Between Fear and Faith
Are you fearful? Author Trillia Newbell talks about the fine line many Christians walk between fear and faith. Newbell recalls the time she was sexually assaulted in college and how it made her cautious around men. Newbell also discusses loss and tragedy and the fear of the unknown.
About the Guest
Trillia Newbell talks about the fine line many Christians walk between fear and faith. Newbell also discusses loss and tragedy and the fear of the unknown.
Between Fear and Faith
Bob: In Psalm 46, we read, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” Here’s Trillia Newbell.
Trillia: I’m safe because I know God, and God who—He’s also my Father. So, there is a relationship there—so I can trust Him; I can have peace; I can rest in Him because there’s a relationship, and it’s intimate. He sent His Son to die for me. There is safety in God; and so, I can rest there.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. If you’re battling against fears in your life, maybe, you need to renew your mind about who your Father is. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Would you characterize yourself today as someone who battles fears?
Dennis: Yes; absolutely.
Bob: Regularly or occasionally?
Dennis: That’s how I’d answer it.
Dennis: I grew up as a little boy—our home had a basement, and there was seldom a light on in that basement. In that basement is a place that used to hold coal—because the furnace used to burn coal in that house—but in that coal room lived the biggest, baddest, most ominous boogie man that has ever existed.
Dennis: And when I would have to go down to the basement to get something out of the freezer or, maybe, some clothes that had been washed that I needed to bring back upstairs for my mom, I remember I would dash down there—but I was blazing it with lightning speed.
Bob: Went down quick and came back quick.
Dennis: I was out of there because that monster was going to get me!
It’s funny, Bob, I think some of us do have a bit of a predisposition toward fear. I still find myself looking out a window, wondering: “Is somebody out there? Is there something out there?”—and it’s not the boogie man, obviously.
Dennis: I’m an adult now; but it is interesting how fear can be a part of our DNA and can be an Achilles’ heel for us, spiritually speaking.
Bob: Well, and I’m just sitting here, thinking, “I don’t know that I’ve ever looked out the window and wondered, ‘What’s that noise?’”—been fearful like that—“but take me to a ledge and have me look down a long way—
Dennis: Now, you’re talking about terror—it’s not fear. [Laughter]
Trillia: Oh, yes.
Dennis: I went to Alaska with a friend in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska. He took me on a walk where there was an edge—there was nothing under it for 2,000 feet. I remember, literally, walking from tree to tree / hugging the trees, as I was walking—
Bob: I’d have been right there with you, brother.
Dennis: —as far away from that ledge as I possibly could get.
Well, if you’re a person that deals with fear on any level—whether it’s the terror of being in high places, or the fear of speaking, or the fear of people, or the fear of what people think of you—we’ve got a great book for you called Fear and Faith by Trillia Newbell, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today—Trillia, welcome back.
Trillia: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Dennis: She’s a wife of Thern for more than 13 years, has two children, and lives in Nashville. And I’ve got a question for you.
Dennis: This is one of my favorite questions to ask guests. In fact, it’s probably my favorite question because it does involve what you’ve written about here in this book. The question is this: “Out of everything you have done in your life, what is the most courageous thing you have ever done?” Now, wait before you answer it.
You can’t say, “I’ve never done anything courageous.”
Trillia: Okay. [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s not the answer. That is most people’s answer to the question.
Dennis: Because courage is doing your duty in the face of fear.
Dennis: So, courage is not the absence of fear.
Dennis: It’s doing what has to be done in the face of fear.
Trillia: Off the top of my head, there are actually a couple of things that come to mind; but one in particular is I have had the opportunity to speak about hard things—like race and abortion—and particularly to monolithic or homogenous groups. That, to me, has been an area where I’ve been able to share the gospel in places and share the truth of Scripture where it’s not necessarily going to be received well. God has always protected me and given me words—especially, when you share the gospel, you think, “Oh, I know this!” Then, you start talking, and you’re like, “I don’t know anything!”
I really think that’s one thing that God has given me courage to do in faith. I’ve had to walk by faith and not sight.
Bob: Let me ask you about this—you got up this morning, knowing that you were coming over here to spend some time with us—
Bob: —talking on the radio about fear and faith. Was it fearful at all to think, “I’m going over to do a radio interview / this national radio interview with Dennis and Bob”?
