Fear, Faith, and the Leading of the Spirit (Katie Hunt Sturm)

Source: David Woo | Thunder Clouds | http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Kurt posted a great reflection awhile back—If the Spirit Took the Lead—that really encouraged me to think even more deeply about my own journey of the last few years. It’s a real pleasure to be involved in Kurt’s process. Over the last six months, my husband and I have been in the process of numerous significant and drastically life-altering decisions: leaving a PhD, being laid off, moving back to the USA from abroad, launching ministries and starting businesses. In all of this, the thing that we keep coming back to, over and over again, is what life looks like when we stop living focused on ourselves, but instead trust that each step we make is trustworthy, significant, and valued by God.

When we stopped trying to control every moment, when we just stepped out, believing that the road would meet us – this is when God met us the most. So, it’s my delight to be able to reflect more pro-actively on what we’ve been trying to do in the last few months. These are statements that have withstood the petrie dish of our life for the last year. And they have helped us to Trust in the darkness what He showed us in the light. I tried to narrow this down to one post, but in all honesty, the few that made the cut didn’t even begin to cover all that happened as we started letting the Spirit take the lead in our lives. I hope that as I reflect on my own journey, you will be encouraged along your own.

When the Spirit Takes the Lead…

We move from fear to faith.

I’ve been a student, an academic for more than 80% of my life. With the exception of those pesky toddler years and a brief hiatus of oat-sowing in the post-high-school days, I’ve defined myself by my intellect. I was never the popular girl, the pretty girl, the cheerleader, the athlete, or even the nerd. I was the bookworm. Then, last year, smack dab in the middle of my PhD, it became crystal clear – chock-a-block full of signs and messages and all the mysterious business you could wish for – that I was to leave it. Not put it on hold, not even transfer institutions. But to leave school. The fear that entered into my life with this decision paralyzed me. Combine that with the notification from my husband’s employer that his job “might be restructured soon” and you have a very different reality to look forward to.

Our previously clear and understood future became a swirly vortex of “I don’t know.” As a control freak, and a seriously Type A personality, this situation became absolutely unliveable. I remember having panic attacks and not knowing what to do. The thought of the future – all unknown and dark and spooky and mysterious – didn’t bring me any joy or hope, it was simply a black hole. But we prayed, we talked to our community, and we chose to step into it. I left the PhD. I didn’t stop being afraid, but I did it scared. And the moment the written notification went out, I felt this strange sense of encouragement welling up from within me. I started to believe in things again. I started to remember that perfect love casts out all fear (1Jn4:18). I began to trust that who I was wasn’t defined by my education or even what I had thought was my ‘calling.’ And instead, I found a deep-seated faith in myself – a child of God, beloved of God. I believed that He believed in me – regardless of my circumstance.

I was listening to a sermon the other day that made the claim that fear is simply faith in the wrong thing. Instead of having faith in the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, we place our faith in the kingdom of this world, the kingdom of darkness. When we believe that they either have won, are winning, or will win, then we live in fear. I somehow had faith that if I followed what God had asked of me, all of His plans and intentions for my future were in jeopardy. If we live in fear of the world, or other people, or the enemy, we’re paralyzed. We cannot move forward. We don’t want to be embarrassed, punished, hurt or humiliated. We don’t want to lose the little we believe we have. So, instead of getting on with the business of life—abundant life—we halt, stagnate, freeze. We forget the abundance offered to us.

God has called us to freedom. This can only come about through faith. Although God is worthy of our fear as sovereign, all-powerful and perfectly just, He reminds us to not be afraid. He wants us to come to Him under mercy and grace and compassion. He wants to remove the fear of this dark world, and send us out in faithfulness.

When the Spirit takes the lead, we can trust that we have nothing to fear. We can remember that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is living in us, empowering us, guiding us. We can believe that God has faith in us, that He believes in us, that our worth is grounded in His trust of us, and we move from fear into faith.

How does fear affect your decisions? Does it lead you to take a ‘safer’ course?

