Chat With the Chaplain
Be Not Afraid
Have you ever been afraid? If not, then you are the most unique person who has ever lived (not that I have surveyed them all) but let me quiz you a bit further. Did you ever look under the bed, keep a small light on in the darkness, cringe just a little when a lightning bolt cracked or thunder roared? Did you ever have to stand in front of your school class and recite a poem, sing a song or explain why you didn’t do your homework? One may be fearful of a weak economy, a new-found disease, lost keys, an auto with worn down tires, a grandchild’s’ future or even a world that has gone crazy.
While there are two acceptable types of fear, namely, “Fear (reverence) of the Lord” and secondly, that fear which helps us keep little children safe and secure, e.g., when they are about to touch a hot stove or cross a very busy intersection. We need to protect children even if it demands some kind of warning and a timely lesson of respect.
On the other hand, I have a list of hundreds of “phobias” (types of fear that may border on deep anxiety or psychological implosion) on just about anything you might imagine. We are all aware of Claustrophobia: fear of being enclosed in anything, including an elevator or it’s opposite, Agoraphobia: fear of open spaces like malls and Main Street. But try some of these on for size: Ataxophobia: fear of disorder or untidiness; Botanophobia: fear of plants…and on and on—even though we’ve barely touched the surface. Zenophobia is one of the worst: a fear of strangers/ people who appear different and there’s even a fear of fear called Phobophobia. Try that one, FDR!
How, you may ask, does the Bible, which spends so much time covering scenarios of fear in every book, offer us some solace? While it is true that the lives of Abraham and the patriarchs, Moses, the kings and the prophets, Jesus and his disciples, all suffer times of fear, closely read the deeper message in each instance and you will find a peace beyond all understanding.
Some eager Bible enthusiast once started a rumor that there were 365 verses in the Bible (both Jewish and Christian scriptures) where someone (God, His/Her angels, Jesus or one of His disciples) advised us: “Do not be afraid!” They may have used other words but the message was always the same. “Trust God! Have deep faith! Be at peace. Do not fear!” In other words, the Lord is telling each of us and everyone else: “I’ve got your back! Let me lead the way!”
Whether we are seeking liberation from an abusive pharaoh (boss, political leader, spouse); attempting to find release from a long-time oppressive memory or finding ourselves immersed in a constant barrage of misguided emotions, we are still being held in a prison of fear. Picture Jesus’ disciples. They are way out in the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a violent storm. And where’s Jesus? Asleep in a nearby corner of the deck. They are uncontrollably frightened and scream to him: “Lord, wake up! We are perishing.” Jesus got up and calmed the sea, reminding them. Once again: “Why are you so afraid.? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-42)
Many storms of life may come to us, at various times and in sundry ways. Some of these will be more intense than others, but in all, let’s listen to the Psalmist, who sings the words of the most read and familiar psalm: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Be at Peace, always!
Chaplain Leo McIlrath