Help stop the spread of fear
Originally appeared online in the teen series: UpFront - March 10, 2020
At my friend’s high school, some students have been wearing surgical masks for weeks. Even the announcement that the masks won’t actually protect them hasn’t really changed anything.
“People are afraid,” my friend told me. “The masks give them a feeling of safety.”
It might seem natural to feel afraid when words like contagion, pandemic, and quarantine are floating around. I’ve even heard people argue that fear can be helpful—motivating us to take action to protect ourselves. But actually, fear can distort our view of what’s going on and inhibit our ability to think clearly by inciting panic … or paralysis. The experts agree, and many have taken to social media to try to calm people’s fears with reassurances and facts.
That’s why, if you’re looking for a way to take action right now, the best thing you can do is to help stop the spread of fear. Where can each of us start? With ourselves.
I learned a lot about the Bible from attending the Christian Science Sunday School, so I’ve been familiar for a while with the Bible passage that records God as saying, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1, Good News Translation).
It wasn’t until recently, though, that I realized that this passage isn’t just a command not to be afraid; it’s also a how-to. We don’t have to be afraid—in fact, we can actually withdraw, pull back, from any fearful thoughts or feelings that try to rush in—because fear doesn’t come from God. And whatever doesn’t come from God has no substance or authority.
God doesn’t make us afraid; God tells us we’re safe, that we’re His—supremely loved and cared for. And He guides us to experience that safety-providing love and care. Fear may temporarily overshadow these messages of comfort and safety. But we can disengage from fear by opening our thoughts to God. We can begin by saying no to fear and yes to the stillness that allows us to hear God—and find that the healing, saving ideas that God gives are actually right here with us.
And these messages have power. They’re not airy-fairy ideas that sound nice but aren’t practical. They’re demonstrable. They heal. I know because they healed me.
I was with some friends on a ski trip and had a key role to play in the weekend. But the day we left, I’d been around someone who had a cold, and our first night away, I felt cold symptoms of my own coming on.
Was I afraid? Yeah, I really was. I didn’t want to miss out on the fun, or let everyone down by getting sick. I couldn’t seem to shake the fear that I wasn’t going to be able to help out the way I’d promised I would.
I’ve had lots of healings through prayer, so I began praying right away. But after about 15 minutes of doing my best to understand more about God’s all-power, I noticed something interesting: My focus was divided. I would pray, but then, out of the corner of my mental “eye,” I’d look at the swirling, fearful thoughts of being miserable for the whole weekend, or of disappointing people, to see if they had a little validity after all.
That wasn’t going to work! I realized I needed to shut the door completely on those fearful thoughts so I could open it all the way to God. This wasn’t about ignoring something. It was about turning away from the thoughts that were pulling me deeper into an unproductive place of fear, worry, and concern so I could feel God moving me in a constructive, strengthened direction instead. And you know what? The moment I did that, not only did the fear disappear, but I was completely healed.
I was so grateful to be able to have fun and help out that weekend. But the main thing that stuck with me was the realization that every one of us is capable of saying no to fear and yes to God’s powerful messages of peace. The mental action I’m talking about is like if you were in a group of friends that were getting really upset about something and you decided to walk away. You, too, can simply turn to God, turn your back on fear, and “walk away” from those feelings.
And this helps not only us, but everyone. It’s like how you can feel the mood of a gloomy room change when someone walks in who’s in good spirits, because all of us contribute to the collective atmosphere of thought. So our own individual decisions not to engage with fear do make a difference in lifting the heavy cloud of fear off of our friends, neighbors, and communities.
We’re not alone in this effort. It’s God, divine Love, that empowers us to withdraw from feelings of fear so we can all feel more of what’s real and healing: Love’s ever-present message, “I am the Lord your God ... who saves you” (Isaiah 43:3, GNT).