Paralyzed By Fear

With trust in God’s grace, and our active decision to courageously name and face our fears, they are reduced to a level that we can manage.

Fear is a terrible thing. It can paralyze us into inaction, thereby allowing all manner of injustices to go unchallenged. The fear to act in the face of real, or even perceived trials, prevents us from growing, from overcoming difficulties and taking charge of our own lives. But fear can also cause us to take actions that are sinful and unjust, in order to protect ourselves, or to maintain the status quo of our timid lives. Fear of the future, or of the responsibilities that belong to real freedom, often cause us to remain in a bad situation, rather than take the risks that are necessary to become a fully free and responsible Christian individual. All of us experience such fears in the course of a lifetime. It is only when we learn to take the risks, and the necessary responsibilities of adulthood, indeed, of a mature Christian faith, that we find life meaningful, productive and, with God’s grace, holy.

David understands this from experience as well. He is fresh from an experience of being rescued and wants to teach those who are defenseless, who experience the need for rescue, to put their faith in God alone. It is God’s grace, which comes to us generously at the moment we willingly choose to live freely and responsibly in accord with God’s law, that gives us the strength to endure and to overcome all of our difficulties. It is our relationship with God that is the source of our courage. David says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all of my fears.” He had recently feared for his very life and was redeemed from that fear through his faith in the Lord. Because of this, he could also write: “I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” (verse 2) It is a powerful thing to be redeemed from our fears. There is no greater power to depend on for this redemption than that of the Lord God.

Have you ever had a nightmare where you are being pursued by something terrifying and no matter how fast you run from it, it remains right behind you, close enough that you can feel its breath? Have you ever, in your nightmare, turned suddenly to face whatever it was that was pursuing you and, as you did so, it disappeared, and along with it, the terror you had been feeling? With trust in God’s grace, and our active decision to courageously name and face our fears, they are reduced to a level that we can manage. If they are false fears, when we decide to finally face them, they go away because they were ultimately impotent anyway. Of course, there are some fears that are both true and great and we simply cannot face them alone. We need the grace of God and the loving companionship of others to face those fears. As Christians, we must be willing to walk with those who are fearful ourselves. It is our Christian duty to walk with our brothers and sisters, to be with them, to hold their hand and to encourage them, or to fight by their side.

St. Theresa of Avila understood this truth as well when she penned these words: “Christ has no body now but yours,/No hands but yours,/No feet but yours./Yours are the eyes through which/Christ’s compassion must look out on the world./Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good./Yours are the hands with which/He is to bless us now.”

Lord, breathe your graces into us in all circumstances. For we believe that, “[You] redeem [your] servants; [that] no one will be condemned who takes refuge in [you]. (verse 22) Help us to be courageous in the Christian life so that we may be your good and faithful servants toward all who are burdened by great fears in their lives. We ask that you relieve our own greatest fears and strengthen us where we are weak. We pray these things in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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