Freedom from fear: a spiritual right

A CERTAIN amount of fear can seem inescapable. The worries of private life together with concern about volatile world conditions would have us accept anxiety as a natural part of contemporary life. Yet the Bible counsels, ``Be not afraid of sudden fear.'' 1 Bondage to fear is no more necessary than captivity to any other abnormal mental state, and we can find freedom through Christian prayer. Foreboding seems to be a normal response to threatening conditions--an unpleasant but legitimate emotion. But fear is not what it seems. In anticipating approaching evil, such dread insists on the actuality of a power other than God. It argues that good is distant or ineffective. It declares that God, who is good, is not sovereign in His universe. But precisely because God is supreme, none of these conditions have spiritual authority, and fear is not inevitable. Unsupported by God, it is basically fraudulent, self-created. On the other hand, dominion and peace are divinely sustained and can increasingly fill our thoughts. At one time I was gripped by episodes of fear. I supposed the fear was caused by a situation that looked alarming, and I struggled at length to extricate myself. My efforts were fruitless; the menace only appeared greater. Eventually I came to see that fear was deceptive. It first riveted my attention on a circumstance that it declared real and dire. Then it maintained that I might be destroyed by it. Finally it asserted that this was entirely possible because I was moving in an orbit outside God's l oving care. When I confronted the fear, not as an emotion necessitated by circumstance but as a mental state unnatural to God's children and totally fraudulent, I found that its supposed force diminished. And the circumstance that had loomed threateningly dwindled to harmless proportions. Freedom from fear is our God-given right. In reality we have never been afraid, because we have never been perishable creatures occupying a realm overshadowed by evil. Since God, good, is the great All-in-all, as the Bible implies, evil, whether it appears to be a harmful condition or dread of that condition, can have no foundation in spiritual fact, however terrible the evil seems. And man can never be cut off from God, whose image he bears. When we are conscious through prayer of our unity with God, our loving Father, we cannot be afraid, and we find these words of Paul to be true: ``Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.'' 2 Christ Jesus illustrated the spiritual depths that underlay his command ``Be not afraid.'' To him fearlessness was far more than tranquillity associated with placid material circumstances. In showing his dominion over laws of nature, in healing the sick and raising the dead, he demonstrated that the real man's identity is not at the mercy of either pleasant or ugly material conditions. Man in God's likeness cannot fear, because he is not subject to any phase of matter with its inherent peril. Even if fear seems deep-seated, it must ultimately yield to spiritual peace. Actually, the insidiousness and mesmeric tenacity that can make fear so tormenting point up how alien it is to God's creation. Certainly we can't ignore evil, and fear may point directly to an evil that needs to be dealt with. Yet both fear and the evils associated with it are unnatural, the products of a false, material sense of existence. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, explains, ``Fear was the

first manifestation of the error of material sense.'' 3 Every time we challenge fear, we challenge the basic belief that we are but frail inhabitants of matter, endlessly dodging one fear or another. And eventually we will demonstrate the full freedom from fear that is our heritage as the offspring of God. 1 Proverbs 3:25. 2 Romans 8:15. 3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 532.

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