Fear and faith are not two sides of the same coin as that would make them binary, either or, all, or nothing. Rather, they would be more easily seen as always being present, but in different proportions. Take the example of the “glass half full”; the glass is always full if you expand your view a bit. The glass may be half full or completely full of water, but the portion not filled by water is filled by air, so, when viewed from a slightly different perspective, the glass is always full.
Staying with that view for a moment, water in the case of the glass has properties that can be seen, felt, etc. Such is the case with alarm as it tends to be “felt” in the case of walking down a dark, drizzly alleyway at midnight, or watching as a large truck slides sideways towards you on an icy street. Faith, in this analogy is more like the air in the glass, it exists but is ( pardon the pun ) more ethereal.
Can it lead to good?
It may not be wrong to have trepidation in some circumstances, for example, the night before surgery, facing a dangerous situation such as driving on an icy road, and so forth. What is wrong and what we must overcome is if we allow fear to take over and essentially overpower us or cause us to freeze. When we are timid, concerned, slightly fearful ( or more than slightly ) and if we step ahead in faith anyhow, it shows our trust in God – that He will do what He has told us He would do.
An example of fear and faith at work in an individual is Peter, when the Lord told him to come to Him by walking on the water. As long as Peter stayed focused on the Lord, he was fine, he was walking nicely, and making good progress. When he allowed himself to feel a bit of panic and get concerned about the wind, waves, and water he began to sink ( Mt 14:28-31 ). When he let his fear get stronger than his faith, he started to fail.
What He has to say about it
There is a huge number of examples in Scripture where God tells us to not let fear overtake us, but to stay focused upon Him. A few examples are:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5-6
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, Deut. 7:9
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. Ps. 48:14
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! Ps. 111:10
It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Psalm 118:8
Fear and faith cannot routinely coexist
Fulton J. Sheen has an interesting quote that deals with the relationship of fear and faith, when faith is more correctly defined as love.
“He has mercy on those who fear Him, from generation to generation.” Fear is here understood as filial, that is, a shrinking from hurting one who is loved. Such is the fear a son has for a devoted father and the fear a Christian has of Christ. Fear is here related to love.” ― Fulton J. Sheen, The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God
The goal, then, is to move from one ( fear ) towards and into the other ( faith ). This may be difficult when we are in the depths of a dread-filled course of action, but, if we can find something to rejoice about, even in the midst of the darkness of fear, we can increase both the love of God and our faith in Him. As an example, if faced with a major surgery, angst would be an expected element. However, if we can say that we are being treated in a clean, safe hospital by a board certified surgeon, and we will be cared for by a staff of skilled nurses and others, we can more easily put our faith in God.
Finding something to be positive about, even in the face of adversity or challenge when the temptation would be to give way to fear, will increase our faith in God and our love for Him. We must try to remember that perfect love drives out all distress as we have been told in 1 John 4:18, and we know that His love for us is perfect. We know this easily by looking at a crucifix and seeing that He loved us enough to stretch out His arms and die for us.
Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we should fear no evil for He is with us. His rod and His staff will comfort us (Psalm 23:4).
Fear is a natural part of life and is manifest in the “flight or fight” phenomenon which tells us that fear has been so pervasive in our history that it is almost a part of our DNA. Fear, however, is more easily seen as a working of the enemy since he very much wants us to be less than totally willing to follow God in all things.
When faced with much more than a reasonable amount of concern or trepidation, that is, when fear is running rampant, simply look up and say “Thank you” that I can see and face this situation or event, and know that You will handle this. I simply have to do my part – have faith, show strength, and move through the valley.