AS a late-blooming downhill skier, I approached my first day of the season with trepidation. Although I had gained a little competence in two previous seasons and loved the sport, I had also experienced a lot of things that can go wrong. So I was very uneasy that morning on the way up the hill to start my runs.
I worried: What if I don't have enough stamina after a whole year with no practice? I'm too old to have taken up skiing in the first place! What if I hit ice? Or another skier gets in the way? On and on went the gloomy litany. But at least I knew what to do. Pray.
I was sure that God can protect us from harm in any situation. Still, it would be foolish to ignore warning signals and plunge willy-nilly into danger. I noticed, however, that my list of "what ifs didn't include any danger that I was actually in. In fact, I was in no danger whatsoever --except what I was making up for myself.
I reasoned that since God can protect me from real danger, He could certainly keep me from being frightened by these imagined possibilities. I began to yield to the absolute truth that because in reality man is spiritual, is the image and likeness of God, as the Bible tells us, the true, spiritual existence of you and me and everyone is protected and governed by our loving Father, God. God's children, His perfect ideas, always have everything they need, every moment--no matter how dire the human conditio n may be.
In Isaiah we find what for me is one of the most reassuring passages in the whole Bible. It was the perfect antidote to my made-up fears: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Since God is right here with me, helping me, upholding me, I reasoned, there's no excuse for being afraid of imagined troubles. I saw that no false, baseless fears could deprive me of my confidence or interfere with the God-given grace and dominion that belong to man as God's likeness. Although God certainly knows nothing about material things like ski runs, He does know about the completeness and perfection of His creation. And trusting acceptance of this completeness brings our human experience into cl oser and closer coincidence with divine reality.
Think how Christ Jesus repeatedly assured his disciples of the presence of divine reality. For instance, Matthew tells us of the time the disciples were in a boat and the Master came walking toward them over the sea. Jesus bade Peter come to him across the water. Peter started, and at first succeeded. But when he looked at how furiously the wind blew, he became afraid and began to sink. And then, as the Bible account goes, "Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of litt le faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And not only was Peter saved from the effects of his fear, but the Bible points out that when they reached the ship, "the wind ceased.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, wrote a poem that has been set to music in the Christian Science Hymnal. One stanza, which I found myself humming that early ski morning, went right along with the passage from Isaiah quoted earlier. It reads: "False fears are foes--truth tatters those, / When understood.
All too often (like Peter) we rob ourselves of success in some right endeavor by letting false fears destroy our confidence. There are literally endless fear-causing images that can try to threaten our well-being by making us afraid to go forward at all!
But whatever their nature, we never need to give in to fears of any kind when we realize that man made in God's image--the real being of you and me and everyone --has the spiritual authority to reject such fears. When we keep our thoughts filled with conviction of this God-given spiritual authority, there's no room for false fears --which are not real because they are no part of God's spiritual universe. We can be certain that as we humbly pray for God's guidance and then listen to what He tells us, we w ill always know the difference between wise discretion and needless concern over made-up troubles.
Incidentally, my prayers that first ski day were joyously answered, and I skied freely and without incident. So if you've been making up things to be afraid of--even some that didn't seem so "made-up--you can stop being afraid. God loves you. He cares for and protects you. He provides everything you need. And He's right here.
When the servant of the man of God
was risen early, and gone forth,
behold, an host compassed the city
both with horses and chariots.
And his servant said unto him,
Alas, my master!
how shall we do?
And he answered, Fear not:
for they that be with us
are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said,
Lord, I pray thee,
open his eyes, that he may see.
And the Lord opened the eyes
of the young man;
and he saw: and, behold,
the mountain was full of horses
and chariots of fire
round about Elisha.
II Kings 6:15-17