When I was a chaplain in an oncology practice patients who took their faith seriously were sometimes upset at themselves for being afraid. “If I really had faith, I wouldn’t be afraid,” they would say. I comforted them by pointing to the gift of fear. It was fear of something being physically wrong with them that got them to the doctor and subsequently into treatment of the disease. True fear motivates action, whereas anxiety steals energy and focus.

Anxiety is the generalized state of being distressed or worried. It impacts one’s ability to deal with life. Fear is an uncomfortable emotion caused by the threat of pain, harm, or trouble. Anxiety is different from fear in that anxiety has no direct object while fear does. When I am anxious, if I can look under the anxiety to find what it is that I am afraid of, then I can do something about it. To name what one is afraid of, to face the fear and wrestle with it, can bring strength. God does meet us in our fear.


About what are you afraid?

What helps you face what you fear?


“May I be strengthened in my inner being through the power of the Holy Spirit, and may Christ dwell in my heart through faith as I am being rooted and grounded in love.” (See Ephesians 3: 14-19.) You may want to develop body motions such as yoga postures to accompany these prayer words.

For further reflection:

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You . . .” (See Psalm 56, especially verses 3-4a).

“My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me . . .” (See Matthew 24: 36-46).


One thought on “Fear

  1. Fear can be such a stimulus of growth, and yet also paralyzing.
    Science talks of the body’s response to fear with release of adrenaline (epinephrine) as the “fight or flight” response. When neither of these are a reasonable option, we are stuck, and anxiety and worry are more often what we feel.

    Recently, scientists have examined the issues more deeply, and found (not surprisingly) that the hormonal responses differ form males and females. Women secrete epinephrine as men do, but additionally experience a powerful release of oxytocin. this is the hormone that is released when nursing a baby, and tends to promote love and care-giving. Thus women experience, in response to fear, a strong urge to gather loved ones together and provide nurture and protection.

    when, in response to fear, I pray for faith and trust in God, I work to let go of outcomes, and simply trust that all will be well. It feels like the letting go that I first experienced when learning to ride a bike. When I struggled hard to control everything, I fell over every time. When I finally let go and focused on moving forward, trusting that I could do it and I would receive the support I needed, I was able to ride, and it felt like flying.


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