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“Is it fear or courage that compels you fleshling?”

Starting a blog post with a quote from Megatron, the arch-evil character from Transformers, is not something I ever imagined myself doing.  Somehow, however, the issue  and concept of fear have been bombarding me lately.  Several years ago I was laid off from my job after what can only be described as utterly killing myself for the company; knowing I couldn’t have done my job any better if I tried was slim comfort when staring at the prospect of not being able to feed my family.  I was, thanks be to God, extremely fortunate to land a job well before such a drastic thing could happen, but it left a constant hollow of fear – a gnawing sense that at any moment it all could go *poof*.  The need to somehow control tomorrow’s events today slowly grew into an almost OCD-like behavior.  I’d read over and again Jesus’ admonition to the Apostles to “not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27) but yet it always seemed so much easier to say than to do.  Fear becomes a pattern, and not just a repeating one but a pattern that builds on itself and grows and can become all-consuming given enough latitude.

Directly opposite Jesus’ direction we often hear “it’s okay to be afraid” and “fear is natural”.  Both of those seem self-evidently true on their face – so which is it?  Just telling someone it is okay to be afraid without any way of turning that fear to positive effect is just about as useless as telling someone to not be afraid when you yourself have no control either – it’s a nice thought but provides utterly no help to the other person.

After all these years of thinking about it, one significant difference finally dawned on me just a couple of days ago.  When we say either of the above we’re trying to be supportive and offer either a bit of encouragement or a kick in the keester.  But when Jesus told us to not let our hearts be troubled He said it not just as a brother and a friend, but as God who has control over every single thing in existence.  Do not be afraid…not just because I want to make you feel better, but because I sit at the right hand of the Father who values you more than every sparrow and knows every hair on your head (Mt 10:29-31) and I tell you “I know well the plans I have in mind for you … plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.” (Jer 29:11)

Maybe I’m just dense, or maybe I needed to hear it a thousand times and one, but when the only one who has any control in the matter says in essence “I know what I’m doing … trust me” … maybe I just need to try that idea out, even just a little bit.  People around me are constantly hearing me say “just give it a minute and you’ll see what I mean”.  Sometimes our own advice is that which is hardest for us to take.  Patience grasshopper, the Lord knows exactly what He’s doing.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • beez August 18, 2010, 1:59 pm

    I think that this is one of the greatest hurdles we face as Catholics. I know that I was talking to my brother this week as I was finishing up my break before returning to school for year four, and I was trying to express to him why I “don’t care,” what the government is doing these days.

    Now, this is not to say that I enjoy seeing the country being driven into bankruptcy so quickly that it makes my head spin, or the prospect of what that bankruptcy means in terms of a freely elected government.

    I acknowledge rather easily that many people of Christian faith, especially Catholics, face a pretty ugly future when the government goes completely broke and someone comes along who promises to fix things ala Hitler and the National Socialists in 1936. Most seminarians I know who are under 30 really expect to spend time in jail – many even believe what was once unbelievable: the US may be producing martyrs by the boatload in 25 years.

    All of this is extremely frightening, unless you accept with total confidence, exactly what you said, that God knows what he is doing, and we are to trust him.

    The problem is that total confidence is very easily undermined by Satan. God wants us 100%, Satan is content with 0.001%, as long as he gets it at just the right time!

  • frival August 24, 2010, 10:18 pm

    You’re exactly right. It’s instructive I think to consider the example of Ignatius of Antioch who not only accepted martyrdom but found in it a great good – contrast that with the modern willingness to adjust to conform. Some would say it’s a more “grown up” approach, more supple and willing to recognize nuance. I’d suggest it’s a little bit of that and a whole lot of failure to really understand just exactly what we’re talking about here. It’s something like trying to explain the difference between “really big” and “infinite” to someone with no concept of “infinite” – until they make that final step across, it’s all just “really big”.

    I also think your final point is spot on. Satan doesn’t need to make us all into Hitler, he just needs us to fail in the right way at the right time. Scripture tells us to beware constantly, and for good reason. This is, without a doubt, spiritual warfare, and much indeed is at stake.

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