Trillia: Full disclosure—I know you guys kind of—so—[Laughter]
Bob: So, that helped a little bit.
Trillia: That helped; and you’re very kind and just so welcoming and warm. So, I was not at all afraid, which is really to encourage you guys. I feel safe—a safe place. I’ve been in situations before where I haven’t—I haven’t felt safe because I go into unknown places and unknown—you don’t know what someone believes.
Bob: Yes. Well, and I think you’ve tapped into something. You used the term, “I feel safe.”
Really that’s—there’s a connection between how safe we feel in any environment and whether we are fearful in that environment; because at some level, the reason we get fearful is because we feel that something is unsafe. When you and I are in high places, we think—
Trillia: Yes. [Laughter]
Bob: —“Will this ledge hold, or am I going to be tumbling over the side?” Or when you were afraid of the boogie man, you were thinking: “Down in the dark, I can’t see everything. So, can I be safe with what I can’t see?” Yet, the Bible continues to point us back to the fact that safety is not found in circumstances.
Bob: It’s found in a relationship.
Trillia: I feel safe, not necessarily because I have a relationship even with you guys, but I know you all have a relationship with God. I feel a certain amount of safety when I am doing something that is hard, or dangerous, or scary, not because I’m actually safe—like, in terms of physical safety.
Trillia: So, for example, walking on the ledge—I would hate that! [Laughter]
Trillia: But I am in the hands of a holy, and loving, and kind God, who has my best. So, I am safe because I know God; and God who—He’s also my Father. So, there is a relationship there—
Trillia: —so I can trust Him; I can have peace; I can rest in Him; because there’s a relationship, and it’s intimate. He sent His Son to die for me—so there is safety in God. As a matter of fact, we’ve talked about the fear of man. It [Bible] says, “The fear of man lays a snare but those who trust in the Lord are safe.” There is safety in God—I can rest there.
Dennis: And so, I’m going to ask you a tough question—
Dennis: —because there have been some situations in your life when you may have felt safe but the circumstances turned out to be dangerous.
Dennis: You were assaulted—
Dennis: —in college. If you are willing, what happened?
Trillia: I was on a trip, and I was in a room with a bunch of Christians. I felt safe. Another person knocked on the door and asked to join our group. We said, “Sure!” because we were a welcoming place as well. It was in a mixed gender room—we were all just hanging out watching movies. It got late, and we all just fell asleep.
In short, I was sexually assaulted. I was not raped, by the grace of God; but when I woke—yes, it was pretty horrifying. The good news is that he confessed, and the Lord did protect me. It didn’t go beyond where it went. Though, it was still awful and a complete and total violation.
Bob: Well, that kind of violation can cause somebody, for years—
Trillia: Oh, yes.
Bob: —into the future, to continue to—
Dennis: —be fearful.
Trillia: Oh, yes.
It can affect marriage.
Bob: Does it still affect you today; do you think?
Trillia: No; and it’s kind of a miracle. There are some things that do affect me. I am less likely to be in a situation—so, okay; here’s an example—if I’m getting on an elevator, I’m going to be more cautious about getting on an elevator with a strange man—
Trillia: —alone than I probably would have been had this not happened.
Trillia: I’m a lot more aware when I’m walking alone on the street. I bet I’m a lot more aware than most people. But miraculously, it’s not something that grips me / I’m not filled with fear; I just am hyper-aware.
Also, by the grace of God, it didn’t affect my marriage—which I know—if there is a listener, who has been affected by this / who has had someone violate them, that can be a real struggle to trust their husband and to trust that he’s not going to hurt them.
I just—my heart goes out to them. I’m so thankful for Jesus, who sympathizes with our weakness—who, in every way, was tempted but was without sin. We can go to that throne of grace and receive help in our time of need. That is something that is helpful for me. So, in my fear—in any fear—I am thankful that I can go to Jesus in my time of need.
Bob: So, if you were having a cup of coffee with a woman, who said: “I had a similar experience to what you had in college. As a result, every time my husband and I are together, it comes back. I just get paralyzed, and I just lock up. Trillia, what do I do?” What would you say to her?
