When a popular talk-show host said recently that most of the choices people make are driven by fear, he really caught my attention.
I began to think, People do stay in jobs they don't enjoy because they're afraid of poverty or unemployment. Some of my college friends married people they knew were not exactly right for them because they were afraid no one else would come along.
The TV host has a point. But something inside me rebels against being driven by fear, even in little decisions. The thought of many people enslaved by fear strikes me as an issue deserving serious thought and prayer.
One of fear's basic slogans is "What if?" It's an invitation to speculate about scary prospects, about circumstances that don't exist at present but presumably could. Fearful speculation begins with un-reality - with conditions that aren't yet factual and may never even come to pass. What if is hardly an auspicious starting point in the effort to discover what is.
Biblical tradition includes two contrasting accounts of "what if" thinking. In Genesis 3, it's the essence of the serpent's words in the Garden of Eden: "What if God is holding out on you, keeping for Himself a really special treat, by forbidding you to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil?"
And in the New Testament, the devil tempts Christ Jesus with an invitation to speculation: What if God was only kidding when He declared, "You are my beloved son"?
Adam and Eve fell for the tempter's line, but Jesus did not. He said, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Luke 4:8). He refused to give in to fear of inadequacy and failure. He refused to speculate. His trust in God brought him through temptation and became a foundation essential to his healing ministry. A similar trust can guide our everyday decisions, too.
Fear focuses on the future. So one way to defeat fear is to concentrate on now. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation," declared the Apostle Paul (II Cor. 6:2). And Christian Science, which is rooted in the Bible, teaches that the perfection of God's creation is a here-and-now fact.
The physical senses discern these truths indistinctly; but to spiritual sense, which is natural to every one of us, Spirit and its expression are the only reality. The eternal life that is our birthright is pure, complete, and wholly good. God is always unfolding harmony for His sons and daughters. This state of being is permanent. Nothing can contaminate it. Conscious of this fact, we can live confidently in God's care right now.
A friend of mine used to say, "Act from love of good, not from fear of evil." No medical diagnosis, job market, work environment, interest rate hike, accident statistic, or political terror governs us and our lives, no matter how much they may appear to do so. We are governed by God. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "Entirely separate from the belief and dream of material living, is the Life divine, revealing spiritual understanding and the consciousness of man's dominion over the whole earth" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 14). This dominion casts out fear.
Deciding what to do is central to biblical theology, and shows up in its narratives. So many individuals in the Bible had to choose whether to obey God or give in to fears. Their productive lives illustrate the consequences of overcoming fear and encourage us to do the same. We can conquer fear in the very place where fear appears to be in control by realizing that God is right there all the time.
God never uses fear to push us along but rather leads us with Love. It's possible to rely on that Love as our never-failing help today. "God will always direct my way." That's the most important factor to bear in mind when making decisions.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.