Facing Our Fears
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.”
(2 Tim: 1-7)
It is a hard fact of life to accept that we can be our own worst enemies. Leaving the comfort and protection of our mothers’ wombs, we enter into an unknown world. We are small, naked, vulnerable and totally dependent on others for our survival. Are we born, therefore, already fearful of the future and what it will hold for us?
Many of us can recall our natural childhood fears fueled by an over active imagination – nightmares, dancing monsters on the bedroom wall, footsteps in the dark, first day at school, big dogs and so much more. As we matured and were able to understand those fears, we gradually learned to outgrow at least a few of them.
But how are we coping when we are confronted with today’s fears? As adults, we can let our imaginations run riot to such an extent that reality becomes distorted and frightening. Small sounds still become ominous things that go bump in the night. Instead of trying to understand the cause of our fear, we are more inclined to allow the fear to take control of us.
Yes, we are all presently living in a time of heightened fear. Being in ‘lockdown’ since the outbreak of the corona virus and experiencing the dreadful toll it has taken on our lives has been a devastating experience for the whole world.
Looking to the future can be scary too when we try to predict what lies ahead. Sometimes, we not only try to predict the future but we also foolishly anticipate the consequences. We believe that if we knew what was going to happen, we could face the future without feeling afraid. However, if left unchecked, these feelings may overwhelm us until the fear encroaches in other areas of our lives.
Fear becomes then, a hidden trap, ensnaring our every thought and action. We may not be able to see, or hear, or touch the fear but we can feed it so much power that it almost possesses a life of its own!
One of the worst things about fear is that it is totally useless. Most fears never eventuate. I recall reading years ago, the wise words of an old Jesuit priest. He said there is no use worrying about being crushed by a square circle or being seduced by a mermaid simply because neither exists! Perhaps even more flippant but equally astute, is Lucy’s bit of advice to Charlie Brown: ‘there is no worry (or fear) so big you can’t run away from it!’
Without a doubt fear is one of the most debilitating of all human emotions. It is the enemy within. However, while our fears are mostly specific to ourselves, they are also, thank God, universal. And for that we can be truly grateful because it means we are not all going stir-crazy.
It is important to be able to identify all the unknowns that make us fearful. One of the most helpful ways to combat a fear at any given moment is to ask ourselves: ‘What is the worst thing that could happen?’ If we are able to come up with an answer to that question, then we are well on the way to dealing with the source of our fears – the unknown.
The unknown can be scary, so fear is a natural reaction to God’s plan for our life. It is God who leads us into the unknown. His ways are not our ways. God calls us to walk by faith, facing something we cannot see, and that in turn can make us fearful.
Once we can accept all the things that could possibly happen, we will be able to prepare ourselves for any possible failure, loss, sadness, or any genuine cause of fear. By recognizing this fear, we remove some of its power over us. As Marie Curie observed: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
No one is immune from experiencing fear, both physical and emotional at some time or another. They need to be kept in balance with all the negative voices which try so hard to dissuade us from taking chances, or from becoming more daring, or simply trusting in God.
The greatest weapon we have in controlling our fear is our faith that God is with us. The most often used words of Jesus in the New Testament are: “Do not fear.” He didn’t mean that we should not be aware of our fear. He meant that we should not be controlled by our fear. He wants us to know that God is with us whatever our circumstances and that he will guide and direct us regardless of what we face in life.