Failure to thrive is a term that could be used to describe more than just infants who can’t get enough nutrition or maintain a healthy weight. It equally could be used to describe our hearts when fear takes root and grows bigger than our faith when fear so clouds our perspective that we can no longer see our faithful God — standing before us, ready and willing to guide us, ready to fight for us.
In every battle we face, fear is our fiercest enemy — and the enemy of our souls knows it.
That’s why the enemy is always ready to foster it and reinforce it in our minds. If we don’t learn how to overcome its power, then it can defeat us every time. It can even develop into chronic conditions that manifest in our bodies and minds, such as anxiety, panic attacks, incessant worry, or sleepless nights. If you have ever suffered from any of fear’s debilitating effects, then you know that the symptoms are very real. What may start as a negative feeling or inner conflict can grow into an incapacitating challenge.
Fear can do all this.
- Fear can diminish our willingness to risk.
- To dream. To try again.
- To believe again.
- Instead of declaring, we question.
- Instead of standing, we shrink.
- Instead of persevering, we quit.
- Instead of trusting, we worry.
- Instead of resting in God, we exhaust ourselves.
Fear can send us on a roller-coaster ride of emotions that leaves us reaching to control what always evades our grasp. That’s how my father’s journey with prostate cancer was for our family. That’s how it was for Auntie “Addie” and Pauline during their years of fighting for breast cancer.
If you’ve ever endured one crisis after another — if you’ve ever felt hammered by the enemy — then you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever watched a loved one suffer a long-term illness or addiction, you’ve seen the “one step forward, two steps backwards” rhythm that can happen. You know the challenge of believing for the best, while probably being told to prepare for the worst. You know what it’s like to courageously cling to your faith, while gradually being conditioned by unexpected events to live in fear.
How many couples have finally managed to get pregnant, only to miscarry again? How many couples then have decided to adopt, been told a baby is available, and then the adoption falls through? How can someone facing repeated heartache not help but develop a gnawing, recurring thought, What next?
Fear does that.
- It lies to us.
- It shrinks us.
- It builds dread into our hearts.
- It tempts us to believe there are no answers.
That the unexpected is something to fear. That something is always lurking around the corner — like it was for Adrian and Jayne day after day.
But fear is not from God, and it’s not more powerful than God.
He knew it would come to steal our peace, not once or twice, but constantly throughout our lives. So, in His great mercy and faithfulness to us, God made a way for us to be more than equipped to overcome its effects and walk in faith. He gave us three offensive weapons to lean into when we’re attacked:
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
This verse clearly shows us that fear is a spirit, but it’s not from God. Every time fear tries to grip us, it’s the enemy trying to take us down and terrify us out of trusting God. But the spirit of fear is no match for the Spirit of God who lives inside us (Romans 8:15). God’s Spirit is the source of our power. We can rely on, draw on, and walk in peace in the midst of fear and anxiety because the God who is in us is greater than anything or anyone that comes against us (1 John 4:4). The Holy Spirit is who I turned to for strength when the doctor said, “Chris, you have cancer.” He is there for you too, ready to help you, steady you, comfort you, and strengthen you in whatever unexpected challenge you face today.
When we rely on the Holy Spirit, we can take heart, because we are not fighting alone.
We fight the good fight of faith in God’s power, not by focusing on fear and trying to defeat it in our own strength, but by relying on God, knowing He is faithful. I came to realize that the more I trust my heavenly Father, the more fear is defeated in my heart and in my mind. If I focus on God more than the unexpected circumstance, then it is God who will be biggest in my heart and mind, and peace will be my outcome.
When your doctor calls, you could easily spiral into a dark pit when you begin to think of what could happen to you and to your family, but you can quickly focus your mind on God and what He could do. The path God has given to us winds upward not downward, but we have to make Him bigger to stay on that path mentally, emotionally, and physically (Proverbs 15:24). That’s what will keep you from panicking every day a crisis arises.
God has also equipped us with love. Why love? Because He is love, and He is the greatest power of all. When we spend time in His presence, our fear acquires a terminal case of failure to thrive. In God, there is no fear, because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:18). Personally, when I don’t know what to do in a situation, I focus on how much he loves me. I remind myself that God is for me, with me, and will help me.
God wants us to believe His love, walk in His love, and be mentally at peace. That’s the third weapon, which is having a sound mind. He doesn’t want us to live tormented by fear’s driving thoughts that lead to so much worry and stress. God has larger shoulders than we do, and He wants to carry our concerns for us. But we have to mentally hand them over to Him. We have to cast our cares on Him in prayer (1 Peter 5:7). We cannot control the uncontrollable, but we can entrust all of it to God. God doesn’t sleep or slumber, so sometimes I jokingly say, “If you see the devil, tell him I’ve gone to bed,” but really, I’m not joking (Psalm 121:4). If God isn’t sleeping, and He’s watching over me, then there’s no sense in both of us staying up.
I know I can trust God to take care of all that I cannot control.
HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div