I am Afraid, Lord
by Fr. Jack McArdle
Lord Jesus, I'm afraid, and fear is something that seems to be part of my life. I have all kinds of fears, from being scared of living to being afraid of dying. I want to tell you about my fears, because no one else could really understand, and, anyhow, I myself don't even understand some of my fears. I experience fear as something that cripples me at times, that bothers me at others, and that seems to lurk within my spirit most times. I cannot always put a name on my fear. Sometimes it's nothing more than shyness; at other times it feels like a knot in my stomach that halts me in my tracks, and prevents me enjoying the day I have been given for living, or the experience I am offered to enjoy.
I'm afraid of change, not sure what is lurking around the next corner. I'm afraid of making decisions, of making commitments, or of letting go of control. I'm afraid of pain, of sickness, and I'm always afraid that I'll break down, crack up, or lose all sense of security. I find it difficult to relax, to throw discretion to the winds, or to take risks. This is what gives me a feeling that I'm afraid to really live, to give life my best shot. I'm afraid of what others might think of me, of what others might say about me, of how others might see me. There are times when I feel like a rabbit caught in the head-lights of an on-coming car, of a baby being immersed in a bath, or a child passing a grave-yard at night, on a lonely country road. The fear seems to cling to me, to haunt, to mock me. What makes it worse is that I can't speak to others about alot of my fears, for fear of what they might think of me. It is as if the fear is self-perpetuating, continually regenerating itself. If I run, it comes with me; if I hide, it is waiting for me; if I try to ignore it, it seems to bully me into reminding me of its presence.
I'm afraid of myself, because of my weaknesses. There are times when I cannot trust myself at all; when, being alone with myself, I feel that I'm in unhealthy and dangerous company. There are times when I experience my own inner personal demons, and that scares me. I am afraid of the unknown, and I'm often afraid to think too deeply, because I'm afraid of my thoughts, which can be a very real source of my fears. I often experience the war that rages within me, and I'm afraid of losing the battle. I'm afraid to take on the demons, to name them for what they are, and to expose them to the light of love and of understanding. Sometimes I'm even afraid of love, because this might cause me to lose control, and it might cost me something. I can be afraid of the cost of being open and honest, and afraid of what I might have to surrender if I drop the mask, or lower my guard.
I'm afraid of authority in every form. The very presence of an authority figure puts me in a state of full alert. My fear expresses itself in many forms at such times. I choose my words, I assume a mentality of defense, and I feign total agreement with all that is being said. I experience my fear as being moral cowardice, and my behaviour as being subservient. I hate this in myself, and that feeling makes things worse. I experience myself as being dishonest and inauthentic, when I allow my fear influence my opinions, my ideas, and my beliefs. I don't ever want to be aggressive, but I certainly don't want to be a moral coward. This fear of authority oftens extends to people who have no authority over me. I believe them to be superior to me, so I give them an authority that does not belong to them.
Lord, I'm afraid of failure, I'm afraid of being seen as a loser. I have experienced so much of my own brokenness that I'm afraid to take risks, I'm afraid to step out and take control of situations. I'm afraid of choices, and I'm happier when someone else makes the choice for me. I opt out of situations because of my fears, and this brings yet more fear, when I consider the price I am paying through the loss of integrity, and of wholesome living. I'm afraid of time, because it just keeps passing by regardless, and I have no control over it. As each second passes, I am aware that it will never ever return. I fear the consequences of the waste of time, and I can get uncomfortable to find time on my hands. I like to work within schedules, and I like to meet others' expectations of me. I like to be liked, and I shudder at the thought of rejection and scorn. I'm always afraid of being different, and this fear often leads me into conformity, when I really don't want to conform.
Lord, I'm afraid of my emotions; I'm afraid of my moods. When I waken up in the morning, I'm just not sure how I'm going to feel today. There are days when I seem to hit an air-pocket, go into some sort of nose-dive, and life goes into a spin. There are days when I just want to go back to bed, cover my head, and tell the whole world where to go. Something happens inside that triggers off a sense of gloom and doom, and I feel I just don't want to face the world. It becomes a question of me and them.. I don't feel at one with the human race; I don't feel at one with myself. I experience a sense of dis-ease, I become restless, and I can't seem to settle. I know it is fear of some kind, though I cannot put a name on it. It seems as if some part of my inner self is unable to come out, and to meet the world today. Because this appears to be some kind of hiding, that is why I suspect the presence of fear. As a child, I was terrified of thunder and lightening. I monitored the clouds as they gathered and darkened, and I knew i t was getting to the time to pull the curtains. That is something like what I experience today. A dark cloud has descended, and I just want to pull the curtains. Leave me alone ; don't try to talk me out of it. It is not a question that I have this fear and this sense of gloom and doom, but it seems to have me. I feel hopeless, helpless, and powerless. This depression can descend out of the bluest sky, without warning, and, even when not present, I am afraid it may be about to descend, to blot out the sunshine I am enjoying.
