Sitting in the little prayer chapel near my house, slowly I surveyed the furnishings. Among them were the altars, a few cushions, some chairs, a Bible and a little leather bound book of God’s promises. All of them had been carefully put there to make this a place of welcoming comfort.
On this day, however, comfort eluded me. My spirit felt overwhelmed; my heart was heavy and my mind was clouded. My day was filled with frustrations and plagued by problems. Sickness swirled around me. There was friction between me and the people who mattered to me. Even my hand felt heavy with the cluster of urgent requests that had brought me to this place of prayer.
What was I to do? Discipline and duty had brought me here, but how was I to rise above the despair and desperation I felt? Faith seemed far-fetched in that moment. The conflict of my mind and heart told me that fretting and faith did not flow well together.
The story of Hannah’s plight helped me in my quandary. When her adversary “provoked her sore for to make her fret”…”in bitterness of soul she prayed unto the Lord and wept sore” (See I Samuel 1). She poured out her sorrowful spirit and the abundance of complaints and grief before God, weeping the words, “Look on my affliction!” All the daily annoyance, the grief of family worries, and the torments of life seemed to fuel the thrust of her prayer. Her voice was not heard–only her sorrow, grief and pain spoke for her. Where was faith in this sad situation?
It is not spoken. Hannah’s faith is evident only in her willful decision, what she did and where she went when fretting besieged her faith. Can I fret and have faith, too?
The frantic father of the demonized boy cried to Jesus with tears, “I do believe; help thou mine unbelief” (See Mark 9:14-29). Belief and unbelief, faith and fear, praying and fretting all rolled together–such a mess, but so human.
Again, on that day in the prayer chapel, the Word brought life to me, separating my troubled thoughts from the good intent of my heart. Reflecting on Hannah’s fretting and the father’s fear gave me a fresh understanding of faith. Hope for help was there, and that hope took all three of us to the right place–to Him who can be touched with the feelings of our weakness.
There are times when we do not know how to pray as we ought, but our groanings are understood by the Spirit (Romans 8:26). In these troublesome and worrisome times, fear and fretting may weaken my faith, but it does not necessarily negate it. The strength of my faith is never the object, it is only the means by which I reach Him. He is the object of my faith, and He is able!
David’s prayer in Psalm 56 expresses it so well. In verse 3, he said, “what time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” In verse 11, he said, “In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid…” When my fears seem to overwhelm my faith, I still trust in God’s faithfulness. Then my fears are quieted and faith moves me on. The important thing is not my paralyzing fear nor my powerful faith, but I know in whom I have believed and He is able; He is faithful (II Timothy 1:12).
When fear and faith collide, trust holds me secure!