I am often afraid. My mother was afraid before me. I think it’s my family legacy. When I talk to people about my fear, they tell me to think about something else, to trust the Lord, or to memorize certain Scripture verses. Nothing seems to help for more than a short while. How do I overcome my fear?
I’m sure many people reading this question resonate with its painful honesty. I know I do. Many “what-if’s” absorb my thoughts when I wake in the night or even when I sit at my desk during the day. I often feel queasy in spirit over friends’ problems, family worries, and even the state of the world. Worry is tangible some days, a mist in the air about me. I find myself listening to sermons in the night or my favorite old hymns, needing the comfort they give me. And these things do help, as does committing to memory the Lord’s reassuring and realistic words. Still, sometimes, I am afraid.
I have come to understand that no one is ever quite whole here on earth. Peter Marshall, whose life was recounted in the famous biography A Man Called Peter, was a Scottish immigrant who pastored one of the largest churches in Washington, D.C., and became chaplain of the U.S. Senate. He once asserted that God has “not promised to surround us with immunity from all the ills to which flesh is heir.” As human beings born into a fallen world, we may inherit injuries from our familial backgrounds, and we will be dealt wounds that leave scars that ache in certain kinds of emotional weather. The point is not that we are completely delivered from our fears and anxieties; the point is that we remember who walks by our side in the midst of them. Our fears can actually make us more dependent on God. In the beautiful words of a hymn by Katharina A. von Schlegel, “Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake / To guide the future, as He has the past. / Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; / All now mysterious shall be bright at last.” Or in the psalmist’s familiar words, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). He is with us. That is no small truth.