Mar. 2, 2017

Overcome Your Fear

OVERCOMING FEAR

The greatest story ever told about fear is in the gospel of Matthew Chapter 14:22-33. Jesus walks on the water towards his disciples. The disciples are afraid and unable to recognize Jesus. Peter stands out in that episode: “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water. “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matt.14:29-31).

Recently, I went for an interview, then a written examination followed. Everything was going fine until I walked into the computer lab for the written computer exam. All of a sudden, the thought of a similar GRE exam which I took some time ago overshadowed me. Once assigned our seats, my entire body started shivering. I tried to control myself but the negative chemistry was all over me. My eyes were blurry and couldn’t read the questions clearly. My hand was shaking, unable to grip the mouse. My mental capacity seemed completely dwarfed. This was a thirty-minute exam, so the thought of not having enough time engulfed me too. My colleagues were all busy; the fear intensified as I kept hearing the sound of their computer keyboards. Negative voices were speaking in my head. I was losing it, and for the first ten minutes I felt like using the rest room. Suddenly, I stopped working, wished I could ask for extra time to put my feelings together. But that wasn’t possible. I took a deep breath and spoke harshly to myself, “Hey Vin, see how you mess up. Your time is going. Come on!” Then I said a quick prayer. Ironically, I knew what to write but couldn’t control my hands. I lost about ten minutes out of the thirty minutes I had to work. That’s fear.

Each time I reflect on fear, I imagine the encounter between Jesus and the devil (cf. Matt.4:1-11). The devil came to Jesus in the desert with great intimidation. His goal was to make him fall. The last rebuke by Jesus to the devil was, “The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve” (Matt.4:10). That was a stern warning. It’s like Jesus said to himself, “Enough is enough with this guy”. He rebuked the devil, took control of the situation. What if Jesus had become afraid of the devil? Perhaps he would have succumbed. In the case of walking on the water, Peter couldn’t take control of the situation. He focused on external force, listened to the voice of fear. He succumbed as a result. Peter was scared of the wind and was beginning to sink. He almost lost it. In my case also, I listened to negative voice, downgraded my ability and fear got the better part of me. I was beginning to sink except that I cautioned myself.

How does fear manifest?

Fear produces fantasies: Archbishop Fulton Sheen once remarked that fear is in the ego, like emotions from within the individual. Think about the incident between Christ and his disciples. Scripture says, “…and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’, they said, and cried out in fear” (Matt.14:26-27). The disciples believed they saw a ghost even though he was no ghost. For them there was a ghost. It was all fantasies, hallucinations and imaginations. That’s how fear operates. It produces fake images in the victim. This happens in marriages and in families. Fear can produce mirages to the detriment of the reality.

The voice of fear speaks fast: Often times, the voice of fear is fake but travels at hyper wavelength. It is usually the first sound that strikes its victim. That voice of discouragement. That voice of failure. That voice of doubt. That voice of procrastination. That voice of pessimism. That voice of sloth and spiritual laziness. It comes right fast. It tells you that you can’t perform. It makes you feel the battle is lost. It puts God’s omnipotence to question. It silences the good voice.

The voice of fear follows a pattern: For instance, many marriages and families today are sinking due to this secular pattern. Instead of confronting the challenges, you hear couples say, “But there’s nothing I can do”. Let’s say, “My husband is addicted to alcohol, drug or women, but I don’t know what to do. I’m scared of him”. Or say, “He’s not a religious person and wouldn’t listen to me. We don’t discuss God”. Someone is scared of confronting and dealing with an issue, yet dying and losing her marriage to the effects of the same problem. That’s fear.

Fear anchors on something: It could be sickness, unemployment, addiction, habit, death, etc. It is always fear of something. Fear can be devastating.

Fear can be infectious: In marriages and families, fear is always generated by someone, then it spreads. Once someone speaks the negative word, the others to buy into it. In families, for instance, you hear someone say, “It looks like someone is after our family”, and immediately others begin to believe that such is true. Everyone is afraid.

What to do:

  • Always learn to take a deep breath when you feel afraid.
  • Ignore that first voice, wait for the second. It comes quite slowly, but you must calm down first.
  • Caution yourself, tell yourself what you want. Rebuke that negative voice.
  • Recognize who you are, the powers you have. That’s faith. Pray aginst fear.
  • -Bring God into the picture. Fear him more than you fear the object of your fear, “With God all things are possible” (Lk.1:37). Archbishop Fulton Sheen writes in “Peace of Soul”,

“Curiously enough, it is a fear of how grace will change and improve them that keeps many souls away from God. They want God to take them as they are and let them stay that way. They want Him to take away their love of riches, but not their riches—to purge them of the disgust of sin, but not of the pleasure of sin. Some of them equate goodness with indifference to evil and think that God is good if He is broad-minded or tolerant about evil… God is a consuming fire; our desire for God must include a willingness to have the chaff burned from our intellect and the weeds of our sinful will purged".

Do not be afraid!