It is not fun to sit in an airplane seat, fearing every moment of a flight. There was a time in my life when I dreaded flying. At that time I needed to be able to do a certain amount of flying on commercial airplanes. But flying had become so difficult for me that, at one point, I occasionally took the train by myself over long distances to avoid getting on a plane.
However irrational this fear was, I was not alone in dealing with it. Although flying on commercial airplanes is, objectively speaking, a very safe activity, many people still are afraid of it. Programs exist to help people conquer the problem, and they probably do help some people.
But for me, a power beyond that of the human mind was needed to assuage my concerns. I needed to develop a willingness to trust God’s care. My study of Christian Science had taught me a great deal about God’s care, and I felt that if I could understand it more clearly, I could find my freedom from fear. Mary Baker Eddy explained in the Christian Science textbook, “Nothing but the power of Truth can prevent the fear of error, and prove man’s dominion over error” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 380).
There is a great deal in the Bible, Science and Health and Mrs. Eddy’s other writings, and the “Christian Science Hymnal” regarding overcoming fear. The strong theme of God’s ever-presence guarding, guiding, and governing runs through those books. In my desire for healing, I prayed with many of those ideas, pondering them and trying to make them my own. The following verse about God’s ever-presence was one example: “I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” (Psalms 139:7, New Living Translation).
I found it helpful to acknowledge before stepping onto an airplane that the Christ, God’s tangible presence, was right with me, whether the plane was on the ground or at 35,000 feet.
Another concept that moved forward my healing was the idea that safety is a law of God. Safety in the air is ultimately not about the structure of the airplane or developing the human skill of the pilots, however admirable the diligence of the airlines is in this regard. Real security is about realizing the truth that we “live, and move, and have our being” in God, as St. Paul said (Acts 17:28); that our environment is spiritual, good, and trustworthy, not material. When we fly on an airplane, we can trust that we are under God’s control, not under limited human control.
Some people who are OK with flying most of the time find it challenging when the plane flies through turbulence, even if the turbulence is mild. During those times I have found it helpful to ponder the account in the Bible in which Jesus was on a boat and stilled the storm. The Gospel of Mark records that Jesus was asleep when a “great storm” threatened the ship (see Mark 4:35-41). The account says that Jesus “arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” I’m grateful to have experienced the cessation of fear when I’ve prayed for peace and calm on a bumpy patch during a flight.
Perhaps what was most healing to me was simply reaching out to God, when I felt afraid, and experiencing the presence of divine Love, which assuages fear. I’ve felt the truth of this wonderful verse in I John: “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear” (4:18, New Living Translation).
My healing of the fear of flying took some time. It came progressively, step by step, until I realized that I no longer dreaded flying. In demonstrating this healing, I am so grateful to have at least glimpsed the freedom implied in this hymn:
I climb, with joy, the heights of Mind,
To soar o’er time and space;
I yet shall know as I am known
And see Thee face to face.
Till time and space and fear are naught
My quest shall never cease,
Thy presence ever goes with me
And Thou dost give me peace.
(Violet Hay, “Christian Science Hymnal” No. 136, © CSBD)