Fear. Have you felt it? There are few things that can control us so profoundly as real fear.
We can be afraid of many things, even things we know are good: a commitment, a person, guilt, the feeling of pain. We can fear the uncertainty of the future, or world events, or being vulnerable with another person, or embarrassment, or financial circumstances, or dying unexpectedly.
God knows we are fearful creatures. That’s why whenever he comes to us, he always speaks first the words, “Fear not.” These two words are repeated nearly two hundred times in Scripture. They are meant to inspire confidence and trust—but above all, faith.
Think of the disciples in their frail fishing boat, tossed by a violent storm on the sea of Galilee. They are afraid, even terrified, by the storm. Will they survive? Will they ever see their families again? But then, they see something they can hardly believe: a man walking toward them on the water. Can it be? They are even more afraid of this apparition than they are of the storm. They want to flee in terror, but they cannot.
Finally, the man speaks. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” At these words, all fear is banished from their hearts. They know it is Jesus. Peter, filled with the confidence born of faith, leaps out of the boat and begins walking on the wind-tossed sea toward his master. It is only when he takes his eyes off his Lord that he begins to sink in the waves.
It is faith that is the true antidote to fear. Faith is believing and acting on what we know to be true despite our fear-induced paralysis. It is the heartfelt conviction that Jesus is with us, and that with him by our side, we can never be truly harmed.
“One of the things we absolutely owe our Lord is never to be afraid,” said Bl. Charles de Foucauld. “Let us have this faith which banishes all fear. We have beside us, facing us, in us, our Jesus, our God who loves us infinitely, is all-powerful, knows what is best for us, tells us to seek the kingdom and that the rest will be given to us.” In other words, you owe it to Jesus never to fear anything.
In moments of darkness, in moments of doubt, in moments of fear, let us pray to our good Master for the gift of a fearless faith, a faith that casts out all hesitation and fills us with the peace that defies understanding. And let us remind ourselves often of his words of comfort and salvation, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”