A bright college student is sexually assaulted in the middle of the night. A young Christian lady receives a shocking and unwelcome phone call that her sister has suddenly died. An anxious wife fears that her husband won’t return from his overnight business trip. A pregnant mother anticipates the devastation of another miscarriage (number five, to be exact).
Trillia Newbell, women’s initiatives consultant for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and author of the new book Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves, knows a little about fear. In fact, she can speak directly to the issue of fear because every one of the aforementioned events happened to her.
In Opposition or Closely Related?
Fear and faith. Are they opposed, or do they go hand in hand? In Fear and Faith, Newbell shows how both can be true simultaneously. Fear opposes faith when it is rooted in unbelief. The majority of the book is planted here. Newbell briefly surveys seven common points of fear for women: fear of man, the future, other women, tragedy, not measuring up, physical appearance, and sexual intimacy. Most women will come out of the first seven chapters identifying with at least one—if not most—of the seven.
The opening chapter on the fear of man is particularly strong. Newbell observes:
Tragically, you and I deny Christ every time we care more about what others think of us than of what God has already declared. Every time we seek man’s approval and praise, we say to the Lord that his sacrifice was not enough. (21)
Many women struggle deeply with craving approval and praise from others. If that’s you, Fear and Faith offers both conviction and hope. Newbell also discusses judging others (most women can relate) and how Christ alone is our safe place. “The fear of man leads us into a trap, like a caged animal,” she writes, “but the fear of the Lord leads us into the arms of a safe Father” (29).
Fear is also closely related with faith in that the fear of the Lord will lead to praise. As Newbell explains, “There is a fear that we want to possess. It is a fear defined as an awestruck wonder at the holy God” (15). Though she doesn’t spend much time here, in the remainder of the book (chapters 8 to 11) she addresses why God is trustworthy and offers a few suggestions about growing in the fear of the Lord.
Just Another Book?
The Christian book market is flooded with books about women’s issues. What makes this one stand out? The message in Fear and Faith is Christocentric. It boldly emphasizes that Jesus is present with women in their fear. It is semi-autobiographical and appropriately devotional. Fear and Faith isn’t a self-help, how-to manual; rather, it weaves biblical and personal stories—including from other Christian women—to provide encouragement when facing various forms of fear. Newbell argues that we must remedy fear by looking to God’s sovereignty, trustworthiness, faithfulness, and goodness.
In her first book, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Moody, 2014) [review | interview | excerpt], Newbell wrote intimately and conversationally. She carries that same tone in this new book, and for that I am grateful. Women love to converse, and Newbell is a gifted conversationalist. You can sense the genuine heart behind her words. You feel as if you’re sitting across a coffeeshop table from her as she spurs you on toward God even amid crippling distress and anxiety. Because Newbell is open about her own struggles with fear, you get to know her story and passion for the Lord with each turning of the page. She offers hope because she knows both fear and faith so personally. You can’t help but search your own heart for both obvious and hidden fear while you wonder at the vulnerability of the author.
Is It Really That Simple?
Can real fear actually be combated with faith? What about crippling, overwhelming, panic-attack-inducing fear? Is it really as simple as trusting the Lord? It may seem easier to let this book collect dust and continue on the same path.
But women of all ages and in all situations must deal with their fear, no matter how big or small. The alternative is to go farther and farther down the rabbit hole of fear and anxiety. This little book is a great place to start. Fear and Faith speaks to the wife lying next to her husband, silently fearing he’s having an affair. It tells her Jesus loves her, and that in him and she has great worth. It holds wisdom for the teenager eaten up with anxiety about her social standing at school. It encourages her to marvel at Christ rather than fearing her peers. It pushes the widow who is scared of her changing neighborhood toward a loving Savior who has a purpose in all things.
Moving forward, we can take Newbell’s wise advice to bring our fears to light through confession. Don’t try to do it alone! Unfortunately, we instinctively race for dark corners as soon as light appears. We must fight this natural tendency toward the comfort of darkness, and confess our fears to the Lord and to other believers. God’s love and acceptance enables us to bring fear to light!
Our day-to-day lives can look dramatically different in the area of fear. I pray the Lord will use Fear and Faith to draw women out of anxiety and toward his kind and sovereign will—to live in abundant grace outside the trap of fear.