Healthy fears

Every day we are faced with fears. How we deal with these fears depends on our attitude and our faith. From the very beginning God created fear as a healthy emotion. This is the gift we call “fear of the Lord” or “wonder and awe.” In other words, having respect for God and all that He created. 

However, Satan perverts this fear. Satan will use any means to defeat us. He will whisper words of low self-esteem or high self-esteem. He will try to weigh us down with guilt or dull our consciences. He will try to move us to lash out in anger or convince us to keep our emotions bottled up. He will try any strategy to keep us from using our minds for God’s glory and convince us to make selfish choices opposed to God’s plans. And as a result, we will find ourselves hurting others and being separated from God. So, how do we deal with these unhealthy fears?

First of all we need to know that these unhealthy fears blind us to the truth. The antidotes to this fear are trust and faith. When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them fear as a healthy emotion. Then sin entered the world and with it the unhealthy fears we experience today. Most of us look at fear as an anxiety caused by the presence of danger. Look at it this way: F.E.A.R. — False Evidence Appearing Real. Doesn’t that sound like Satan perverting what ought to be a healthy emotion?

Unhealthy fears consume us and in some cases paralyze us. There is a parable about a man who wakes up in the middle of the night to find a poisonous snake next to his leg at the foot of the bed. He lies awake all night, frozen in terror, praying that the snake won’t bite him. As dawn breaks and light begins to shine into his room he realizes that it’s not a snake at all. It’s a belt he forgot to put away the night before. Once he knows this truth, the snake disappears, the memory of the night is reframed, the fear is gone and he is filled with relief. Until he was able to see things as they really are, his imagination got the better of him. “The Lord is my light and my Salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1).

Unhealthy fear causes our problems to appear greater than they really are. It makes us look at the molehill as if it were a mountain. It appears overwhelming and consumes our every ounce of energy. It compels us into a world of fantasy for the simple reason of getting us to ignore reality. Each of us is aware of our own strengths and weaknesses. Don’t pretend that your problems don’t exist. There is no peace in having this kind of attitude. Don’t let fear imprison you. Rather, let faith liberate you. “The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. It is the storm within which endangers him, not the storm without” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Fear of the Lord is knowing God: this is the beginning of knowledge. When fear disheartens you, faith in God will encourage you. When fear sickens you, faith in God will heal you. When fear makes you useless, faith in God makes you hopeful. 

An unhealthy fear is when you are worried, scared and shaken by what you face. This is fear without trust in God. A healthy fear is having such a deep respect for the power of God that you become aware of His presence and your total dependence on Him. And because of this awareness we can change the unhealthy F.E.A.R into a healthy one: Feeling Excited And Ready. Having this healthy fear will help us to see things as they are, enjoy the blessings when interacting with others, be of service to God and motivate us to love God. 

“Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My victorious right hand” (Is 41:10).

God bless! 

Anchor columnist Ozzie Pacheco is Faith Formation director at Santo Christo Parish, Fall River.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts