Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Battle

I remember once in high school one of my confirmation friends drawing out to me his perception of faith. He described it as a big battle, between God and Evil, and a constant, glorious, persevering struggle between those who follow God and do good, and those who are evil and follow Satan. I repelled against this idea at the time, as it seemed too black and white to me… angels vs. demons, God amassing his army of followers to overpower the devil. Faith was comfort, meditation, peace and acceptance, with no room for the conflicting juxtaposition of Heaven vs. Hell.
I still do not take to this black and white view of faith. However, I do have a new perspective on how faith can be a battle. However, the two sides for me aren’t good and evil, they are faith vs. fear. Here is a quote from one of my favorite novels (The Life of Pi…. Highly recommend reading it) on the idea of the battle of fear:
"I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread. you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you."
-Yann Martel
Not so ironically, this book I might add is dubbed by many reviews as “A book that will make you believe in God”.
For fear of sounding too much like Yoda (fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side…) this is how I have the two sides of the battle laid out in my head (roughly):

Hesitation/Doubt/Worry  -------> Fear  ------> Resignation ---------->  Cynicism
Hope/Thankfulness/Appreciation ------> Confidence  ---------->  Faith -----------> Love

Now, I am not sure all the arrows of that chart are facing the right direction, but for the most part this lays out for me where the faith battle truly lies. I am not willing to go so far as to say fear is evil, however I do know in my personal experience at least fear often keeps me from being close to God; whereas faith and love bring me closer to God. For example, I wake up in the morning and often spend a good chunk of time of worrying/being scared about my day and what I am doing/appearing etc. that I forget to listen, give to others and generally just be thankful.
Side note: Want to learn something interesting about an individual? Ask them about a time when they remember being most afraid, and how they dealt with it.
Fear for me disguises itself for me in anxiety and worry. I believe fear seeps in and makes me quite selfish; as fear ultimately turns me to preoccupy with myself. Ultimately, fear seems to disconnect me from God and the world, and leaves me isolated, alone and ineffective. However, it is amazing to me how much of the day I am able to fill with concern, worry and ultimately attempt to control my life and things around me to combat the constant anxious nibbling of my mind.
Ghandi brings worry into conversation with God in this interesting quote:
“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.”  (
But I also believe fear can be the turning point that brings us to faith. Here is where I believe the battle part comes in. The trick seems to not assume your fears, or wrestle with them or to control them. The trick seems to be articulate them, and then release them and replace them with faith. Letting faith in God, love for life and general confidence overtake those fears.
So I will do my best to examine this for myself. Here are some of my current fears that have been causing me to run in circles of doubt:
I am scared to write this blog
I am scared I am disconnected from God and my faith
I am scared of offending some of the people reading this blog by what I say
I am scared in the end I won’t end up making a difference in the world
So, in light of these, my goal for this week is when these fears or others come up, turn to faith. To me, this means to actively trust that the people in my life genuinely love and support me, trust that I am on the right path and life will work itself out in the end, and most importantly trust God is with me. In this exercise fear will likely not disappear forever, but maybe for this week my thoughts will be trumped by those of joy, love and faith.  I will close with my confirmation verse, which for me is the ultimate reassurance for faith and consistently reminds me to turn back to God amidst doubt when I read it:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God…” –Romans 8:38-39


  1. I can understand your angst about posting this blog, exposing your thoughts and feelings about faith to scrutinizing eyes, and commend you for taking on in a public format what many do only in the private corners of their minds.
    I like the quote from The Life of Pi about fear being so ultimately destructive to the life of faith. We are told not to fear, but the wildfire of fear ripples through our lives, despite our best attempts to subdue it. Life is full of unpredictable events, some of which are traumatic and horrifying. Trust in God's sovereignty is what we must cling to. As you said, the steadfast belief that life is unfolding as it should (not always as we plan it) must sustain us. We are not in control of so much of life, though we must do our best to steer it as best we can in what we perceive as a positive direction. I love the Scripture quote from Romans, about nothing separating us from the love of Christ. Very special that this was your confirmation verse!

  2. Hi Kelsie--I'll try this a third time--it will be shorter post than I attempted before but for some reason I was not able to leave a comment. Thanks for your emails in trying to help me sort out the issue!
    The faith I hold is what keeps me going on the longest or most difficult days, it is such a part of me, but it is not something I often share with others or articulate in words. I guess, for me, I am just totally convinced that God is with us, God is in us, and God is bigger than our problems and fears.
    But, the truth is, I hold a lot of anger and a lot of stress inside, and I try very hard not to let this project onto my future, my kids, or even the hour or moment I am living in. I tend to really cling to the power of thinking positively, as "worry is using your imagination to create what you do not want." And so I spend time visualizing my stress and anger issues turning to energy for positive imaginings--which usually gives me the ability to survive and often thrive in the very challenging role I hold as a mom who is taking care of kids all day!! I do love it, but it is wildly crazy all.the.time.
    In my life I have been able to trust God with the big stuff. It is the little, everyday stuff I find I am not able to trust him with, and I feel I have to figure it all out on my own, that there is never enough time and always too much to do. If only I did not need to sleep--that has been my wish since I was your age!!!

    As for making a difference in the world, I find it is all a matter or relationships. We can only make a deep difference to those that we have a close relationship with. If our agenda is to love and serve others, there are needs right around us. I look at the example of Jesus, who lived and loved in very simple and humble ways. We do not have to do big things to make a difference, like Mother Theresa says, only small things with great love. God is truly in relationships, and that is why it is fun for me to see you have started this blog--it allows a deeper relationship with you!!

    Love, Erika

  3. I definitely agree that fear poses a great opposition to faith. Owen and I consider freedom to be of great importance in our faith, and fear limits freedom as well. Most of my life I have fought fear and felt ashamed about the fear that I experience. Lately though I am coming to terms with it.

    We all have fear and when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with others by sharing our fears we can create stronger bonds. So in a sense I think that our most negative attributes can also bring us closer together, if we allow them too. In a sense, Jesus shares his fear with us in the Bible and shows us his own vulnerability when he says, "Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want" (Mark 14:36) and later, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).

    Ultimately I think that there is some truth in the yin-yang notion that we must experience it all to be whole.