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Can Faith and Fear Coexist? A Simple Reminder in the Face of Coronavirus

This morning, I was contemplating the crazy and unsettling state of the world when this calendar notification appeared on my phone: “Faith, starts today.”

I have no idea how “faith” got scheduled into my calendar. But, there it was.

I live in Washington state. People in our state and my own county are sick. Our school district is closed. Seminary and Church meetings are canceled. Our temple is closed. People are rushing to stores. No one knows what to expect.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the craziness of it all.

But despite it all, “Faith starts today.” This is a mysterious and sweet reminder for me that faith is needed always. Today. Because I’ll be honest, things are getting kind of scary around here.

In the scriptures we read that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). And the Lord Himself tells us numerous times to not fear but have faith (see John 6:20 and Doctrine and Covenants 68:6).

But this begs the question: If I am afraid, do I not have faith?

I mean, I’ve heard it said that faith and fear cannot exist at the same time. Yet, I know many faithful people who are nervous, even afraid of what’s happening in their lives. Are faith and fear mutually exclusive? Does this mean those who are afraid don’t have faith at all?

I don’t believe that it does.

Imagine for a moment a completely dark room. Now, imagine a flashlight is turned on in the middle of it, shining one solid beam of light towards the ceiling. Within the beam of light, there is no darkness. It is the one space where light and dark cannot exist at the same time. Light wins.

But what of the room itself? In the room, there is darkness and light, even if it is dim, from the flashlight beams. At the same time. Does this mean there is no light at all?

No. It doesn’t.

In the expanse of our minds and hearts lie imperfections, doubts, and yes, fear. We are children who lack eternal memory and are learning to be gods in a fallen world.

The Lord knew we would have some fear. This is why He so often comforts us. Because He knows that within perfect faith, fear cannot exist, but within our imperfect minds and hearts they can. He wants us to know that simply because we experience fear does not mean we don’t have faith.

Our task at hand—our command from the Lord—then is to replace our fears with faith, one by one.

But how?

First, we recognize the source of fear. President Gordon B. Hinkley counseled us to “recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness.”

Next, we choose where we look. Where we look determines how—and if—we live. The Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, taught his son to “look to God and live” (Alma 37:47). When we take focus away from God, we distance ourselves from Him. Fear is a faith and soul-killer. This is why President Hinckley said, “Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly.” Satan wants us to look away from the light and cower in a dark corner of the room. He uses fear to control us, to keep our focus on him away from God. The Savior beckons us to “look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36). He wants us to live in the light faith offers.

Lastly, we walk in the faith we’ve chosen, and keep walking. What does this look like today? It is focusing on the covenants we’ve made, saying our personal and family prayers, feasting upon the scriptures through studying the Come, Follow Me curriculum, seeking Priesthood blessings, and more. It is choosing to walk around our fear and follow Him.

We need to stay strong and choose faith again and again, even when the fear creeps back in. In the book of Mark, we find something interesting that’s not recorded anywhere else. Jesus led His disciples into Jerusalem and, “as they followed, they were afraid” (Mark 10:32). This was after they sat with Him during the Sermon on the Mount, after the Mount of Transfiguration, and after only five verses after the Savior said, “with God all things are possible.”

The beam of faith in their lives was bright, but still, there was fear. And yet, they chose to follow Him, step after step. Their faith, not their fear, led their footsteps.

I was talking to someone about fear the other day. I said, “As long as I’m scared in motion, I’ll be okay.” I think a better way to put it is to be faithful in motion. Elder Neil A. Anderson said it this way: “When we choose to follow Christ in faith rather than choosing another path out of fear, we are blessed with a consequence that is consistent with our choice.”

Yes, we do live in perilous times, and we don’t know what lies ahead. We might be afraid, but we can still have faith. We have the power to recognize the source of fear. We have the power to look to the light. And we have the power, with God’s help, to grow our faith through our choices again and again.

In the face of the unknown, I choose to believe that God is leading us through His prophet right now. I choose to believe that I can have peace in the chaos. I choose to focus on the light and will continue to do so until there’s no more room for darkness. I chose faith yesterday, and according to my calendar, my faith starts again today.

Lead image from Shutterstock
Michelle wilson

Michelle Wilson, Contributor

Michelle Wilson is a wife, mom, best-selling author, and popular Latter-day Saint inspirational speaker. She speaks and writes to women and young women, striving to help them access confidence, peace, and joy as they strengthen themselves and their relationships with God and others. She is the author of A Perfectly Imperfect Mom, The Beautiful Balance: Claiming Personal Control and Giving the Rest to God, Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?and her most recent book, Leaning on Jesus: Strength for a Woman's Heart.

You can find her at MichelleWilsonWrites.com.

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