahead and thinking the only way is to plow right through but sensing that perhaps you should stop for a moment, catch your breath, reassess where the road is going. It looks like the place you've always imagined, but can you imagine something new? Is there a path more prudent for you? The only way to get to where you're going is through the brush. But are you going where you ought to go? Do you trust in what you always imagined for yourself or do you trust in the God who, from His imagination, brought forth everything?
The question of faith of course brings fear. Faith requires a forsaking. It requires believing one thing and not another. It requires standing on one side and not the other. It requires turning your back on one thing so that you can squarely face something else, something more desirable, something chosen. Man is never quite ready to forsake himself, to give up on his hopes and his dreams and his plans and his ingenuity. Neither, though, is he ever quite ready to forsake God. Knowing God tells the man that God knows something he does not, that God sees what he cannot see. It's a pulling between the unknown and the unknowable, between the overthinking and the unthinkable.
But so, too, does the question of fear bring faith. It's only when we've been brought to this place of fear that we have the opportunity to choose faith at all. We come to fear, having to choose, and leave choosing. We walk away with faith in something – faith in ourselves or faith in our God. So often we think of fear as forcing us to let go of something, but it also gives us something to hold onto. It tells us what we really believe. It tells us what we really value. It tells us what we really think and hope and dream. Either that we have a God who is able or that we are able ourselves.
Which is it?
Jesus said you must deny yourself daily. This is the moment He's talking about. He's not just talking about faith; were it so simple as believing in Him, we might all do it. For it's not believing that is the hardest to do; it is forsaking. He's talking about this moment of fear in which you have to choose again and again what you leave behind. You're standing where it's man vs. himself vs. God and you can only choose one battle buddy. You can only choose yourself or God. You have to choose God. In the face of fear, you have to forsake yourself and trust Him.
It's hard. It's incredibly hard. God has given us such an incredible ability to understand and to navigate this world. It's easy to forget that that comes from Him and not from ourselves. It's easy to forget that without Him, we don't have that. But here's the truth when it comes to this moment, and this is the real question we must remember when we're facing this fear, this moment of forsakenness:
Can we forsake our God and trust ourselves to handle Him? Or is it more likely that we forsake ourselves and trust our God to handle us? He is able; we are not. Choose yourself and you go it alone; choose God and He goes with you. It's that simple.
Which still doesn't always make it easy.