RECENTLY I saw a story on television about a course designed to help people deal with phobias. The program showed a group of people who were afraid of flying, and the reporter stated that the best these individuals could hope for was to learn how to live with their fears, because they could not expect to overcome them. The story reminded me how I myself had overcome, through prayer, an almost paralyzing fear of driving an automobile. Is it really possible to overcome fear through prayer? It must be. The Psalmist sang, ``I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.''1 And the New Testament tells us that ``there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.''2
Some years ago I became very fearful of driving on an open highway or in large cities. For several years I left almost all driving to my husband, to the point where I seldom went any distance without him. Since we lived in a small town, I took care of daily errands easily enough, and I simply did not go alone to the large metropolitan area some miles away.
Although I vaguely knew this situation was wrong, I didn't do anything about it until circumstances changed suddenly. For a period of several weeks I was required to drive to that large city which I had avoided for so long, and I had to drive there alone and at rush hour! On the first day I felt virtual panic, like that so vividly described on the television program. I desperately wanted to pull over to the side of the road and abandon my car. But I knew that that would neither get me to my destination nor heal the situation. I had to overcome this problem.
As I continued driving, I thought about the statements quoted above from the Bible. And I also thought about statements from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. In one place she writes, ``The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, -- perfect God and perfect man, -- as the basis of thought and demonstration.''3 I had learned as a child in the Christian Science Sunday School that everyone's true selfhood is the perfect spiritual offspring of a perfect God. I saw that I was at that very moment under His government.
I had thought about mechanical failure. What if my car, or someone else's, malfunctioned? Yet all genuine power belongs to God and to God alone. I reasoned that my safety and that of all the other drivers and passengers was not truly dependent on material circumstances because safety lies entirely in God. I remembered published accounts I had read in Christian Science periodicals about pilots and drivers who, when faced with serious mechanical problems, had been protected through their prayers. Obviously, normal and proper vehicle maintenance is essential. But I knew there was ample evidence that prayer does protect in time of emergency.
I next turned my thought to the people around me, to those driving the other cars. I realized that as I claimed my own sonship with God, I also had to identify the other drivers as God's children, too. I saw that because we all, in truth, are His offspring, it is natural for us to express God-impelled courtesy, intelligence, and the ability to make proper judgments. I could see this not as a me-against-them situation but as a cooperative activity in which we were working together to demonstrate the ability to be where we needed to be in a timely, harmonious manner.
Another fear I had to deal with, less dire than the thought of accident but disturbing nonetheless, was the nagging concern that I would lose my way. I knew, however, that God was always directing me; that this was a spiritual fact I could prove. And I did.
The result was that before the end of the period during which I had to make these trips I found myself free from the fear of driving. Since then I have driven thousands of miles alone, including many miles in unfamiliar large cities. From time to time I have had to cope with storms, heavy traffic, and other less than perfect driving conditions. But the truths I relied on during this experience always come back to guide and protect me. And I can gratefully say that I now actually enjoy driving and look forward to the opportunity to travel by car.
Phobias or fears of any kind are not something we have to learn to control, to live with for the rest of our lives. They can be overcome as we learn to rely on God and on a spiritual understanding of His perfect care for man.
1Psalms 34:4. 2I John 4:18. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 259. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Isaiah 41:13