Finding Courage in a Culture of Fear
Recent headlines proclaim: a mass shooting in Texas, a tragedy in Manhattan, terrorist attacks in London, political unrest in Spain, hunger in Venezuela, devastating hurricanes, a mass shooting in Las Vegas, earthquakes in Mexico, an increased possibility of nuclear war with North Korea. On top of all that—it was tossed out as an idea that Artificial Intelligence will dominate us, and maybe even enslave us, within a generation. As my little girl once said, what a jackpot of bad news! No wonder people are frightened, and anxiety is a growing problem for so many.
The Role of Trepidation
Sometimes it’s smart to be afraid. Fear is a primal survival instinct that can help us when we need it. If we’re in a scary situation, fear may help us know there’s a problem and get away or fight back. Fear can be just what we need.
In October, kids try to be afraid. They dress up in scary costumes and go around saying “Boo” to unsuspecting adults, hoping to catch us off guard so they can laugh at our discomfort. That’s fun fear.
My mother-in-law, Evie, was uneasy when my husband and I left her home alone last week. While we were gone, our son and his wife stopped in to visit. When Evie answered the door, she wouldn’t let them in.
“I don’t know you” she said, barring their way with her fragile body.
“I’m your grandson, Thomas,” our son reassured her.
“No, you’re not Thomas” insisted Evie, thrown off by her poor vision and his new haircut.
Luckily, she recognized Thomas’ wife, and soon they were all having a great visit inside our house.
Evie was showing sensible caution. She wasn’t going to let a strange man into our home. She had the courage to go to the door and hold her ground until she was secure about letting them in. That was smart.
Trusting Our Instincts
Part of what gave Evie courage is that she prays, loves, and trusts God, even when she is tempted to be afraid. She knows He is caring for her, even when things aren’t going the way she’d like for them to. For her, being home alone was scary, but she was able to overcome her fear with trust, even to the point of letting her grandson in!
Being trustful that God is caring for us is possible even when we are in truly horrific circumstances. Look at the examples of the martyrs and saints throughout the centuries. They maintained faith in the face of horrors. Consider the Coptic men who were martyred a few years ago on the beach in Libya. Some were seen saying the Jesus prayer, even while they were beheaded. Listen to the part of Matins when we remember the martyrs of the past.
The headlines tell us tales of horror, but we should try to cast away actual fear. Prayer, concern, sorrow, and doing something to help are all better responses than being trapped into inaction by fear. When the headlines make you wish you could hide under the bed, trust God. He is with us. Pray, get to know Him, and that childlike trust will grow inside your heart until it’s there when you need it.
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?
2 When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me,
my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.—Psalm 27: 1-4
Facing the Future with Courage
The next time something scary happens in the news, don’t let yourself be overcome with anxiety. Don’t watch the news repeat horrors over and over and over. Be cautious like Evie, but have courage. This world is not our home, it’s our testing ground, our opportunity to grow, especially in adversity, to grow to be like Jesus.
Be the calm face of Christ in a fearful, anxious generation. Be peaceful, for Christ brings peace to our hearts. Be loving, because we are called to love all. Be generous to those in need, because your hands do the work of God for others. Trust God to care for you, especially when you feel like He isn’t, because choosing trust will build your faith and your relationship with Him.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
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