Trillia: There are probably a number of things—I would probably encourage her to talk to her husband about counseling. That would be number one.
Dennis: Let’s not scoot past that, though. That assumes she’s told her husband about it.
Trillia: That’s good—yes.
Dennis: When did you first tell Thern? Was it when you were dating, or was it—
Dennis: —when you were married?
Trillia: Dating. I told him pretty much immediately that I was violated in some way; and then, he walked through it with me. The hardest person to tell was my father.
Assuming that she has shared it with her husband, I would encourage that they seek counseling. I think it’s important—if it is hindering their intimacy and hindering their love for one another in that way, it’s probably important for him to know something happened and that’s why [it is being hindered]. But then, I would also remind her that he’s not the enemy—that her husband isn’t the one who did it—he’s not the enemy.
Oh, I would pray for her. I’d pray that he would understand and he would be patient. I would also encourage her that God is patient—so He’s going to be patient with her as she works through these struggles and these temptations to fear.
I would highly suggest and encourage lots of prayer / crying out to God, being really honest, and then, seeking counseling so that she can get some help as they’re dealing with this; because if it’s affecting their—I mean, there is so much that could spiral from that.
Bob: Right. You have a chapter in your book---and the book is called Fear and Faith. We’re talking with Trillia Newbell. You’ve got a chapter on one of the fears, and that is the fear of sexual intimacy in marriage.
Bob: Has this been a fearful area for you, or have you just talked to a lot of women who have shared with you about fear in this area?
Trillia: It has not; but oh goodness, have women been fearful in this area. It’s something that is intimate/vulnerable, and you’re giving yourself completely to someone else. Yes, it’s a battle. And some of this battle comes in because of pornography—
Trillia: —and this fear of not measuring up / not measuring up to what their husband or themselves have been exposed to—because they’ve been feeding on this false idea of intimacy that’s, not just false, but it’s sick and sinful. That is something / a topic that’s often discussed, because of what people are exposing themselves to more and more.
Bob: The culture; right.
Dennis: There’s another area that you were very honest about in your book that I know you’ve experienced fear in—and that’s in the area of loss and experiencing tragedy—you lost your father / you had four miscarriages. Comment on that, if you would—how that impacts a person’s experience of fear and how it can paralyze them for the future.
Trillia: My husband—when we moved to the Nashville area, one of the first things that happened is that he began to travel.
And I remember—and this is kind of comical—but the first time he walked out the door—it was probably two minutes / he was probably still in the parking lot—I had buried him / figured out the eulogy. [Laughter] I was—in my mind—
Dennis: You were just afraid.
Trillia: —I was so afraid! I was afraid of the future / afraid of tragedy. In my fear, I made up all these scenarios that hadn’t happened.
Trillia: And I think that’s an area—when you’ve experienced tragedy—now, when you haven’t experienced tragedy, you still struggle with those fears; but the truth is, if we live long enough, we’re going to experience tragedy.
Trillia: For me, that was something that I feared. I know that part of it was because of my experience with death and the tragedies I’d experienced. The good news is—because I’ve experienced it, I also could quickly take captive those thoughts and speak truth to myself—
—and to know that God has always been faithful, and He’s good, and I don’t have the grace to deal with something that hasn’t happened yet.
Bob: With the reality of four miscarriages as a part of your story, if you learned today that you were pregnant, would you be fearful?
Trillia: I would probably be more shocked because my youngest is six. [Laughter]
Bob: Okay; so, after you got passed the shock and you go: “Oh, we’re going to have a baby. Maybe…”
Trillia: I don’t know that I’d be fearful as much. Here’s why—the first two miscarriages were miserable—I was so sad. When I got pregnant with my son, I was terrified / I was just so fearful. Then, when we had him, we had peace! We were so grateful; and we just thought: “Okay. It took two years before I could get pregnant again”; and we tried immediately.
It just—I wasn’t getting pregnant. So, I put it to rest—I thought, “I’m going to be happy with this gift”—but in between my son and my daughter—I also had two miscarriages.
One of those miscarriages—they started testing and just realized that the baby had a chromosomal defect and wouldn’t have been able to sustain life. At that moment, there was this sobering reality that I’m not all-knowing / I’m not all-wise. Only God knows what’s best for my children, and I cannot pretend to be God. So, today, if I got pregnant, I think I would have rest in my heart. God has taught me so much through these trials.