I'm afraid of loneliness, Lord. I'm afraid of those empty hollow hours, when nothing is happening, and there is no one around but myself to cause things to happen. I can become frozen into inactivity, when I just sit with my fears, and hope they go away. When they have gone away, I'm afraid they will return. I'm afraid of what I might do at such times. I'm afraid of addiction. I'm afraid to abdicate control to some monster that might get beyond control. I can become fearful, full of fear. I feel caught on some sort of merry-go-round, and I develop a fear of fear itself. If it's not present now, then it's just around the next corner waiting to pounce. Lord, no wonder I turn to you now, and cry out to you. Quite often, in the past, I allowed the fear develop into panic before I called to you. Today I want to do something entirely different. I want to come to you with each and every fear I have. I want to name them, to acknowledge them, to share them with you, and to ask you to take them all away from me. From early childhood, I experienced a parent or a loving adult remove something that scared me, that filled me with fear. I have many individual fears, like dogs, darkness, flying, water, death, etc., and, while including all my fears, whatever they are, what I pray for now is the removal of fear itself from my life.
I'm afraid of responsibility, Lord, because that exposes me to failure. I'm afraid to have to take the blame, when things go wrong. I feel more secure within the flock than to have to assume leadership, to express initiative. I'm afraid to stand up and be counted on certain issues, because that might cause others not to like me. In today's world, where there is so much debate on controversial issues, I often remain silent, lest my opinion may prove unpopular, and I might draw fire from those around me. I experience how fear can make a coward out of me, and how such cowardice can make me dishonest. I have gone along with suggestions with which I disagreed, because I was afraid to stand up and be counted.
Lord, I'm afraid of fear itself. It can grip me in its control, and make me powerless. It can destroy a great deal of my potential, and greatly limit my ability to be effective. In my earlier days, I was taught to fear God. I didn't understand that to be anything different from the fear I would have towards evil or danger. My Religion had a great deal of fear in it. I often performed religious duties out of a fear of neglecting them. I often acted out of fear, rather than love. My obedience, my behaviour, my participation in community celebrations, were often motivated by a sense of obligation, rather than voluntary and spontaneous service. Fear of neglect, and the results of such neglect, in the immediate and in the long-term, were often my motivating forces. The rules, regulations, and laws always generated fear in me. There was a servility about my actions that was not very life-giving or inspiring.
Lord, I'm afraid of the future. It stretches like a long dark tunnel up in front of me, and I don't know what it holds. It can distract me from living and enjoying the now. Life seems to just move ahead relentlessly, with some sort of preconditioned force, and I experience my own powerlessness to control it. The aging process continues, and, with each day, I continue to experience evidence of that. I sometimes experience myself as walking into the unknown, like someone on safari in the midst of a jungle. I don't know what's going to happen next. I know that this is certainly not the way you want me to live my life, and that is why I turn to you now. Friends, relatives, associates have died on either side of my age, and I often wonder how or when my turn will come. This is one fear that I cannot dwell on, because it has the potential to cripple the rest of my life. I often question, and sometimes fear entering the unknown at the point of death. I fear that which I don't know, cannot understand, or am unable to control.
Yes, indeed, Lord, fear is very much part of my life, and it has the potential to be very destructive. There are times when I can clearly see just how crazy and unrealistic my fears can be. I try to reason with myself, to work things out logically in my head, to be as objective as possible. This works for a while, but then, as if out of the blue, that familiar gut-feeling returns, and, in no time at all, I'm in knots of fear. It is as if this fear of fear is lurking just under the surface, waiting for the right moment. I can't go on this way. There has to be something better, there has to be a better way. That is why, Lord, I'm bringing the whole lot to you today, dumping the lot at your feet, and asking "Please take away my fears. Please set me free from fear. Please enter my heart and my inner spirit, with a whip of cords, if needed, and rid the temple of my heart of everything that is not of you. Lord, from this day, from this moment, I ask you, please, to remove fear of every kind from my life...."
