Dealing With Fear
A reader writes:
So, It's 1am, and I just finished a cake. All the while I was painting tiny little gold letters on said cake, all I could think about was how freaking terrified I am about the future of our country and the world. I feel as though all I can think about involves fear. I know that this is "not of God", as they say. How do I deal with fear like this? I'm growing weary of constantly feeling like I'm going to hyperventilate. :)
Oh yes, fear. Fear is exhausting, and it sucks all the joy out of the day. There are some practical things you can do to relieve fear over the state of the world:
First: when the source of our fear is the news, there is a really simple solution:
Just turn it off. Call it sticking your head in the sand, if you like, but is there really any genuine benefit to knowing about every last angry mob, every ugly bit of rhetoric, every destructive bill that may or may not make its way through the House? Some people's jobs truly require keeping up with the news in detail, but most people's don't. It's not our duty to be submerged in muck at all times. It's okay to tag out for a while. Try just turning it off for a week -- or read the headlines only once a day, and skip TV and internet news altogether (or hide the Facebook friends who post about it all day long). Instead, listen to good music, or just have silence.
Second, recognize that exterior circumstances that are out of our control (war, bad laws, worrisome societal trends) can terrify us more when things in our own lives feel out of control -- at least, that's how it works for me. When the outside world seems ready to overwhelm me, it's because my inside life is not in order. It never hurts to go to confession a little bit more often, or to add some regular spiritual practice to the routine. Maybe readers can suggest a specific act of hope or trust that has made a difference in their lives.
NB: I'm not saying that people who are afraid are guilty of some secret sin! I'm just saying that peace starts from the inside. This is why you see wealthy, safe, healthy, pampered teenagers who are full of angst (and why people who own million-dollar safe rooms with food and oxygen for ten years still don't sleep well at night), but the early Christians could go to their martyrdom calmly singing hymns of praise to God. I'm no martyr (not even if they killed me quick), but I have gotten better at identifying the difference between fear that is an appropriate reaction to external events, and fear that has more to do with the war inside my own soul. It's always easier to solve a problem when you understand what the problem actually is.
Or sometimes, just getting a little more sleep and a little more protein makes all the difference.
Third, remember that the world has always been an ugly place. Maybe it's perverse, but I always take comfort in reading some history and realizing that things truly have been this bad before. Degeneracy -- yes, even socially-accepted, state-sanctioned, utterly pervasive degeneracy -- has always been with us. It rises and falls like the tide, peaking in one society while it ebbs in another, sometimes taking one form and sometimes another.
So if you feel like the world is being taken over by evil, you're right. It is. But this is nothing new.
What is new is what God has promised He will do: He will come again in glory, and He will set everything straight -- every last little thing, from the dirty look you got from another driver, to the wholesale slaughter of innocents in every corner of the world.
This is true. Do you believe it is true? Do you set this idea before yourself regularly?
We will never get anywhere if we simply try really, really hard to stop being afraid. Fear needs to be replaced with something, not just beaten down or chased away. Replace fear with the image of a strong and joyful God who loves us, and who will not leave us alone forever.