Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fear vs. Faith

I try not to worry, but I do. I worry about a lot. I have basically been a worrier all my life. It's kind of wired in me to worry.

There are lots of things weighing on me right now, and I'll admit that the flu thing is one of them. The potential of what could happen freaks me out. It could just pass, but it could be big. It could not affect me personally, or it could.

We are told that if we are prepared, we don't need to fear. When it comes to natural disasters and things like a possible pandemic, there are things we can do. Right now, I'm seeing people discussing disease prevention and hunker-down prep, and that's good. There is much that we can do to prepare physically - have food and supplies on hand, wash hands often, etc. (The church even has fact sheets on pandemic prep and illness prevention.)

But you know, if this turns into a pandemic, even the healthiest, best-prepared people might get sick. And some even might die. In fact, of course, some people already have gotten sick and even died, and some of them were probably really good people. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, and so does illness. Sometimes I wonder if we sometimes think that we have more control over life than we really do. God is still in charge. That doesn't mean we should stop temporal preparedness efforts, but I think there's more.

While I think a lot about physical preparedness, I am also working to increase my stores of faith, and to teach my children about that principle. In the end, all the food and supplies and masks alone won't help me truly be at peace, not at the core. Being prepared to the point of not being afraid for me takes more than food storage and hand washing and 72-hour kits in my closet, as important as these things can be.

It takes faith.

Most of us have thought about how to prepare for storms. We have seen and felt the suffering of women, men, and children, and of the aged and the weak, caught in hurricanes, tsunamis, wars, and droughts. One reaction is to ask, “How can I be prepared?” And there is a rush to buy and put away whatever people think they might need for the day they might face such calamities.

But there is another even more important preparation we must make for tests that are certain to come to each of us. That preparation must be started far in advance because it takes time. What we will need then can’t be bought. It can’t be borrowed. It doesn’t store well. And it has to have been used regularly and recently.

What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. It is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which everything for us in eternity depends. That test is part of the purpose God had for us in the Creation. - then-Elder Eyring

At one level, I have always known this, but I'm feeling my faith being stretched in new ways, different ways, many ways -- at the personal level, and also as I consider the challenges we face at the global level.

Below, I review some of the talks from conference as I ponder fear vs. faith.

Pres. Monson:
It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or even fearful of what might come—if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives....The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges—and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face? Again from the scriptures: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.”

...My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.

I am reviewing conference talks to help fill my stores of faith. From Elder Andersen's "You Know Enough" talk:

Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time.

I'm going through a hard time personally right now, and it makes it all the harder to have things globally feel so uncertain, so frightening. My mind plays out what-if scenarios (worst case, usually). I find no peace alone. And so I cling to words of truth, and hope they will wash over me, bring me peace.

And yet, I know that it's all a process, too. Just as we can't build up a year's supply in an instant, our spiritual reserves are built upon gradually, over a lifetime. But I feel the urgent need to be doing all I can to keep letting the Spirit guide me, rather than to let fear dominate me.

Pres Uchtdorf: Brothers and sisters, we have to stay with it. We don’t acquire eternal life in a sprint—this is a race of endurance. We have to apply and reapply the divine gospel principles. Day after day we need to make them part of our normal life.

Too often we approach the gospel like a farmer who places a seed in the ground in the morning and expects corn on the cob by the afternoon. When Alma compared the word of God to a seed, he explained that the seed grows into a fruit-bearing tree gradually, as a result of our “faith, and [our] diligence, and patience, and long-suffering.” It’s true that some blessings come right away: soon after we plant the seed in our hearts, it begins to swell and sprout and grow, and by this we know that the seed is good. From the very moment we set foot upon the pathway of discipleship, seen and unseen blessings from God begin to attend us.

But we cannot receive the fulness of those blessings if we “neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment.”7

Knowing that the seed is good is not enough. We must “nourish it with great care, that it may get root.”8 Only then can we partake of the fruit that is “sweet above all that is sweet, and . . . pure above all that is pure” and “feast upon this fruit even until [we] are filled, that [we] hunger not, neither shall [we] thirst.”

It's sobering to realize that I cannot rely on others for my supply. I can and must rely on the Lord.

When the winds blow and the rains pour, they blow and pour on all. Those who have built their foundations on bedrock rather than sand survive the storms.1 There is a way to build on bedrock by developing a deep personal conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and knowing how to receive inspiration. We must know—and know that we know. We must stand spiritually and temporally independent of all worldly creatures. Elder Allan Packer

I KNOW that the Church is true, the scriptures are true, that this work we are about is real. But I'm feeling the need to deepen my roots of faith.

And as I even do a simple glance at the conference talk titles, it's clear that we are being reminded of the need for real, deep faith. It is that faith that brings lasting, real peace.

[W]hen adversity arrives in our lives, the only true source of comfort is God. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27) - Elder Rafael E. Pino

Just saw this from Pres. Uchtdorf as well:
When we hear the transcendent truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, hope and faith begin to blossom inside of us.5 The more we fill our hearts and minds with the message of the risen Christ, the greater our desire is to follow Him and live His teachings. This, in turn, causes our faith to grow and allows the light of Christ to illuminate our hearts. As it does, we recognize the imperfections in our lives, and we desire to be cleansed of the depressing burdens of sin. We yearn for freedom from guilt, and this inspires us to repent.

I have to say that that cycle of realizing weakness and imperfection is a hard one for me. But it is good to be reminded that that is part of the journey of faith.

That's all for now, but it's good for me to reflect on these wise words of counsel, encouragement, and truth.


jendoop said...

Your quotes are so great! I especially loved Elder Christofferson's talk from Sat. Morn. It was packed with deep doctrine about accessing spiritual power -which is what we need in these trying times.
I was able to listen to that talk as I drove home from the temple on Saturday, as well as a few others. It was such a peaceful day, so needed. I have to cling to the peace from that day, to get me through the storms that come.

Ginny said...

once again...beautiful. and so true!

Mama D said...

We are so similar! I am also a worrier. These quotes are wonderful reminders of faith, hope, and trust in the Lord. Thanks for sharing your insights. I always learn from them.

Anonymous said...

I would add that the scriptures also tell us that "perfect love casteth out all fear" Moroni 8:16, 1 John 4:18. Sometimes, just allowing the love of God (which is a perfect love) calms me down, and casts out my fear. Sometimes just feeling my love for others (and feeling God's perfect love for them) also casts out my fears for them.


SilverRain said...

To be honest, I look at the turmoil of the world and at my own unpreparedness, and right now I think something along the lines of "huh."

I am not prepared, I have no way to prepare. Everything is so far outside of my control, there is no energy and no use worrying. Preparedness in the event of some upcoming disaster is oddly at the very bottom of my priority list right now.

I was talking with a friend today about what I would do if some of these disasters strike me somehow right now, and my brain shut down. My first answer was "die, probably." I couldn't even put a lot of energy into the thought. It's not depression, it's just having a plate so full that even one more tiny raisin won't fit, let alone the entire fruitcake that is the world right now. It's about recognizing my limits. At this point, all the could-be's are pretty much just icing on the cake of what is.

So I'm a little bit afraid, and a little bit faithful, and a whole lot tired. I suppose I'm being compelled to not worry . . . but I'm sure that those who choose not to worry without being compelled are richly blessed.

Anonymous said...

My home teachers came by talking about food storage. They made a big point about not fearing and then they spent the next five minutes trying to scare me to death. I stopped him cold and reminded him not to fear monger. He couldn't teach me with out it. I often catch myself worrying about things I can't do anything about. It is my goal this year to not worry about things I can't change.

Great post it is something I think about a lot.