Fear feels like one of the those very ‘real’ words, a word that when spoken about conjures up memories of our darkest days or points towards our darkest concerns. Fear is such a powerful word, I think many of us will do all we can to avoid fear, even discussing the topic!
The reason fear has been on my mind lately isn’t because I am fearful, although if I really thought about it no doubt there would be things that come to mind. No my reason for wanting to talk about fear is because I feel it is currently dominating not only the media but our lives as well. Now I am not saying that your fear is not valid or indeed real, what I would like to consider is how we balance out the reality of fear with the ‘even more real’ possibility of hope. We read the news and there are difficult things happening in the world, things which we need to know about and of course become educated about and where appropriate, get involved. But I wonder whether fear has become the ‘norm’, has it become so all-consuming that it has stopped us from seeing and holding onto the hope that is out there.
Do we fear things that have happened to us or things that could happen to us? Fear moves in the shadows and seeks to pounce on us when we are at our weakest. I sometimes think fear is an animal that gets fed by our worries and then grows into something bigger than it should be, something we let get out of control and then we find we cannot overcome it.
I believe the media, in all its forms, can sometimes feel like it is pouring petrol on an already raging fire. I think we are all aware of the difficulties we are facing in the world! But to be so constantly bombarded with the very worst that is happening without equally portraying the very best, without sharing the hope that is out there, is frankly irresponsible and actually hugely damaging.
I’ve always been quite confrontational in my attitude, not that I go out seeking it but I like a battle, I like to have a ‘enemy’ I can see and face. At the moment I believe the enemy is more than a virus, I believe it is fear. So my strategy and weapon at this time is hope, it sounds simple, almost a little weak, but it is not, it is something powerful and tangible that all of us can grasp and use to stabilise our hearts at this time.
“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
Psalms 94:18-19 NIV
Hope should be sought out, stories of good news shared and highlighted. If only the media could use their significant power to share stories of hope, I believe it will enable many to journey through these difficult times. To have something solid to hold onto, to look forward to, to believe is happening, is vital to us overcoming fear.
There are stories of hope out there, stories of people bringing light, love and hope into incredibly challenging situations. Whether we need to hear that almost 4 million people have recovered from Covid-19, or that 1000’s of people are marching to speak up about the sickness that is racism, or whether it’s that churches and organisations are feeding hundreds of people in need each week, or that countries have worked together to raise over £7 Billion to find a vaccine to fight Covid-19. Even closer to home I am seeing acts of love and kindness on a daily basis, now many of these were happening long before the virus but it does seem that people have raised their game during this current crisis, this is the hope we should hold onto; that we can overcome, that we can reach out to those in need and that we can become better versions of ourselves.
The excellent film ‘Shawshank Redemption’ had the tagline “fear can hold you prisoner, hope can set you free.”
Never has this been more true and it echoes so much of what the bible speaks about time and time again. We should not allow fear to be the driving force in our lives and be a controlling factor in our behaviour and choices. Instead, we embrace hope, we speak of hope, we live hopeful, we become hope to those who are consumed by fear. The writer Marianne Williamson said this “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I love the word ‘liberate’ – to set someone free! During this time of challenge and darkness we need to be people who strive to speak of hope, to be fully present. Psalm 94 speaks about this ‘presence’, the fact that even within anxiety and a sense of being unstable, God is present. The ‘consolation’ that the verse speaks about isn’t a secondary gift but another word for the Holy Spirit, for the very presence of God to dwell in us and support us when we are unstable, unsure or struggling.
In the same way that the word fear has a power, I believe that the word hope has an even greater power. As a light can eradicate darkness so hope can eradicate fear. The word hope makes me want to shout and dance and celebrate because it is a victorious word. Where fear is grey, hope is bright and multi-coloured, where fear suffocates, hope breathes life, where fear restricts and chains, hope brings freedom; wide, open, life-giving freedom.
Let us be people of hope, because…
…“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Psalms 46:1-7 NIV