A stage four cancer diagnosis has taught me to identify two types of fear. There is a good fear, that heightens awareness and energizes emotions. Then there is bad fear, that creates isolation and rips away my sense of purpose. These two fears live in symbiotic relationship within me. One type of fear must destroy the other in order to thrive. I am able to overcome my natural/negative fears, the kind that stop me from moving forward in life, by empowering good fears which come from taking risk, walking in hope, and most importantly, stepping out in faith.
Let’s take a moment to look at the experience of fear. Do you remember with great detail, a first date, the first day of school or a job interview? Why do you remember it so well? Fear. In those moments you are scared of rejection, scared of making mistakes, scared your breath smells bad, and just plain scared. Yet when all is said and done, fear makes the moment better. It gives awareness of every detail. It locks moments into memories with heightened accuracy. It increases our emotions. In essence, fear provides the capacity for our senses to be enlarged. In the right moment, fear can be a gift. This same kind of good fear exists in adventures of every kind. In fact, we pay a lot of money to experience fear. We go to a scary movie, ride a roller coaster, climb up the side of a mountain, and paddle down a river because good fear is exhilarating.
This experience of good fear, makes us feel alive. It drives out every other thought, focusing the mind, and bringing a sense of accomplishment. We love this type of fear and so we search for another ride, another river, another moment to hold onto, but these experiences are fleeting. We cannot truly achieve lasting joy or a heightened sense of life through back-to-back moments that expose us to this good fear. Eventually the ride won’t feel scary and the river will be tame.
There is a way to always experience the effects of good fear: acts of faith. Faith is the act of stepping beyond what you can see. Choosing to believe in something the natural world says is impossible. Placing hope in something beyond yourself, specifically placing our hope in God. Then hope drives us to
embrace something with no guarantees. When there are no guarantees of what will come, risk is present. Where risk is engaged, good fear exists.
Unlike the experience of good fear, the heightened sense of life that comes from faith lasts for more than a fleeting instant. As long as we hold onto our hope, faith creates clarity and a heightened interaction with the world that extends as long as the walk of faith is engaged. When we live in hope, a weight of purpose lays gently on all that we do and increases our awareness of the significance of every decision. Faith gives us the opportunity to live all of life with an intensified ability to experience emotions, memories, and purpose. This thrill of hope, creates abundance within what would otherwise be a meager life.
As I live with cancer, negative fear tries to overwhelm me. The experience of negative fear needs no introduction, we are all familiar with its effects. But cancer provides ample opportunity for hope and faith in my life as well. In fact a diagnosis of cancer leaves a person with two choices. To live in involuntary submission to negative fear, or to choose hope and the act of walking out that hope through faith.
This year I learned to hope in cures, in the kindness of people and in God’s purposes for my life. I placed hope in love’s ability to rise above. I placed hope in my ability to release all that I was and find something new, perhaps something even better. I hope for these things. I have not found them but I choose to walk toward them everyday in faith. This risk, this faith, has lifted my eyes above what I currently am, and what I can see in my circumstances. It has given me sense of calm in the the storm. This hope has heightened my awareness of life. Living in a state of hopefulness and faith creates abundance in the mundane. Though I live in a broken world, with diseases, pain and loss I recognize that Jesus came to “give [me] life, and that [I] may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Faith is this experience of abundance in my life. This life of faith leads me to take risks within myself everyday, risks as small as choosing to believe or choosing to forgive. This life of faith leads me to to take big risks, like writing my story and serving others. No matter how big or small the choices are, the risks place significance in moments that otherwise would simply slip away. These choices, create opportunities that would not exist without faith. Opportunities that may not change my circumstances, but indeed are changing my life.