Walking the line between faith and fear
By Jeanne Hunt
I recently asked a group of parishioners to tell me what they are afraid of. I said they could say whatever came into their minds.
Profound or silly, any answer was a good one. This is what they said:
Death, sickness, losing my job, not having enough money, my children being hurt or dying, making a mistake, being rejected, my spouse leaving, people laughing at me, being late, dying in a plane crash, not having any friends, public speaking, looking stupid, being alone, losing my mind, choking, becoming addicted to drugs, drowning, intimacy, being bit by a dog, falling, being embarrassed in public, losing the diamond in my ring, the darkness.
That is an impressive and scary list. It points the way to something far deeper within our spirits. A wonderful priest once said, “If you can name your fears, they can no longer control you.” Many of us spend our entire lives avoiding a fear. Could the work of this Lent be to confront that fear and allow God to begin to heal the wound within?
What I have learned about fear is that it is never from God. God does not want us to be afraid. He says so over and over in Scripture. We even sing a song, “Be not Afraid.” That doesn’t, however, seem to stop us from spinning our wheels about all those worst-case scenarios: “What if someone hacks my email and steals my personal information? I think I am getting Alzheimer’s because I can’t remember where I put my keys. I’m going to get fired; everyone thinks I am a failure at my job.”
All these fear statements point to some weakness within our souls that leads away from trusting God and toward the belief that we must save ourselves. If we think we are capable of being our own savior, no wonder we are afraid. Without a God who can heal our inmost fears, we are doomed to worry ourselves into terror. Fear implies that the situation is hopeless. It is not the obvious outward event that causes the fear. It is the belief deep within that something horrible awaits us. God is not a part of this picture. We have been abandoned to fend for ourselves. What are the insecurities, the poor self-esteem, the feeling of vulnerability that make us shake in our boots? The greater weakness is a lack of faith and trust in a loving God who will always care for us.
Getting to the root of our fear is our Lenten assignment. What can we do this Lent to change and confront our fears? Just to get our feet wet in this fear assignment, I recommend we start small. Pick a little fear like that diamond in your engagement ring or running out of retirement money. A visit to the jeweler or financial planner will do wonders. Then love yourself enough to stay on top of the required maintenance.
For those giant fears like death, illness, or abandonment, finish this statement that leads to that deeper wound: “When I think about dying, I fear death because…” Be brutally honest, and you will discover the wound within. The painful truth is the beginning of healing. Next, turn the reason for the fear over to God in prayer. Ask God to save you, to heal, to restore faith and trust. Very slowly, his grace will begin to change your spirit. Don’t expect a three-minute solution like a television commercial. It takes a while to untangle a fear knot. Then stop avoiding this fear and do something to begin to live free as you confront your fear.
Talk to others about death and learn how other friends deal with it. Go on a vacation by yourself and experience solitude not as abandonment but as safe and peaceful. Discover the truth about your health by making an appointment for a doctor visit. These steps toward dissipating fear reinforce what is real and what is the dark wound of untruth. Lent is the perfect time to restore our minds and souls. There is a lyric from the bluegrass group Old Crow Medicine Show that pretty much says it all, “We are all in this together, walking the line between faith and fear.” Walk the line with me toward faith and away from fear.
Mark 6:50 : They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”