Do you know that someone counted that “Do not fear” occurs 365 times in the Bible? That’s one for every day of the year. Yes, fear is good in that it sometimes protects us from tragedy. But sometimes fear can be a straitjacket. I can think of times in my life when I was afraid to do something and missed out on a great adventure. For example, jumping in a hot air balloon on the spur of the moment. But there are other times when I overcame fear and was rewarded. Like the day shortly after turning eighteen when I entered the convent, which was a totally mysterious place. (I did cry all the way there. My mother said she felt like she was taking me to kindergarten all over again.) But that day was the beginning of a remarkable journey.
What if people gave in to their fears? What if Columbus didn’t dare cross the ocean? What if the first person to eat a tomato or a shrimp was too afraid to try it? What if my nephew the firefighter was too afraid to enter a burning house? What if God the Son said, “Become a human being? No thanks. It’s safer here in heaven”? For good reason Franklin Roosevelt advised, “The only thing we need to fear is fear itself.”
Scripture offers a wonderful story about a man who didn’t fear (Judges 6:1–7:25). God called lowly Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites. First Gideon had to be convinced that it was really God speaking. So God gave him two signs. After Gideon raised an army of 32,000 soldiers, God had him send the fearful ones home. Gideon was left with 10,000 soldiers. God further whittled the troops down to 300 men. Gideon supplied these men horns and jars with torches and had them surround the enemy camp. On a signal they blew their horns, broke the jars, and shouted. Some Midianites attacked one another; others fled. Gideon won the battle with no weapons and without a single casualty! He could have been scared stiff—maybe he was—but he trusted God.
Some people are afraid to fly in planes. Some are afraid to have a baby. Some are afraid to speak to an audience. Some are afraid to drive on highways. The list of fears is endless. Fears like these inhibit growth and a fulfilling life. Let’s pray to the Holy Spirit to activate the gift of courage in us and suppress our fears. Then, trusting in God, we can embark on what may turn out to be a thrilling adventure.
I just saw a quotation from Pope Francis: “Ask Jesus what he wants from you and be brave.”
What would you do if you didn’t fear?
the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.