How are we to deal with the phenomenon of fear in our lives? Large or small, fear seems to so assuredly find its way into every nook and cranny of life that even our hopes and dreams become infected by its presence. We are surrounded by fear, a dark cloud that obscures our vision and impedes our faith in Divine Providence.
Fear manifests itself in so many ways. But at its core, I think it amounts to a mere shadow, a vaporous emptiness that constantly weaves for itself a mask of authority and power. Or to put it another way, fear is like the icy breath of the Devil, fogging the glass through which the Lord's warm light seeks to shine into our hearts. Satan rejected the power to build up, so all he is now capable of is tearing down. He can no longer bring clarity to anything, so instead he sows seeds of confusion and doubt. In the end, because he refused God's invitation to be truly outstanding, all that is left is for him to stand out. He has become discord, error, negativity, and emptiness itself. He has, in a very real sense, unmade himself through the permanent mutilation of the divine image in which he was made.
Fear is, I think, one of the Devil's greatest tools, for if he can convince us that we are alone, that God does not exist or, perhaps an even more dangerous notion, that he does not exist, we will often enough inadvertently make the Devil into our god. One way or another, a surrender to fear is a surrender of our own being to sheer chaos, darkness, and empty despair. It never seems like much time passes before fear is there once more, seeking to unravel the work God has begun in me. Fear with uncountable faces: fear of adversity, fear of failure, fear of holiness. That last one might sound odd, but I think it's actually pretty common in the spiritual life. I often find myself fearing the cost that I must pay to follow Christ. Grace is freely given by God and eternal salvation can never be purchased through our own efforts. But that does not mean it is "free." It cost something terrible, the very life of our Lord. That means that if I am truly following him, truly allowing him to draw me ever deeper into his own life, Calvary is eventually ahead.
We encounter Christ in various places and at various times. Sometimes we meet him in happiness and lighthearted simplicity. However we must all at some point happen upon the slopes of Golgotha, and as we peer up to its dreadful crest we cannot but see the price that has been paid for each one of us - not merely for vague "humanity", but for you and for me for it is here that the transaction was made. It is here where the sword of our deliverance was thrust into the heart of the fallen world, injecting his life-giving blood into the depths of creation. We can never follow him and avoid the reality of suffering. He did not come to remove suffering from our lives, but to transform its very meaning. Fear only conquers those who reward it with the opportunity to do so. Nothing can ever diminish or change the reality of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The shadows of the Enemy can indeed obscure the vision of the fearful and disillusioned. But "love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:8) and God assures us, "my grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9). To his children, whom he instructs to be patient in all adversity, he also promises his ever present help: "And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left" (Isaiah 30:21).