For many, fear is not an abstract concept or rare disease they can disassociate themselves from. It is a living, breathing reality they face every day. Many are stifled by it, enslaved to it, beholden to it, and sadly, controlled by it. But how do we react to our fears? How can we find that peace in the storm of fear? And more importantly, how does the gospel address the issue of fear in the messiness of covenant living? Yes, we know the intellectual/Sunday School answer is Christ, but Trillia Newbell does not simply give us Christ as the answer – she does us one better – in her new book, Fear and Faith, she gives us a concrete blueprint of how to apply the gospel (Christ) to the subject of fear. And she does so fearlessly!

Exposing Fear

Newbell exposes fear in a way that only those to whom fear is a reality can. She is beautifully honest about her own daily fears and how she, like so many of us, allows fear to fester in her heart and mind, robbing her of true joy in Christ (pg. 67). If we are to understand the nature of this joy robbing fear, however, we must understand the source of this fear. And I think Newbell hits the nail on the head when she identifies pride as the culprit (pg. 25). Pride leads to a preoccupation with self, and preoccupation with self leads to a firm desire to seek the approval of others. When all is said and done, we end up dissatisfied with ourselves, disappointed by others, and worst of all, failing to glorify God. This is why Newbell rightly addresses the fear of man from the onset. It is a fear that is born out of a desire to seek the approval of others. But how do we escape the fear of man? Far from giving us a list of things to do, Newbell points us to a glorious truth that governs how we as people of faith ought to act. “Christ is already pleased with you and with me,” (pg. 23) therefore, we must accept in faith that our heavenly father is pleased with us.

Godly Honesty

Newbell’s candidness about marriage, child rearing, sexuality, womanhood, motherhood, friendship, and basically whatever subject appears on these pages, is a breath of fresh air. Every personal event and detail of her life shared with the reader is soaking wet with the blood of Jesus. Perhaps the most arresting anecdote occurred in chapter four, as she recalls wrestling with the fear of experiencing multiple miscarriages, and then having to relive those fears with every pregnancy. This experience will undoubtedly resonate with many who struggle with these types of fears. Yet again, as the book so often does, we are reminded of a sound gospel application. Newbell points us to Ruth, who in the face of incredibly difficult odds was triumphant because she saw and embraced the fact that God is good (pg. 55). Examples abound, but you will have to buy the book to read them. I will say this. If more Christian’s followed Newbell’s path of godly honesty that seeks to minister to the broken and afflicted, then we would have less self-righteousness and more healing in our churches.

Godly Fear Over Fear of Man

Newbell leads those gripped with fear to the only source that has the ability to break sinful fear, God. She masterfully weaves scripture and biblical principles together demonstrating that God’s character, word, and love give us ample reassurance that God will never leave us nor forsake us. But again, far from being a primer on what to do, Newbell points us to who we need to be. And if we ever hope to break the cycle of sinful fear, we must “be” the kind of people who will love the Lord with all of our heart (pg. 119). This is an important point that should not be lost on the reader. The Bible places the priority on godly character that produces godly actions. Fear of man is supplanted by godly fear only when we seek not to rid ourselves of fear through our own means. Instead, we are to seek and rely on God’s Spirit to give us a reverence for God.

Faith Healing

Though the book is written with a decided bent toward women in life and ministry, no one should feel excluded from these pages. Every aspect of every fear mentioned by Newbell, will pierce the soul of all those who read it. It is a book that takes seriously Paul’s words, “For we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Fear focuses on sight, both the seen and unseen. Faith operates on the notion that regardless of what I see or don’t see, God is in control. And so, when you are fearful, Newbell wisely suggests that faith is the only answer. This is true faith healing in my opinion. Walking by faith is a constant and relentless pursuit of God’s peace and joy in the midst of our struggles. And that is precisely what Newbell’s, Fear and Faith emphasizes: A constant and relentless pursuit of God’s peace and joy as a way to combat the pangs of ungodly fear.

Dennis Louis serves as Executive Theological Editor for the RAANetwork, is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, and is Pastoral Intern at McIlwain Presbyterian Church (Pensacola, Fl) where he is currently pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dennis and his wife, Theresa, have three children.