An Interview With Trillia J. Newbell
Fear grips us in many ways. From triggering anxiety about our current situation to instilling worry about the future, fear has a way of taking hold of our heart and paralyzing us in the process. In her new book Fear and Fear: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves Trillia J. Newbell discusses how Christians should deal with fear and how it doesn’t have to be as devastating as we allow it to be. We sat down with Trillia to find out more about her book and how we can trade our sinful fear for a healthy trust in the sovereignty of God.
We all deal with fear in some form. In your book you mention that fear is often a by-product of sin in our heart. How are fear and sin linked together?
Fear is often rooted in other things. So, fear alone may not be sinful—it is an emotion after all. But when it’s rooted in pride, unbelief, self-righteousness, selfish ambition, etc. then it’s sin. The unfortunate reality most of us face is that more often than not, our fear is rooted in sin.
Many of us have this great fear of disappointing others, and, as a result, we’re scared to let others see our true selves. How does fear hinder our ability to develop deep relationships with others?
Fear hinders relationships in so many ways. When we believe we must be something we are not in order to be accepted by someone, then we aren’t only damaging ourselves, we are also sinning against the other person. In many ways, we are judging that person. We are essentially saying, “You don’t have the grace to love me as the Lord has made me” or “You will judge me, so I must lie.” We aren’t giving the person the benefit of the doubt or even a chance at a true relationship.
We are also replacing the thoughts of God for the thoughts of others. Hiding who we truly are can also add pressures for our friends. They won’t feel the freedom to confess sin, etc. either. If we are pretending to have it all together, then we can’t encourage, love, and truly serve one another. God’s Word delightfully invites us to confess our sins to one another, and to encourage and admonish one another. We can be and should be open and honest with those with whom we’ve established relationships.
Fear keeps others at arms-length. You can’t go deep if you don’t allow someone in.
Is it possible that this fear of disappointing others and revealing our true selves can lead us to embrace a moralistic/legalistic lifestyle over one that is based on grace?
Absolutely, but it’s not that we’d adopt a moralistic/legalistic lifestyle so much as it’s that we’d pretend to. In other words, if we aren’t being ourselves we’ll be tempted to 1) pretend we are perfect; or 2) pretend we have zero convictions at all.
For example, someone who is weak in his or her faith and desires to fit in to a certain group may do things that go against his or her convictions (cussing, drinking, etc.). Then again, you may be in an environment that adds certain lifestyle decisions as a trophy for godliness. Using schooling as an example, instead of praying and allowing your family to decide what is best for your children, you choose a method of schooling based on the praise, glory, and respect of those who do the same.
It’s so easy to let anxiety cripple us to the point where we start worrying about what could happen and not what has happened. You even mention that we often don’t come to God in peace. Instead we come anxiously awaiting our fate. How can we change our perspective about the future and place our hope in God rather than worst-case scenarios?
I’m someone who has had to fight this temptation much of my Christian life. It’s easy to assume the worst. I love Matthew 6 and the reminder to us that today has enough trouble of its own; why worry about tomorrow? I must remind myself that I simply don’t have the strength or capacity to handle tomorrow’s troubles—I don’t even know what they are! I then must replace this tendency to worry with the truth of God’s Word about the character of God. He knows what’s next and He is good. He’s holy and loving and just and amazing. He is worthy—totally worthy—of my trust. It does me no good to simply try not to think of these things. I must take my thoughts captive and then replace them with truth.
I think we also must realize that we aren’t God. My fear of the future or tragedy stems from a desire for control and arrogantly thinking I can direct my life better than God can. When I’m anxious, I’m essentially saying, “Lord, you can’t handle this.”
In your book you explain that many women have a fear that they will never measure up to other women or even the Proverbs 31 standard. What advice would you give to the woman who feels like she’s failing to measure up?
I think I’d ask her what her measure is and why she is measuring herself against these things. I’d start there. Then, I’d encourage her that God calls us to be holy as He is holy. None of us measure up. And that’s why we all need Jesus, who died the death we should have died and covers all our failures.
But, often what we think of as a failure isn’t sinful at all. We might be placing undue importance on things like throwing an elaborate birthday party for our child, having a home that is always spotless, or cooking a meal from scratch every day (or every week!). Whatever your measure is, throw out the list. I have much much more to say about that. I do hope you’ll pick up the book and that the chapter on The Fear of Other Women would bless you.
Ultimately, we don’t measure up, but Jesus does. Amazing grace!
For Christians, fear can come from looking at the world around us. As the culture changes and increasingly clashes with biblical principles, how can we overcome our fear and anxiety and embrace the world with the gospel message?
Jesus died for the church and said that even the gates of Hell cannot prevail over the church (Matthew 16:18). We want to stand for truth and address errors we see, but we need not worry about the church as if it will completely die. It won’t. It can’t. Even if every Christian is forced underground, it will continue to prevail. Why? Because it’s not up to us. We aren’t in control. We have a sovereign, mighty God who loves the lost. He gave His Son for the lost. He will not tarry; He’s on a mission and we have the privilege to be involved.
We embrace the gospel message for the world by remembering that we have a mission to go and make disciples of all nations. God is good and in control. He’ll build and sustain His church. We can rest in God and serve and love those around us.
Inevitably, at some point our fears may come true. When tragedy strikes, how can we embrace the faithfulness of God over crippling anxiety?
Ultimately, everything I’ve been saying boils down to reading and studying God’s Word, praying to our Father, and asking Him for faith to believe. Yes, if we live long enough we will experience tragedy. We were never promised an easy life. As a result, we need to ask God to implant His truth into our hearts and minds so that as we endure, we remember His many promises to and for us.
One type of fear that’s positive is the fear of the Lord. However, when many people think about that type of fear, they associate it with being scared. How would you explain the fear of the Lord?
I used to associate the fear of the Lord with being afraid of God, just like you said. The fear of the Lord as I understand it now, however, is an awareness and acknowledgment of God’s holiness and our response to this is reverence and worship. God is set apart, other than us, totally different. He is the only one true God. We must ask Him to help us be in awe of His majesty.
We want to, of course, reflect on all His other characteristics as well, but His holiness, I believe, is a great starting place for how we can begin to fear Him.
How can we grow in our fear of the Lord?
I think we grow in the fear of the Lord through meditating on His Word, worship, and prayer. We grow through relationship with Him. And as we grow in our understanding of our awesome God, we will also grow in our reverence.