Episode 13: Fear Not
In a moment of prayerful devotion at the opening of a meeting I attended last week, the woman leading the prayer pointed out that 365 times, the words ‘fear not’ appear in scripture.
I didn’t know that.
A couple things occurred to me right away.
The first is that if we were to read just one of those passages a day, then for an entire year – every single day – we would be able to remind ourselves not to be afraid. That’s quite a remarkable coincidence.
The second thing that occurred to me, and while this is obvious I will state it anyway: its clear that God wants us not to be overcome with, or be burdened by fear.
Fear can paralyze. It can immobilize us. It can create a set of circumstances in which we lose hope, lose faith, and fail to act.
Fear can also mobilize, but for all the wrong reasons. It can motivate us to act in ways that bring out the worst in us. Fear can cloud our judgment, arouse suspicion, and engender anger, hatred, enmity, and animosity.
We know that fear is produced in the amigdila, the part of the brain that – in our evolutionary development – formed first. It is the locus of our most powerful and basest emotions, fear being one of them. Once this part of the brain is triggered, it overrides our higher thinking and reduces our options to a very short list of actions: fight or flight.
Neither one of those is conducive to what God envisions as possible for human community: namely, shalom.
The oft repeated call to fear not is more than just a comforting word. The Author of life surely intends for us to know joy, and delights with us in those moments when we experience it. But She also believes that Shalom is possible; a condition in which the human community experiences delight in each others company. The greatest impediment to that experience of joy is fear; the greatest threat to the Shalom is fear.
Of all the times this phrase appears in Scripture, my favorite is found in Luke 12.32: “Do not live in fear, little flock; it has pleased your Creator to give you the kindom.” I note the different turn of phrase here – and I think its an important one. This is not ‘fear not’, but this is ‘don’t live in fear.’ Think about the difference.
‘Fear not’ is a phrase often used when the circumstances could easily produce fear – but should not because God is present. Its not unlike what I would say to my children when they would wake up in the night scared of who knows what: don’t be afraid, Daddy’s here and will take care of you.
‘Don’t live in fear’ is a way of saying that while from time to time your situation or circumstances will cause you to be afraid of something – don’t live there. Don’t dwell there. God’s gift of Shalom, of a realm where we will know peace and joy, where love conquers all fears – that gift is already ours to keep.
Who knows what will go bump in the night, or what may lurk in the shadows, or who has designs on our discontent as we travel this journey through with the sacred. I pray that you may come to know the presence of God’s abiding love, and that such love will bring you peace and joy on your journey Into the Mystic.