And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
I was talking to a priest/friend last week and we both said to each other in the middle of the conversation, that we both have an uneasy feeling—about life, about faith, about the future, about the overall state of the world, and even about the future of the church. I know we tend to overuse the phrase “I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders,” because this phrase means we are carrying around a lot of stress. Although I’m not sure it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say it right now. I carry the weight of the crazy world—its state and its future—in my thoughts. It is debilitating. It leaves me feeling uneasy and sad.
I’m not writing this to complain, or to make people think I have it worse than anyone else. There are certainly many people who are way worse off than me. I have many blessings to be thankful for. I’m writing this because I think it summarizes how a lot of us are feeling—an overall uneasy feeling. And I think it is a worthy topic for the next few days of the Prayer Team.
There will be times in every life when we feel paralyzed. Some of those times are rather pedestrian. Who hasn’t had the experience of looking at a long to-do list and rather than starting something, we waste time just staring at the list, not sure what to do first.
Some of those times are very serious. A diagnosis of a serious illness will make us feel paralyzed with fear. So will a job loss. Some of these times last only a short while. Many people like me get nervous over a colonoscopy that will last not even one hour.
Some of the things we fear are things that we know. Going back to the previous example, I’ve had several colonoscopies and I still get nervous for them. And some of the fears we have are fears of the unknown. Most people think that fear of the unknown is greater, though not necessarily always. Fear is fear, whether it is something known or unknown, and fear gives us an uneasy feeling.
Before we can figure out how to deal with our fears and uneasy feelings it is necessary to identify what we fear. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. Is the thing I fear likely to happen? Getting murdered is a terrible thing, but for the overwhelming majority of us, it is not likely to happen. Is there a chance I could be murdered in my office today? I supposed there is a chance, but it is a slim-to-none chance, so I won’t worry about it.
2. Is the thing I fear likely to change my life? I fear snakes. I also live in Florida where there are a lot of them. However, seeing one, while it will get my blood pressure going, is not likely going to change my life.
3. Can this fear take away the things that are most important to me, such as my family, my job, my home?
4. Is this fear based on something that might result in failure, or is it merely a fear that will bring inconvenience?
5. Is it fear of something that can’t be replaced? For instance, is the great fear in a hurricane potentially losing a house or losing a loved one? Surely, no one wants to lose their home, but another home can be built or bought. We can’t replace the people in the home.
6. Is the fear related to something we can change or something we can’t change?
7. Is the fear something that is going to be temporary, or going to be permanent?
8. Is it going to happen today, or is this just a worry for the future?
There are certainly other appropriate questions to ask when it comes to fear. The point here is that before we get too stressed out about something, we have to think about the actual thing we fear and the actual reasons we fear it. I find myself doing that on a daily basis. I find myself fearing things, and then I find myself evaluating the things I fear and reflecting on those things based on the questions above.
It is true that we live in an uncertain world, in uncertain times. And it is true that the world has seen uncertain times in the past. That doesn’t mean we can’t fear things, or that it is wrong to have fear. However, we have to learn how to have healthy perspective on fear rather than a crippling one. In the next couple of days, we’re going to address the topic of feelings of uneasiness with some practical advice that hopefully will leave all of us (including myself) feeling a little better.
Lord, thank You for the gift of this day. Even though this day might have some fear and uneasiness in it, it is also a day of possibilities. Help me to focus on possibilities for success rather than potential to fail. Help me to focus on what it is I really fear and to discern whether what I actually fear is deserving of the stress it is causing me. Surround me with people who will offer encouragement today. Help me to find little things to rejoice in today. Help me to be the voice of encouragement for others today. Amen.
Before facing and conquering a fear, we have to understand and quantify what exactly it is that we fear.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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