Henri Matisse. The Dance. Hermitage Museum
Nothing is as debilitating to our spiritual life as fear. We have been taught to think that fear is a natural emotion we can’t control. How often have we said, “I have so much anxiety” or “I’m just a worrier.”? How often are we overwhelmed with concerns about money, a child’s situation, a serious diagnosis, or a struggling marriage? We do not have to keep living like this.
Science has now been able to document that fear is nothing more than neuronal pathways created by our brain’s conditioned response to what our culture and experience have told us is frightening and that habitual refocusing on the positive will physically rewire our brains. The simple command: Do not be afraid appears in the Scriptures three hundred and sixty-five times with the assumed power of choice.
“Be strong, do not fear.”1
“Do not be anxious about anything.”2
“Fear not, for I am with you.”3
“Let not your hearts be troubled.”4
“I will not be afraid.”5
“Do not fear for the Lord your God goes with you.”6
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power.”7
These gloriously hopeful commands sit in our brains as articles of genuine faith but have no reality in our day-to-day lives. Fear continues to imprison us, paralyzing our potential to receive the love God so longs to give us. The truth is we have a promise—Perfect love drives out fear, and we have an invitation—Don’t be afraid. Our work is to believe the promise and choose the invitation to trust that Love knows us and our potential infinitely better than we do. Fearless acceptance of whatever God brings will open space in our souls to hold more and more of the peace that passes our understanding.
“We were created with the capacity to move against the negative energy of fear. We all have places of fear, but we have other places—deeper places of strength and trust and love. As we wake up and dare to step into those places, trusting that God will meet us, our fear becomes a gift that slowly leads us from its negativity to a new place of freedom and deeper trust in the awesome power of God to heal us.
Every energy that we have can be redeemed by God’s transforming love. He purifies them by gazing His purity into us. Our part is to stop, wait, and open ourselves to receive His loving gaze. Nothing that is a part of us ever goes to waste. Even negative fear can be redeemed by love. He changes our natural fear from one that paralyzes to one that liberates and becomes an ally for life and living. Reverent fear humbly recognizes and acknowledges God’s goodness within and all around. This reverent fear then becomes sweet awe for the transcendent loving kindness of God who longingly waits for us to return His loving gaze. This unspeakable Love leads us to trust and obedience and from there, to joy and the peace that passes understanding.”The Hidden Life Awakened pp 62-63.
God has always been with us in our trials and will be with us as we face each new heartache. Life is suffering, but it is also a joyful dance. We must have the courage and the hunger to step into the dance. God is the dancer. Are we going to let Him dance us any way He wants? We learn by taking one step into the flow of trust, then we take another and another. If we continue to take the next step, one day, we start dancing and never stop.
Prayerfully, might we allow ourselves to be drawn into the sweetness of Love’s sacred flow, fearful of only one thing, that we might miss God’s unspeakable goodness.
Don’t be afraid.