December 2, 2020
I have a long personal history with being afraid. When I was a young girl, probably 6 or 7, I had a recurring dream that I was being chased around and around a car by a bear. At some point I would freeze in fear and that would end the dream. As a teen, I would go to bed and lie awake for easily an hour going over all my fears again and again in my mind. As a young adult, I stayed busy, busy. I worked hard, hard, hard to solve all. No time or space for fear, or so I thought.
And then one day, I could not solve the challenge that caused such fear. I could not stay busy enough. I could not figure it out. The bear was once again freezing my step.
The 3 “Do not be afraids.”
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30)
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary for your wife.” (Matthew 1:20)
“Do not be afraid for see I am bringing you good news of great joy.” (Luke 2:10)
“Do not be afraid.” As Advent begins, it is interesting to see three “Do not be afraids” tied to this sacred time. And there are great challenges connected to those “Do not be afraids”. Mary, you are to be the virgin mother of God. Joseph, take Mary as your wife despite all you are feeling. Shepherds, believe that the Messiah has been born and go to him.
And each time, before the sacred message was delivered, an angel began with “Do not fear.” A paraphrase is . . .
- “Listen, Mary.”
- “Hear what I have to tell you, Joseph.”
- “Rejoice, shepherds!”
“But first, do not fear.”
Learning to trust God rather than being afraid
When my husband and I were in our infertility years, those years when we wanted to have a baby but pregnancy did not come, I finally learned that life’s challenges, the source of my fears, were meant to be given to God. I figured that out not because I was wise but because I couldn’t solve this one. Period.
So my prayers, which were a part of me always, began to change.
Not so much, “Do this! Show me what to do to get this done!” More, “ OK, this is yours. It is in your hands.” The fear of never solving this began to fade. The trust that God was in the room walking us toward tomorrow replaced the fear. And I stepped closer toward Mary’s teenage, “Yes.” My steps, which had been frozen in one place, thawed, allowing me to step forward in trust.
I should mention that I don’t think God was not answering my earlier prayers. It’s not that. My sense is that fear distorts. Fear blocks. I could not hear God’s answers until I let go of my fear. And I could not do that until I took the challenge producing the fear out of my hands and trusted in God’s.
Trust can transform fear into “Yes”
So, what does God mean when he tells us, “Do not be afraid.” Perhaps God is saying, “Trust. Trust that I, your loving God, am in the room. That small fear? I have your back. That large fear? I have it. That overwhelming fear? I am here. Give it to me.”
And sometimes, often, God has something for each of us to do. Maybe for our benefit, maybe for another person’s benefit, maybe for the world’s benefit. All we need (and this is a big “all”) is God. And Mary said, “Yes.” And Joseph said, “Yes.” And the shepherds said, “Yes.” And on good days, when we put our trust and our lives into God’s hands, we, too, can not be afraid. And say, “Yes.”
2 prayers that can help
I would love to tell you that I have now banished all fear from my life and am in a constant state of “Yes.” But I can’t. However, I do have a prayer that supports me very well towards vanquishing fear. I say this prayer every day. Sometimes more than once. It may or may not work for you. But it helps to have something. This is my something:
Gently become aware of your body and your interior state.
Welcome. Welcome. Welcome
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions. I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself. I open to your love and presence, Lord, and your healing action and grace within.*
I have also been known to repeat Proverbs 3:5-6 again and again as a part of turning over challenges to God. Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your path.”
In this sacred time of Advent, in this time of pandemic realities, life goes on. Great challenges can produce great fear. Yet God says, “Do not be afraid.” How does one take on these sacred words? How will you take on these sacred words?
Anne Kubr, Certified Spiritual Director
* Resource: Welcoming Prayer: Consent on the Go Available at Contemplative Outreach (contemplativeoutreach.org)