Bob: And it’s not that there wouldn’t be grief or sorrow—
Trillia: Oh, goodness—yes.
Bob: —over a miscarriage—
Trillia: Oh, yes.
Bob: —but the difference between that and the fear that can control you throughout a pregnancy, where you are wondering, “What’s going to happen here?” is really a gap between:
“Do I trust God—
Bob: —“in this situation to do what is the right thing, whether I understand that or not?”
Trillia: That is the key. I don’t always understand His ways, but I can trust Him. He’s wise.
Trillia: And it’s interesting—you know the hymn writer, William Cowper, who wrote God Moves in a Mysterious Way. Those words are so rich to me: “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform…” We will look at God’s ways, and we will interpret them wrongly; but He’s His “own interpreter”—is what the hymn says—and that He will break those clouds of fear and dread—
Trillia: —with blessings on your head. I think that one of the things that has been remarkable—and is to think about: “Would I trade my kids—my son and daughter, who are with me now?”—
—I want all six children; right?—but I would never trade them. In the mysterious way that God moves, I have these two children; and it is good, and it’s beautiful. They are wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade them. Would I want to experience miscarriages? No! But would I trade them? No! It’s a strange mystery, but God moves in a mysterious way; and I know He’s good. It helps me to know He is good, and He is sovereign and loving.
Dennis: You’ve demonstrated this several times as we’ve talked, and I’ve got to call to mind a quote that is one of Bob’s favorites by Martin Lloyd-Jones. You actually spoke of counseling your own soul. I’m sure Bob’s got this right off the top of—
Bob: I don’t have it memorized; but Lloyd-Jones said, “We spend too much time listening to ourselves and not enough time”—
Bob: —“speaking to ourselves and telling ourselves / reminding ourselves of what’s true.”
That’s the antidote here—isn’t it?—to fear.
Trillia: Absolutely. We’ve talked about taking captive our thoughts, and we’ve got to replace them. Our minds—if we just sit in our heads long enough, we will be fearful—
Dennis: Yes; we will.
Trillia: —and we will doubt God. Satan and our own flesh will whisper lies about who God is. We’ve got to speak truth to ourselves. I think another—is it Jerry Bridges, maybe, who says, “Preach the gospel to yourself”?
Bob: That’s right.
Trillia: We need to speak and counsel our own souls, and we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily.
Dennis: And there is one other passage of Scripture—that there is a listener somewhere, listening to this broadcast as I quote it, who needs to hear this right now.
Dennis: As soon as I read, they are going to recognize it: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever [Psalm 23].”
Perhaps, there is a person, listening right now, who needs to counsel their own soul with these words. He will accomplish what concerns you—He loves you / He wants to restore your soul. “Will you return to Him?”—that’s the question.
Bob: I would think it would be helpful for a lot of our listeners to get a copy of Trillia’s book, Fear and Faith.
Maybe, get together with other folks—maybe, in your small group or with a group of women in a Bible study / a book club. Go through this book together. There is a study guide available online; and if you go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, we’ve got the link for that study guide. There’s also a video series available. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy of Trillia’s book, Fear and Faith; or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
There’s a subject we weren’t able to get to on today’s program that’s a part of the book; and if you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, you can hear a conversation we had with Trillia about the issue of eating disorders—how fear and faith play into anorexia, and bulimia, and other eating disorders. Again, you’ll find that audio clip online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, it has been really fun for us this year to spend time celebrating anniversaries. Back at the beginning of the year, we thought: “This is our 40th anniversary. How do we want to celebrate?” We thought, “We really want to celebrate by looking at the number of anniversaries that have happened over the years because of how God has used FamilyLife in the lives of couples and families so that legacies continue today that might not have continued if somebody hadn’t gone to a Weekend to Remember®marriage getaway, or hadn’t listened to FamilyLife Today, or hadn’t found an article online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or hadn’t in some other way connected with this ministry.”
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Now, tomorrow, Jen Wilkin is going to join us. She’ll be here to talk about just how great God is, because she believes that many of us don’t have a full understanding of His attributes. We’ll explore that tomorrow. Hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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