Facing the fear of SARS

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

The nightly newscast said that fear was spreading faster than the disease itself. Government and health officials all over the world are warning about SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and offering advice on how to fight it. "For SARS, fear is the central pathogen..." said Marc Siegel, associate professor of medicine at New York University (The Boston Globe, Apr. 5).

This echoes what I've been learning about the importance of getting rid of fear in my own life when facing physical ailments, no matter how large or small they may be. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, wrote: "The cause of all so-called disease is mental, a mortal fear, a mistaken belief or conviction of the necessity and power of ill-health..." ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 377).

I'm learning that eradicating fear is central to preventing or destroying disease. And I find that one way of getting rid of fear is to draw closer to God, Love, and admit that Love is always caring for me, protecting me.

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In the Bible the Psalmist talked about the defense and protection that come from turning to God as our refuge: "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence [disease] that walketh in darkness; ... There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways" (Ps. 91).

Mrs. Eddy pointed out the antidote for fear in an article she wrote called "Contagion": "A calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventive of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method; and the 'perfect Love' that 'casteth out fear' is a sure defense" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," pg. 229).

Fear is never God-given, and that's why we don't have to live with it. The Bible says: "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Tim. 1:7). We have been given power to rebel against fear, cast it out, be free.

Jesus never said that fear was legitimate. He often urged the people he healed not to be afraid, but to believe in God's power to save them. It didn't matter what the problem was - not having enough to eat, being in a scary storm, facing disease or even death - Jesus always had a spiritual conviction that God loves each of His children enough to deliver them.

Not long ago, I became ill with a respiratory problem. The flu season was particularly severe that year, and the newspaper headlines reported clinics overflowing with people seeking care. I chose to rely on prayer for healing as I'd successfully done many times before. I also called a Christian Science practitioner to pray with me for healing.

I never had the problem diagnosed, but the symptoms were severe. My lungs and chest were painful, and I had a persistent cough. But as I looked to God for help, I felt embraced in His love and care. Although I faced fear, I always felt God's love for me was more powerful than the fear. My prayers were not fancy - they mostly consisted of affirming God's love and care for me and therefore my protection from being ill, and of acknowledging my true selfhood as the image and likeness of God.

The turning point came when I saw that what needed to change was my thinking. I needed to stop trying to get rid of an illness and instead focus on listening more to the direction God was giving me. One night when I was talking to the practitioner, I felt this mental shift take place. I totally accepted the fact that my being was spiritual, safe, free, at one with God, and not caught in disease. Then, for the first time since I had become ill, I wasn't afraid of waking up in the middle of the night in pain; and I didn't. From that point on, the pain lost its hold over me because I wasn't afraid anymore. The next day the pain dissolved.

God's care for His children doesn't come and go. His love is always present, always available, and it destroys fear no matter how overwhelmed we may feel. Being willing to yield to God's love causes us to feel safe in any situation and brings healing.

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