Johnston: Facing Fear With Faith
Fr. Bob Johnston (email)
At the time, she was a young, teenage girl who was not yet married. She encounters the Archangel Gabriel who greets her and tells her that she is favored. This surprising event seems to stir fear, and Gabriel quickly tells her not to fear. It seems that fear is always something that we have to address, but we are reminded that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). In the end, St. Mary learns the special thing that God is doing and, overcoming her fears, she fully consents.
How much does fear hold us back? In many places in the world, the fear of becoming a Christian has to be faced from the start. It is said that in parts of South Asia new would-be converts are asked the following questions before being baptized: (1) are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father? (2) Are you willing to lose your job? (3) Are you willing to go to those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them? (4) Are you willing to be beaten for your faith? And the list continues. Each new Christian in some places must be ready to literally die as they commit to follow Christ.
For us, fear may hold us back from going to the next level. Perhaps we are afraid to commit more time because of what others might say? Perhaps we fear embarrassment or ridicule?
The founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), Gary Haugen, tells how he had to face down fear before resigning from the Justice Department to become the first employee of the non-profit IJM. He describes the time this way:
“So there it was. My boundary of fear. I sensed God inviting me to an extraordinary adventure of service, but deep inside I was afraid of looking like a fool and a loser. This was actually very helpful to see, because it helped me get past it. When I am [older], do I really want to look back and say, ‘Yeah, I sensed that God was calling me to lead a movement to bring rescue to people who desperately need an advocate in the world, but I was afraid of getting embarrassed and so I never even tried?” Gary Haugen, Just Courage (Intervarsity Press, 2008), 129-30.
As we pray, trust, and take a step of action, God will help us face down fears that hold us back. As we do so and lean more fully into God’s adventure, we will find deep satisfaction.