Many people worldwide are gripped by fear. Maybe you fear something right now: a doctor visit, an impending hurricane, a performance or talk you must give, or the loss of a loved one. This strong emotion can be an asset when it protects us from danger. “Don’t go near the fire,” moms say. “You might get burned and end up in the hospital.” Fear of falling keeps me from risking my life bungee jumping and scaling mountains. But most often, fear is negative—especially when it is fueled by imagination. Unfounded fears can keep us from being the best person we can be. Fear have several harmful effects. They rob us of peace, erode our concentration, deprive us of sleep, and ruin our appetite. They take a toll on our mental and physical health. So how do we tame fears?
First recognize a fear for what it is. Is it a reasonable fear or a false fear? Reflect on why this fear is a fear for you. What caused it—something in your childhood? Is it a short-term fear or a habit?
Sometimes fear’s grip can be gradually eliminated finger by finger by acting against it. Fear of driving on highways, for instance, will lessen when a person has the courage to make several successful trips. So will the fear of flying in airplanes. It helps to focus on the reward that may come by overcoming fear. For example, if I dare to approach a person I’m afraid of and converse with him or her, I might make a new friend. Speaking in front of groups is deemed the number one human fear. When I first began presenting to groups, sometimes I was awake the whole night before. With time this fear dissipated and now I actually enjoy interacting with an audience.
Of course, therapists and counselors can be useful in overcoming fears too.
A potent method for combating fear is to build up trust in God as someone who loves you to death and cares about every hair on your head. Someone counted how many times “Do not fear” appears in the Bible: 365 times, one for each day of the year.
One day as I began my annual retreat, I was embroiled in an ugly situation with a publisher. I had no idea how it would be resolved—if ever. That night I opened my Bible at random, and God spoke to me. I read:
“Do not fear, 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” (Isaiah 43:1–2).
With that divine reassurance, I entered into the retreat with a calm and comforted heart.
A friend told me that when she was in the hospital, she was so petrified that she lost the ability to speak. She focused on the crucifix on the wall, and suddenly she felt as though she were in God’s hands. It was such a physical sensation that she actually felt the separations between God’s fingers. Peace flooded her heart.
Scripture reminds us that “Perfect love casts out fear” (John 1:4:18).
Recently I read that we should do something we’re afraid of every day. That sounds like an exercise to build stamina muscles.
Remember President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
When have you successfully faced down a fear? How?
PROGRAM REVIEW: Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Mary
Advent begins on December 2. These weeks before Christmas might be a time of stress and even fear. A new program that can be used by individuals, groups, and entire parishes promises to still our hearts by daily reflections on the “first Advent” as experienced by Mary. A book guides us through aspects of Mary’s time of waiting and draws lessons for our own lives. Each day has a theme (such as control, empty, echo) based on a Gospel phrase about Mary’s experiences from the Annunciation to the Nativity. The format prepares the readers not just for the day of Christmas but for the person of Jesus.
First a reflection on the Marian event is given, which brings to life the situations, thoughts, and feelings of the teenager Mary. After pondering how Mary opens herself to God’s will even though it means giving up the good Joseph and how she trusts in God no matter what happens, readers apply her attitudes to their own lives. This rich reflection is followed by a suggested psalm to pray (one of the prayers the Jewish Mary would have prayed) and a Scripture passage. Then a prayer prompt is given. The introduction to the book gives steps for praying on the passage imaginatively a la Saint Ignatius. Each day includes a lined page for journaling where readers can record words that struck them and concepts that touched their hearts as they prayed. Five lovely illustrations enhance the book, which can also be used on cell phone backgrounds for free.
A free three-part video complements and introduces the program. It contains a thirty-minute overview of Mary’s life as she waited given by three people who offer their insights. Two three-minute segments introduce the program, one of them to pastors. An added benefit is that free 4-minute videos can be accessed each week from the site rejoiceprogram.com.
The 102 page book is written by Father Mark Toups and published by Ascension. It is a gift to the Church that potentially will deepen our appreciation of Mary and make Advent a time of spiritual growth.
1-9 copies for $10.00 each. 10-299 copies for $5.00. 300+ copies for $3.00.