Thank you, thank you, my dear dear friend ; thank you for coming to me, and asking to rid your heart and your life of fear. The word fear is mentioned again and again in the Gospels. The first time the word appears in the Bible is immediately after Adam and Eve fell for the lie in the Garden. 'They hid, because they were afraid'. That is the first mention of the word 'fear' in the whole story of creation, and redemption. Satan is the father of lies, and he has been a liar right from the very beginning. Part of his technique is to put fear where there is nothing to fear. To do so is to deceive, to tell a lie. I came to set you free, so that, in the words of Zachary, the father of John the Baptist, "free from fear, and saved from the hands of your foes, you might serve the Lord in holiness and justice all the days of your life". Fear is an enemy, it is part of the techniques for bringing dis-ease into the soul, and making you unhealthy. "Fear not. Be not afraid. Why are you fearful, you of litle faith?" The Gospels are littered with such phrases. It would be worth your while sometime to check this recurring theme throughout the Gospels, so that you might all the more be convinced how central to my mission of salvation and redemption is the eradication of fear from the human heart. I want to fill you with my love, and love and fear cannot co-exist in the same heart. In his first letter, St. John summarises this whole question in words that you should write out, reflect on, and even memorise. "God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. ....So we will not be afraid on the day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence.....Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not yet been perfected in us."
Thank you for coming to me with all your fears. Of course, I want to rid you of those fears. I came that you should have life, and have it more abundantly. You cannot have full life, and be riddled with fear at the same time. Fear, in itself, is not an evil. It is part of the instincts of human nature, and is greatly expanded because of original sin. My own mother, who was without original sin, was told by the angel "Be not afraid", because fear is the most natural reaction to something unusual and unexpected happening. It is a painful emotion caused by impending danger or evil. My mother was not afraid in that sense. Rather was it a case of fright, which is a natural human reaction to certain sudden events. Fear is more than just fright, however. It is a disease of the soul ; it is something that usurps a place that is created for love. It is an intruder into the temple of love that is created to be a home for divinity, a place where the kingdom is to be established. Fear can make cowards of people, but fear itself is a coward. It is a bully, that runs when confronted with the truth which exposes it as the imposter it really is.
My dear dear friend, I know your fears. I watched your battles and struggles with fears for some time now. I so much longed to intervene, but I had to wait till you invited me. I longed to enter your house, like so many houses in the Gospel stories, ...the houses of Jairus, Zacchaeus, Peter's mother-in-law, or the house where the man was lowered on the stretcher. Once the door was opened to me, and I was invited to enter, I then had the freedom to work the miracle. It may seem strange to you to hear that there are very definite conditions that limit my power to do good in a soul, or to work a miracle in a situation. I will never ever intrude into a human heart, or a human situation. On one occasion, I returned to Nazareth, and I could not work any miracles there, because they didn't want me to be there. I am extremely sensitive to the freewill of the people concerned. I'm sure you yourself have come across people whom you couldn't help, because they would not accept your help. It is the same with me. If you cry out to me, I will respond immediately.
There is one point I want to make absolutely clear. I have overcome the enemy, I have the victory over this world, and all its evils. Full authority is given to me in heaven and on earth. When you invite me into your heart, please remember that I bring all that power and victory with me, and I want to declare and proclaim that victory in you. In other words, it's not simply a question of me coming into your heart ; rather is it a question that I bring that power and victory with me, to establish and to effect that victory within you. I came to establish the Kingdom of God, and I want that Kingdom to be within the hearts of my people. That Kingdom is based on love, not fear. Where my Kingdom is established there is no fear. The spirit of fear is overcome and expelled. When I establish my Kingdom, I put all the enemies there under my feet, and I proclaim the victory. I am the same yesterday, today, and always. The victory I establish and proclaim is an eternal victory, and when I overcome and expel fear, it is gone for all time. In your prayer, you opened the doors, and exposed all your fears. I have always been aware of them, and I have always been willing to enter in, and rid your heart of everything that is not of me. Thank you for inviting me into your heart.
