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notitia, assensus, fiducia

24 Jun

I watched her shaking and listened to her crying, with empathetic compassion. I wanted to get up and go talk to her, to console her, but I couldn’t. The seat belt sign was illuminated, and we were just taking off. It appeared to be a full blown panic attack.

I knew the fear she was experiencing. I’d been there many times before. Judging by her age and from what I heard her say as they were getting on board, this was her first time she’d ever been really scared on a plane. It was a small prop plane, and I think it was the lack of experience with such a tiny aircraft that thrust what had been a normally suppressed fear of dying to the forefront of her mind.

The flight was only 20 minutes, the seat belt sign remained on and her tears continued. For that 20 minutes I prayed for her. Not so much that she be comforted on that flight, but that she would learn quickly, and not have to suffer for years to find a truth which took me so long to discover – that true faith in God is not complete until you have notitia, assensus and fiducia. Knowledge. Assent. Trust.

To avoid any confusion, I want to be clear here that I’m not talking about this in terms of saving faith. Though these terms most often are used to discuss what constitutes saving faith, I want to avoid the free grace/lordship debate here and just discuss how they apply to practically living out your life.

So, let me offer an illustration. Suppose a friend tells you that there’s a man walking on a tightrope pushing a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls. You now have knowledge of it. Next, your friend takes you to Niagara Falls and you watch the man go across with the wheelbarrow, several times! Your friend asks if you think he can do it again, and you reply, “Yes!”. You are agreeing to something you believe to be true. This is assent. Now the hard part. Suppose the man pushing the wheelbarrow overheard your conversation, and he invites you to get in while he pushes it across. If you do, then that’s trust.

For many years, I struggled to “get in the wheelbarrow” with God in certain areas of my life. I had no problem with the first two once I became convinced of His reality primarily through apologetics. I even did pretty good with the trust thing in most areas: my finances, my career, where I lived, etc. Yet, certain areas, really anything that I was ultimately afraid of losing (primarily my health, my safety and my family), I had a theoretical belief that God was in control of them, but not a practical one.

Perhaps I’ll write more details of it another time, but ultimately by the grace of God I began to trust Him in more areas of my life. And in many areas the fear is no more. Sure, fear often tries to get a foothold and the initial thoughts come pouring in, but through Christ I can take them captive and He can defeat them. Indeed, I have gone through long phases where I am trusting in Christ, and I essentially live free from the fears that plagued me.

But sometimes, I do still struggle with fear in a couple contexts. While I hope someday to be able to have them completely conquered, these areas remind me that I need Him, so in that sense they keep me moving toward Christ. Still, looking back over my experiences, there is one truth that is absolutely clear: when I trust Him, the fear is not present.

My prayer for the girl on the plane, and for anyone else struggling with fear or anxiety is that you recognize this before it leads you down years and years of pain, and even the potential of destruction. In Matthew chapter 6 when Jesus says “Do not worry”, He wasn’t giving us a command; He was telling us we don’t have to worry because He is there for us if we would only just “get in the wheelbarrow”.

P.S. By the way. There really was a guy who pushed a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls! Crazy!