Why do you think it is so much easier to trust in the ‘other’ kingdom instead of the Kingdom of God?


Katie Hunt Sturm blogs at The Whispered Life and is on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Mark S.

    I’m living this right now as well. I’m currently a youth minister, but I am in the process of starting a non-profit in Denver.  I also quit seminary (which I do believe I will return to). I’m leaving a sure salary. I’m leaving a life that I know. A ministry that I believe in. A church that is on the edge of some great growth. By most accounts, it makes no sense. I have to fund raise my salary, this thing could fall flat on it’s face. But I have a peace about it. I don’t have fear, because God has called me to it. 

    I did take a long time to finally commit to this work, probably because of fear. But I could not deny what I believe I am called to any longer. 

    It was easier to look at it from a financial, health insurance, security mindset because that is the ‘responsible’ thing to do. But I had to put that aside, which was hard. But it has been a beautiful thing to see what God is up to. 

    Thank you for the post. 

    • Katie Sturm

      Way to go, Mark! I’m cheering you on and praying for you as well. One of my friends once gave me an interpretation of Romans 8:28 that says “God works together with those who love him for the good things.” Gotta love Greek phrase ambiguity of word order, huh? And I believe that for you… that God is going to work with you in this endeavor.

      • @google-193911c1d952290de438c7bffb70050d:disqus … great thought. I actually think that’s the most accurate translation 🙂 I wrote about it in my early days of blogging back in 09 here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2009/06/21/can-you-preach-a-passage-using-only-a-footnote-romans-828/

        • Kevin

          I think it would be very hard to make that fit the context of the rest of the passage. The clearer reading seems to be the customary one. The entire passage is about God’s working and not man’s.

          • @290e356f3c1e4cefc4dda469ca5831a9:disqus … actually, the chapter starting in verse 18 is about the creation project groaning… the Holy Spirit groaning with creation… and us groaning with the world and the Spirit.  where the world feels pain, so do Believers.  And the Holy Spirit, draws us toward the final day when this creation will be “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glory and freedom of God.”  On that day, all things will be made right.  Creation will be renewed.  But during this time as we anticipate that future day, we groan… even when we don’t know how to pray to mend the brokenness of the world, the spirit groans on our behalf.  Then we get to verse 28.  “In all things God work together with those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  The context leads to this wonderful verse that demonstrates that even as creation, Christians, and the Spirit are in a current state of groaning… we are invited into partnership with God to join his mission to bring about what is “good” in the world… as a “foretaste” “firstfruit” or signpost pointing toward what is yet to come… the renewal of creation, the glorious union of heaven and earth for eternity!  Sorry to rant here, but this might be my favorite chapter in the bible.

  • Bob Ingle


    Be Blessed young Sister you’re connected now!

    • Katie Sturm

      Thanks Bob! I love that… and I’m gladly approaching that throne with confidence and boldness!

  • Katie, I have to say this particular sentence you wrote is something to think about,”Trust in the darkness what He showed us in the light.” This is just a question I was kind of thinking when I read through, “How do we discern which is which? the Spirit or it’s just our own leanings?” 

    • Katie Sturm

      That’s a really great question, Jonathan. It’s one that I’ve been struggling to find out as I take on this journey. There’s a great book by Jack Deere called Surprised by the Voice of God which talks about this, and there are a few great sermons out there as well. I think the first part is knowing your own heart. This takes work getting to know yourself, your own voice, the voices of others that are from your past. The second part is knowing His voice – it says in John 10 that the sheep know his voice. So for me, it means reading scripture regularly and in a way that is not ‘easy’ for me. So I’ve been doing cover-to-cover in an attempt to get out of my normal seminarian study ways. But when you know that you know that you know something, and it lines up with scripture? Cling to it and pray into it. Ask God to reveal more of it to you, and I promise, He will. Even if it is in His timing, not ours.

  • Mariam Tadros1

    Starkly beautiful and honest!! So refreshing and encouraging!! Thank you for sharing cxxx