A few days ago, while working on my application for college, I took a quiz on BuzzFeed titled: “What College is REALLY Meant for Me?” (Yes, college applications have me so stressed out, I am turning to BuzzFeed for advice!) One of the questions on the quiz read, ‘What are you most afraid of?” The possible answers ranged from “spiders” and “bears” to “loneliness” and “failure.” And while all of the above scare me to death, I couldn’t help but wonder why a light-hearted, 10-question quiz on BuzzFeed was focusing so intently on fear as a factor upon which to determine a college decision. But after thinking about it more, I realized just how much fear is integrated into our society and how much it directly affects our lives (whether we realize it or not.)
Society feeds off fear; advertisements target insecurities to sell their products all the time. “Is your hair too frizzy? Buy this taming spray and it’ll calm it right down!” “Need to lose weight? This newfangled diet program works wonders!” So many people are OBSESSED with fear! But, as Christians, we have absolutely no reason to be. The most repeated phrase in the whole Bible is “Be not afraid.” Because at the end of the day, what do we have to fear? (As FDR once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”) Don’t get me wrong, life can be scary and sometimes may seem indomitable, but ultimately, literally nothing should drive us to live in fear.
I encourage you to think of one time in your life that being afraid made something less scary. (Seriously, if you can think of a time, I really want to know!) Odds are, there’s been no such time. Fear builds on fear; it is derived from a story we tell ourselves – we are just as fearful as we let ourselves be, so why be afraid? I remember last summer I was in Alaska climbing a glacier with some of my friends. The first time I climbed, I was scared out of my mind. I could only make it about a quarter of the way up, I was so paralyzed in fear, and I was too busy worrying about falling and dying that I forgot to have fun! After every person had a chance to climb the glacier once, our guides offered the chance for a few of us to climb again. I immediately gave a big NO to that opportunity, but one of my friends encouraged me to climb again, now that I knew I was safe. It took some serious coaxing on her behalf, but eventually I had the ice axes back in hand and was making my way up the glacier. I told myself I was strong and I was brave and I was living my best life – free of fear (and that I definitely wasn’t going to fall!) And before I knew it, I was scampering up to the top of the glacier, laughing with my friend who was climbing next to me, and taking in the absolute beauty of the mountains around us that I hadn’t been able to appreciate my first time around. Fear had inhibited me from appreciating the absolute perfection of the world around me and had prohibited me from realizing my strength and ability to conquer the task before me!
Obviously most of us aren’t climbing glaciers every day, but we come in contact with things that evoke fear in us all the time. Whether it is taking a new job, leaving an old school, or standing up for something we believe in when we know we’ll be criticized for it, each day presents its own opportunities to be afraid. But each day also provides us with a new chance to look fear in the eye and decide to choose bravery; to listen to the 365 times in the Bible that God says, “Be not afraid,” and to really take that to heart.
In ending, I want to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite saints. Pope John Paul II said, “I plead with you – never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid!”