I walked this earth just like you do now. I met many many people each and every day. I encountered fears of all descriptions. My constant word was "Fear not, I am with you". Where I am there is no fear, there is nothing to fear. When I encountered Satan, he was filled with fear, and he had every reason to be afraid. Satan is a bully, and he thrives on fear, intimidation, confusion, and conflict. I exposed him for the liar that he is, and I told him that his days were numbered. It is my role, as the Good Shepherd, to reassure my flock, to protect them, and to keep them safe from everything that might harm them, or cause them to be afraid. I declared my willingness to die for my flock, rather than let the marauders attack them, and fill them with fear. I was always ready to reassure the Apostles that I was near, and they had nothing to fear. I came to them on the waters when their boat was being buffetted by the storm. At the Last Supper I assured them again and again that they had nothing to fear, even after I left them. I asked them to remain in my love, and I assured them that the evil one had no power over them. Their names were registered as citizens of heaven, and, having prepared a place for them, I would return to bring them safely home, so that, where I am, they always will be. I promised to send them the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who would never leave them. One of the first effects of Pentecost was that the apostles came bounding out of that Upper Room, completely fearless, and free to be my witnesses. They had locked themselves in that room because of fear. Now they were free from fear, and, in their preaching and their writing they declared that one of the fruits of redemption is freedom from fear.
I see fears in you that I know you have inherited. I now want to go back down the corridor of time, to where those fears began, and to wither them at the roots. Those fears are not from me, and I want to set you free. I want to loosen the grip that fear has established in your heart and soul, and to replace that with peace and love. I want to heal all the scars of mind and of memory, so that you can leave the past totally to me, and have nothing to fear from that past. There is nothing you can do that will change yesterday, which went away at midnight, and will never return. Only I can change, redeem, heal, and free your past. Please leave all of that with me, and let me take care of it. If you accept me as your personal Saviour, then I will take full control of anything in the past than needs healing, forgiveness, or freedom from bondage. If you imagine your past being a room, then, please come out of that room, and leave me in charge, so that I can redeem and reclaim it totally.
I see fears in you that have to do with your health, both physical and mental. Just pause, and think for a moment. If you let me into your heart, if you let me take over, if you turn all those fears over to me, surely you must expect something very definite and very dramatic to happen. I don't want you to have those fears. If it were my will that you should have these illnesses, then, you can be sure, you would have what it takes to grow through them, and to become a better person because of them. When they fill you with fear, surely they are not from me. If they are not from me, then surely I want to remove them. I died for you. You are my very special friend, and I am your forever friend. It is certainly not my wish that you have fears that are not for your growth or for your good. When I make my home in your heart, do you seriously believe that I will allow those fears to remain in my presence? All I ask is that you let me be Lord in your heart, that you put me in charge of all those things that are beyond your power to control. Don't forget, if you were the only person on this planet, I still would have come to redeem you, and to set you free. I work and think in a very personal way, and so, I am able to give you my full attention at every moment of every day. Again and again I have assured you that I would never abandon you, or leave you in the storm. I am with you always, and I will be with you until the end of time, until you are back with my Father, free from fear, free at last.
I see your fear of others, whether it be those in authority, those with a decision-making role in your life, or simply those whom you consider can harm or hurt you. Please remember where all authority and power lies. It is within your heart, and you need never give another human being power over you. There are chores, tasks, and undertakings that are part of your everyday life. I want to be part of every single one of these, and I want you to know that I will be there with you, and for you, every step of the way. Look inwards, before you look outwards. The only real security in your life is within yourself, and don't ever seek security in anything or in anyone but me. Remember that I live within the heart of the other person also, and I will never permit anything happen that, together, we will be unable to handle. I will never lead you where my grace and my Spirit will not be there to see you through.
I am very conscious of your fears about the future. The future is something that is totally unknown to you, but it is not unknown to me. You need never fear what the future holds, if you allow me hold the future. Your future is in safe hands, if you leave it in my care. "Who do you say that I am?" is one of the most important questions I have ever asked. If you allow me take over that room of your past, then you are accepting me as your Saviour. If you entrust to me that room of your future, then you are putting me in charge, and allowing me be Lord. And that leaves today, where I ask you to accept me as God, and stop trying to do things, control things, arrange things that only God can do. In a very real way, you have to stop playing God! I will become God in your life the very moment you step out of the way, and let me be God, for whom nothing is impossible.
I now want to bless you. I place my hand upon your head. I use my power, my victory, and my authority, and I bind within you all the fears, the anxieties, the phobias, and the worries. I breathe my Spirit into you, yet again, to fill every corner of your heart, and I entrust to the Spirit the task of reminding you, again, again, and again, that you have no reason to be afraid, because I am with you ; the Father is with you ; the Spirit lives you. You are a citadel, a stronghold of God, and nothing, but nothing, can harm you.
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It's Me Again, Lord... copyright © 2004 Fr. Jack McArdle. All rights reserved.