Monday, August 11, 2008

Fear is the absence of love

By Jennifer F.
from her Conversion Diary blog

After a year of prayer, I finally found a fantastic spiritual director with whom I really click (just in time for this spiritual dry spell...coincidence?). When we met a couple weeks ago I was telling her about the "dark night of the soul" I was experiencing, and that a theme of this time period has been fear -- not fear like terror, or even fear of anything big like health or safety -- just the little fears that used to be part of daily life for me without God, but that I hadn't experienced since my conversion. I found myself fearful and worried about a writing project, a relatively small financial matter, some technical issue with my computer, all sorts of aspects of the future, etc. When I asked her what I should do, she thought about it for a moment, then her answer caught me off guard:

"Fear is the absence of love," she said.

She went on to gently suggest that when I find myself feeling fearful about a certain situation, I should ask: How can I pour love into this situation? And if I don't see an immediate way to do that, I should do some act of love, even if it's unrelated to the situation.

This advice was so unexpected. I never thought of fear and love as being particularly related. Though it sounded right, I couldn't quite figure out why it was right. I looked up one of the passages from the Bible she'd quoted, in Chapter 4 of John's first letter, and found that this chapter where John says "there is no fear in love" is also the chapter where he establishes that "God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him."

Then it all made sense. God is love, so to say that fear is a lack of love is to say that fear is a lack of God (not that he's not there, but that we are not keeping our eyes on him). This explained why this spiritual dry spell led me to be so fearful in the first place, and why the recommended remedy was to pour love into all situations that caused me fear. In the times when I felt God's presence so clearly, I feared almost nothing. It was relatively easy to turn all matters over to God and trust that he would work it out for the best, since I was so aware of his omnipotent presence all around me. But once I didn't feel his presence so strongly anymore, I felt like I was all by myself, having to control all the events of my life (and deal with their outcomes) completely on my own, trusting only in myself. It's a nerve-racking place to be. But to add love to a situation is, in a sense, to add God to a situation. And with God there is no fear.

This advice has worked amazingly well. At first it seemed like it wouldn't apply to some of the more mundane matters I had myself worked up about -- after all, how do you pour love into an insurance company dispute? -- but I've found that every single time, when I've taken a moment to think about it, I've been presented with a clear way that I can change my course to proceed in love. And, though I frequently fall back into a bad state of mind and have to go through this about five times a day, it has indeed been very effective in alleviating my fears.

It goes back to what Jesus and the bible remind us of over and over; "do not be afraid!" So easy to say but, most of the time, so difficult to do!