You can choose to feed on fear, or you can fast from it
Journey with Jesus this Lent
This Lent join us as we participate in the ancient practice of fasting. But instead of fasting from the tangible (like food, entertainment, or music), we’ll be fasting from heart conditions. Together, we’ll fast from fear, neglect, comparison, materialism, worry, and silence. Use this devotional as a guide to help you as you “turn around” and realign your heart toward God.
“What stage am I?”
I scribbled the question on a small note pad and slid it to the nurse as my oncologist formed words that never quite reached me.
“Stage 4,” she wrote back.
For a split second, fear and faith were both set before me as choices. I had six tumors in my liver. One tumor is bad enough, and I had six. The cancer also spread to dozens of lymph nodes in three areas of my body.
On the surface, it seemed as if suffering and death were certain.
But then my thoughts turned to key scriptures and God’s faithfulness during other scary times. Through the years I had memorized many Bible verses, so when the nurse scooted the note back, the “fear not” scriptures raced through my mind. God’s promises are more precious than gold to me! They renew and transform my mind. They pull me out of the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock. They help me extinguish fiery darts, and they are every piece of armor I need to face Goliath-sized issues in my life.
This may be hard to fathom, but I actually thank God for the diagnosis. It tests the genuineness of my faith and helps me see the faithfulness of our Savior. It’s a catalyst that helps me long for a closer relationship with him. It causes me to examine my heart and see if there are people I need to forgive or love on a deeper level.
They say, once you’re stage 4, you’re always stage 4. Although I’ve had no sign of cancer for ten years, I sometimes wonder if or when I’ll have a recurrence, or if I’ll ever have to suffer or say goodbye to my family.
When these fears surface, I must once again choose to either feed on fear, or fast from fear.
Feeding on fear means expecting bad news after every scan, to be mentally prepared if the cancer returns. It means bracing for a severe allergic reaction when the radioactive dye is shot through my veins. It means assuming the cancer is recurring every time I feel pain in my abdomen. It means turning away from the mirror because of my double mastectomy. Instead of smiling expectantly at our family’s future, it means assuming I won't live long enough to see our sons marry, or to hold my first grandchild.
These are the moments I had to choose to fast from fear, taking my fear-filled thoughts “captive” and choosing to obey God’s request for us to “be anxious for nothing” (2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 4:6). Fear has no benefits, and it bears no fruit. It couldn’t change or help my circumstances.
When I dreaded chemo infusions and surgeries or wondered about side effects from chemo, I thanked God that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
When I braced for scan results, I dug my heels into deeper soil and declared, “I will not fear bad news. My heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).
When I pictured my two sons without a mother, or my husband without a wife, I entrusted us all to God. I’ve trusted him with our hearts, our needs, and our futures.
Instead of allowing “what ifs” to cause sorrow upon sorrow, I chose to believe Jesus when he says there is no sting in death. It defies logic, is certainly a mystery, and sometimes it’s hard to wrap my mind around it. But I’m encouraged by his promise of eternal life. I’m comforted in knowing that God doesn’t lie. That’s good enough for me.
Do I always choose faith over fear?
No. But I try and learn from what happens when I don’t. As it turns out, I would have wasted precious time worrying about things that never happened.
After only five months of chemo and a radical diet change, my scans were clear, with no detectable cancer. The only side effect I had was hair loss. I know that my experience is unique to me. My journey unfolded in a way I didn’t expect, yet I prepared my heart for anything.
It can sometimes feel a little easier to fast from small fears. But God is plenty powerful to help us overcome even unspeakable and unfathomable fears of biblical and historic proportions. I continually pray for the grace to reach a place where I’m willing and able to say along with Job—and I am no Job— “Though you slay me, yet will I trust you” (Job 13:15).
I believe our time here is a stepping stone and a classroom that prepares our hearts to spend eternity with the Lord at the time of his choosing. I believe faith is only possible by grace and Christ’s resurrection power. Faith is part of our inheritance in Christ. God is unchanging, and he has a purpose for you and me—his beloved heirs! He fulfills all of his promises to offer us all the hope we need to anchor our souls.
If you’re experiencing fear, I encourage you to come to Jesus just as you are. Seek his face. He says if you seek him you’ll find him. He wants you to read his Word! I hope you’ll read the passage below from Hebrews, and notice the words in bold. Perhaps they’ll give you a bold faith! Ask God to give you faith to trust what he says about himself, and to trust his love and provision for your life.
Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”