Facing fear in any lions' den

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Whether it's a global scare or just nagging anxiety, fear is not fun. But dwelling in the presence of God allows for fearless living. A painting by Briton Riviere in 1872 entitled "Daniel in the Lions' Den" shows Daniel as a model of life without fear as he stands before seven lions.

As the Bible story goes in the book of Daniel, Chapter 6, Daniel was one of three presidents that King Darius had chosen for his kingdom because of his "excellent spirit." Jealousy and hatred caused other officers to conspire against Daniel. Knowing of his deep devotion to God, the officers created a law, which they persuaded the king to sign, saying that anyone found worshiping anything but the king for the next 30 days would be thrown into the lions' den.

Daniel knew about this law, but "prayed before his God" anyway, as he always had done. He worshiped faithfully and openly in the presence of God and man, not out of spite, but because putting God first was the most natural thing for him, even at the risk of losing his life. Lying in wait, his conspirators threw him in the den.

Riviere's painting taught me something about how fear operates and how it is to be destroyed. In the painting, Daniel stands calmly before the lions with his hands tied behind his back. Truly, as the saying goes, Daniel's hands are tied - no fixing, rearranging, or manipulating this situation. But his hands are relaxed, perhaps indicating that he feels a higher power at work. What's different about this painting is that these lions' faces are almost caricatures of states of thought - feelings not normally associated with lions. The faces indicate to me that the real dangers Daniel is facing are fear, aggression, self-pity, and jealousy.

My eye is drawn to the largest lion in the center, standing frozen in fear while all the other lions seem to be protecting him or hiding behind him. It stands to reason that fear would take the lead in a situation like this, playing itself out as Daniel's fear for his life, the officers' fear of losing power, and the king's fear of the devastating mistake he had made when he found out what this law would do to Daniel.

The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Understanding the control which Love held over all, Daniel felt safe in the lions' den..." (pg. 514). Because fear is a conviction of the absence of God, the lion that represents fear is the one that Daniel is looking at intently.

I can sense Daniel's spiritual empowerment to stand before fear until he could feel God's presence in its place. This understanding led him to see that fear had no identity outside or within him to act or respond. False states of thought that don't come from God are literally, like the lions in this painting, backed into the corner with no power to act.

When fear backs down with nothing to support it, all the other so-called identities of a self separated from God have to back down as well. Daniel gave this fear no identity - not his own, not that of a jealous conspirator, not that of a lion. So there was nothing that could destroy or be destroyed. It was Godlike thinking that shut the lions' mouths, turned that situation around so that Daniel was not hurt, and enabled him to prove his fearless innocence in the presence of God and his fellowman.

I've never faced a group of hungry lions, but I have felt fear as palpable as an extra weight. My life wasn't in danger, but I was going to be performing alone - I had never done this before - for a public audience of several hundred people at a vocal camp after a week-long workshop.

Standing behind the stage before I was to go on, I thought, "I just can't do this." As I reached out to God in prayer, the image of God, Love, as the sun, came to me. It became so clear to me that the fear of messing up or not being good enough couldn't shade the full light of Love's presence at this performance.

As quickly as that thought came, the fear drained out of me. Not only did I have a wonderful and relaxed performance, I was able to share these thoughts with another performer whose fear also vanished.

Fearless living may not come overnight, but it is possible to look the lion of fear in the eye and feel with conviction that God is here.

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