Fear Not: Facing Our Fears

Weekly Bible Devotional
“Fear Not: Facing Our Fears”
September 27, 2020

Scripture for Sunday: Matthew 27:45-56
45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

55 Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Notes on the Text:
This is the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion and suffering. His whole ministry came to this bitter end after seeking to transform the systems of power. The vivid description of the events of the day and Jesus’ agony paint a picture of deep fear. Yet, in today’s Bible story, we hear about the women who stayed with Jesus even as he was being crucified. They are a great example for us about facing our fears in times of trouble. Each of the four Gospels mentions the women disciples being present with Jesus at the cross while most of the male disciples were absent. This is not to say that the women were better than the men. The women seemed to have the tools and experiences that prepared them to deal with such a time of great fear. Women were used to suffering. They did not have the luxury of not facing their fears. In a society that oppressed women, suffering and fear were common daily realities for women. They had learned how to face their fears together. They also learned to put love and faith into the mix of their fears. They didn’t let fear paralyze them. It is sad to note that the people who are often labeled as strong are the ones who are deprived of the ability to face their fears in healthy and healing ways. The male disciples were deprived of the ability to grieve and to enter into the depth of their fears because of the social male code. Even in our day, boys/men are not allowed to grieve, cry, or show fear. The results are detrimental to them and to our whole world.

What is interesting is that the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus were the women. They were the disciples who were ready to see Jesus resurrected because they were the ones who were willing to stay with him through his death. The men scattered because of their fear at the time of the crucifixion. They also had a hard time believing the witness of the women about the resurrection because fear was gripping their hearts.

For Reflection:
Fear is a tough thing to deal with because it is such a strong force and a lot of time it is something that is latent and not easily recognizable as a motivation. Yet, if you have ever been angry, upset, or anxious, these feelings are grounded in fear within us. And we, like detectives, have to investigate and find out what fear is being triggered within us. Last week, we talked about the landscape of fear within us (Categories of Fear: Acceptance, Survival, Control, and Competence). This week, we are going to seek to disarm and embrace our fears.

One of the most common coping mechanisms for dealing with our fears is to avoid them. That is where the trouble begins. There are at least three unintended consequences for avoiding our fears. First, by avoiding our fears, we limit our own potential and our ability to live full and abundant lives. Second, avoiding our fears could turn them into phobias. Third, when our internal fears are not acknowledged, they blindside us by coming out as anger, anxiety, violence, cruelty, or other destructive behaviors. In his book, Fear Not, Eric Law writes, “If we start avoiding fear itself, that is the beginning of our trouble with dealing with fear. It’s not fear but avoiding fear that leads to phobias. Because we are scared to feel fear, we avoid whatever triggers it. It’s the avoidance that locks the phobia in place. Phobias are one result of fear when its energy is toxified by avoidance…It’s the fear of feeling the fear that stops you. If you can feel it, you can heal it…The raw emotion of fear itself is actually not paralyzing but energizing. Fear moves us to act -and if we avoid instead, the fear only grows.”

Moving toward our fear is essential to our healing and the healing of the world! The cycle of fear for the women disciples in the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is a good pattern for us to remember. When we face our fears, even if the danger leads us to death, there is resurrection awaiting us on the other side. As Eric Law puts it, “The story of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels in the Bible provides the linkages, the train ride, in taking our fear to its ultimate destination -death. There, we are invited to open ourselves to the resurrection -to go home and accept our responsibilities as disciples of Jesus; to name our fear, to face our fear, to live through our fear, to have compassion on others who are fearful, and to say to them what the angels said to the women at the empty tomb, what Jesus said to his friends when he appeared to them after his resurrection: Do not be afraid.”

Prayer for a Pandemic:
by Joan Chittister

God of light
and God of mystery,
give us the faith to see you
in the grey dimness
of this time.

Give us the heart to hear,
in the silence of the sick,
the call to care for those
in pain.

Give us the courage
to find you
where you do not now
appear to be.

Give us the trust it takes
to make our way
through this uncertainty,
this fear,
this seemingly irredeemable sense of limitless loss
to the recognition
of the relentless hope
that each seasonal cycle
of life
confirms in us.

You who made all things
for our good and our growth
show us, too, now
the power of darkness
so that we might see newly –
beyond the ephemeral –
to what are really
the gloriously important things
in life. Amen.

Fear Not Leap (2)

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