Fear is an emotion that all of us have experienced at one time or another. Sometimes it can be helpful – for example, fear would probably prevent me from jumping off a very tall bridge, even though attached to a bungee cord! In this case, fear would help me to avoid cardiac arrest!
But, I would venture to say that more often than not, our fears are not helpful. Fear can be a crippling emotion, rendering us unable to act. The Bible has many passages that discuss fear, but I would like to focus today on Isaiah, chapter 43, verses 1 & 2.
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Holy Scripture is wonderful in that it can have so many levels of meaning to it. It is not a dead letter, written 2,000 years ago. On the contrary,
the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)
I encourage you to read Isaiah 43:1-2 slowly, and prayerfully. The Bible is not like other books we read. We are not reading for information, but are reading for formation. As you read the passage, open your heart to God, and insert your own name in the place of Jacob and Israel.
Fear Not, I Have Redeemed You
Our Christian faith is not a religion of a book. It is a religion of a Someone – Jesus Christ. The Lord who created Heaven and Earth, has a personal interest in each of us, and wants a relationship with us. The Father loves us so much,
that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Christ died on the Cross to redeem us from our sins. He knows each of us intimately – he has called us by name, according to this passage. In Isaiah 49, He mentions that our names are written in the palm of his hand.
With an all-powerful and loving God taking so much interest in us, why do we fear?
Fear of Admitting Our Powerlessness
Our lives are filled with so many problems that are bigger than we are. Perhaps we have financial problems and don’t know how we will pay our bills or send our kids to college. Perhaps we have relationship issues, and are struggling to keep our marriages going. Maybe we suffer from physical pain that saps our energy and leaves us feeling abandoned. Maybe we have made wrong choices that have led us to slavery to alcohol, drugs, or sexual addiction.
These problems can seem overwhelming when we try to resolve them ourselves with nothing but our own willpower.
When we get right to the bottom line, fear is an emotion that surfaces when our world is out of control. We desperately want to call the shots, to be self-sufficient. We don’t want to admit our weaknesses.
Sometimes, we want God to just take away our weaknesses, but this could be a very subtle way of saying that we don’t want to need God; for to need God, is to have to admit that we cannot manage everything on our own. All of this can be a subtle manifestation of self-love and pride.
We must admit our weaknesses and our needs. In this way, we make ourselves little, and attract the mercy of God, as St. Therese would so beautifully say.
The Waters Will Not Overwhelm You and the Flames Will Not Burn You
The Bible promises us that we shall not be overcome. Even though we may undergo many trials in this world, we are not alone. The Lord will not abandon us.
The 1970 version of the New American Bible has a translation of Mark 5:36 that I very much like:
Fear is useless – what is needed is trust
This verse gives us powerful counsel.
What good is fear? Can it accomplish anything, or change anything? Can fear resolve any problem we have?
Let us then pray for the grace to truly trust in God, not just pay lip service to the concept. For when we make ourselves vulnerable, admit our weaknesses and inability to resolve our problems, it draws God to us.
James 4:6 – God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble
Let us trust in God, and in doing so, unlock his power to act in our lives.
Let us make the words of Psalm 27:1 our own:
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?