“I’m not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.” - Louisa May Alcott
Fear is a big deal for me; it always has been. For reasons that can be explained by events in my life and for reasons I’ll probably never understand, I am an excessively fearful person. In my world, disaster lurks around every corner and calamity is only a blink or two away. As you can imagine, this is no way to live.
I’ve done a lot of reading about fear – in the Bible and self-help books; I’ve gone to seminars about fear; and, talked to more than one therapist about it. Fear, it seems, is universal; I just carry it way too far.
I’m on the constant look out for new ideas about fear and new strategies to deal with it, so, when the televangelist on the stair-stepper TV at the YMCA started talking about how Jesus talked about fear more than any other topic during his brief time on earth, I stopped in my stair-stepper tracks, turned the volume up and took note.
According to this man, whose name I did not catch, while Jesus talked a lot about love, God’s love and how we’re supposed to treat each other, what he talked about most was fear - or, rather, how not to be afraid. What an amazing thought! I had no idea fear is such a big deal that even Jesus talked about it all the time way back then. What a balm to my fear-weary soul…
The man on the stair-stepper TV went on to cite numerous examples of Jesus talking about fear — how “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)…How “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me” (an interpretation of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:26)…Jesus said, “Fear not! Take courage! Do not fear!” (and similar encouragements) before working the miracles he worked and solving the problems he solved…It seems that wherever Jesus went, he helped people deal with fear.
One of my favorite Biblical fear stories is the one about Jesus and his disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. (Mark 35-41) Jesus was tired, so he fell asleep during the journey. A strong storm came up and the disciples got so afraid they woke Jesus up. A probably still groggy and slightly annoyed Jesus asked his disciples, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Then he “arose, rebuked the winds and the sea;” and calmed the storm.
I can’t begin to imagine how tired the human side of Jesus must have gotten, dealing over and over again with people putting fear ahead of faith in their dealings with him – and life.
My friend, Josie, is dealing with her second round of breast cancer. The chemo is nasty and her prognosis isn’t good. Yet, she maintains great faith in the face of what could be great fear; and, one of the things that helps her do this is her unfaltering trust in God.
We were talking the other day and, ironically, the story of Jesus and the disciples and their trip across the Sea of Galilee came up. Josie said the part of the story she likes best is the very beginning – before they even set off – when Jesus told the disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.”
“That’s a lot like having cancer,” she said. “You don’t know where you’re going; you don’t know what the journey’s going to be like; probably it’s going to be pretty scary. All you can do is what Jesus said - just stay focused on ‘getting across to the other side.’”
The televangelist ended his message with the notion that fear is a tool that teaches us when to pay attention. Fear is “trying to tell us something,” he said, adding that all we have to do is listen to the message, then put our faith back in God and do good.
“You need to have that conversation with fear,” he said, “but you don’t have to invite fear in for dinner and you sho’ ‘nuf don’t want to ask fear to spend the night.” I got similar advice some years ago from a Buddhist therapist I was seeing at the time…”Walk with it (fear); sit with it; listen to it; but don’t invite it in…Be strong; believe in good.”
No one knows when or how Josie’s battle with cancer will end. One thing is for sure, with “God as her refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Psalm 46:1) she will stay focused on “going across to the other side.” May God bless and keep her as her journey unfolds.
Barrow County Relay for Life is May 7-8 this year. Please, listen to whatever fears you may have, then grasp faith and do what you can.
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a writer for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.