Patti Richter, On Faith: Living Faithfully—Not Fearfully

Photo by Patti Richter

ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX (August 22, 2021) A lot of students take their educational opportunities seriously. Since I was not one of those, I’ve spent a lifetime making up for my losses.

A world atlas catches my attention as I pass a certain bookshelf. I throw it open to survey the Caspian Sea. Ten minutes later, I realize this geographical excursion is either a distraction or procrastination—the same foibles that tripped me up as a student during the Nixon administration.

Whether we are young or old, an ocean of diversions might keep us from better pursuits. Add to this the common fear of failure, which tempts us to either abandon our goals or at least put them off.

I felt doomed to failure last year after my husband and I moved to a home on two acres. While Jim took the larger responsibility for the yard and wooded areas, the half-dozen gardens fell to my care.

The previous homeowner wielded a gold-rimmed green thumb, but I am fuzzy about annuals versus perennials and ornamental grasses versus weeds. Worse, there are snakes around—probably some good ones, but I don’t know my snakes either.

Gardens, however, make no pretense; they are either cared for or they are not. I am happy to say that mine, while not up for any awards, look commendable due to my proactive measures to avoid the dreaded alternative: FAIL.

First, I found that simply reading about plants and weeds helps me approach these gardens with more confidence. And reading about the distinguishing patterns and behaviors of snakes reduces my fear to a healthy—still cautious—level.

I water early in the day to help plants withstand heat and wind. I observe their various moisture needs and replenish accordingly. While there, I spend a few minutes snipping dead flowers and pulling weeds that threaten a takeover.

I put on gloves and knee boots to protect myself from poisonous weeds or creatures lurking under cover. And wearing glasses keeps me from mistaking a snake for a stick.

I find that tending a garden is like nurturing my spirit, which benefits from similar treatment. If our hearts are weary or dry, some simple measures will nourish us:

  • Faithfully reading God’s Word informs and reminds us of his truth, which dispels any wrong thinking. Knowing more about God helps us approach him with confidence.
  • Seeking God each day strengthens us against whatever may come. Praying about any need fills a thirsty soul with hope in God’s faithful supply. And snipping any angry or bitter thoughts relieves a burdened mind.
  • Putting on “the whole armor of God,” clothed in the salvation and righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, we can withstand “the schemes of the devil” and “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:11-17*).

Whether in an ivory tower or working in dirt, at home or at work, we should not be confident in ourselves. Towers collapse and ditches cave in. We can trip on our own dining room carpet and strike our head on the woodwork (as I did recently). “Look carefully then how you walk… making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15).

But living carefully is not the whole story. There is pleasure in the fragrance of flowers, in gathering them, and in giving them away. We will likewise find joy in God as we walk in his ways and share his love. Better, when the flowers of this world fade away, we will behold a heavenly garden: “the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).

*Scriptures taken from the English Standard Version

Patti Richter


By Patti Richter. Patti writes and edits Christian faith articles and has co-authored Signs of His Presence: Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering (March 2019). Read more of her essays at




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