Five Gospel Tips for Facing Our Fears

“Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12: 3-7)

Following our presidential election, many of us are fearful about radical changes in the future of our country. Some find themselves weeping or complaining, like Jesus when he looked down at Jerusalem. How do we move beyond these concerns, you might ask? How do we experience the peace of the Holy Spirit?

Fears and worries are part of an early warning system that alerts us to the possibility of an upcoming storm. These emotions then trigger our imaginations. Fear or worry is not the problem. The problem is getting stuck in a disastrous, or short-circuited, replay of the worst that could happen, that cripples us in our capacity to love. We need God’s intervention into our imaginations. We must invite Jesus to enter into our hearts alongside these unproductive fears and worries, since such an unbalanced state is contrary to the good news of Jesus Christ, doctor, healer, and Savior.

mom-in-ropes-copyBelow are five tips for working through fear and worry as a follower of Jesus:

1) Give yourself room to worry.
Set aside a specific time each day to worry (10 min.) Do it at the beginning or end of the day in a place you will not be interrupted. Then move from ‘ worry time’ and into  personal prayer time, by calling on Jesus.

2) Tell yourself the truth.
Keep a journal of your worries: the details, and the possible outcomes. Telling the truth keeps worry at a moderate level. Such a level of worry can stimulate creative solutions to your problem. Write whatever solutions occur to you in your journal, no matter how wild or impossible they seem right now. You might also consider reading From Fear to Faith: A Worrier’s Guide to Discovering Peace by Gary Zimak.

3) Vocalize the things that cause you to fear.
Worry can ruin your sleep and turn your dreams into horror movies. Try to pinpoint the exact triggers of fear and worry. Share your fears with someone you can trust (who has a sense of humor).  And listen to your friend’s fears, as well.  Then ask, “What is the worst that could happen?” Listen to the details. Avoid unsolicited advice, but ask if you might pray a simple prayer with them.

4) Avoid extreme, paralyzing fear.
Break the train of worried thoughts by focusing on your surroundings. Describe the room you are in, what’s on a desk or a table near you? What do you see out the window? Breathe deeply and relax your muscles. Use your normal resources to moderate fear: proper exercise, proper eating, hobbies, adequate sleep, and daily personal prayer (15 to 30 min. to start).

5) Visualize transformation through Jesus.
You are like a poet, artist or prophet who has the sensitivity to spot problems, and to dream the dreams that will transform the problem. Take time to face the worrisome reality and see Jesus, walking toward you across the churning waters of your fears, saying, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” (Mark 6:50) Visualize what Jesus would do next for you.

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Before You Enter the Voting Booth

Psychologists tell us that many are suffering from anxieties raised by the tenor of this year’s presidential election. Whether you feel like you are drowning in a sea of confusing emotions, or infuriated by media soundbites, political views of friends, or the qualifications of candidates, here is a poem and an exercise for you.

p1050067Step One: For those who are overwhelmed by a sea of emotions:

Lord Jesus,

we are drowning in the storm

of this election season.

We are being plunged

Under the turbulent waves

of the turbid lives of our candidates.

Each day a new tsunami

of recrimination and accusation slams us

and we are drowning.

Send your Holy Spirit to us,

wash over us,

purify us,

renew our hearts

so that we sink no more

beneath the betrayal and corruption

of our own faults and those of others.

Help us arise and walk across the flood

into your loving arms. Amen.

 

img_8888Step TWO: For those who feel angry or attacked:

Remember, clear-headed thinking about important decisions, like voting, requires peace of mind and a willingness to forgive others who seem to block God’s mercy in your heart. So take a closer look at your reactions.

A.  Imagine someone whose action makes your blood boil, so that you feel like reacting in a very physical way. Now think of yourself as reaching for an imaginary tool that you might use as a weapon. What would it be?

  • Saw (to cut off the relationship)
  • Hammer (to insist on what you want)
  • Pliers (to hang on for dear life)
  • Screwdriver (to pin down the other person)
  • Another tool…

B.  What would it be like for you to respond with this imaginary way? How would you feel? What would happen next?

C.  Lift up your imaginary tool or get a real one and lift it up to God as you pray: “Lord Jesus, I have wanted to harm others with this ______. I am sorry, and I ask your forgiveness. I trust in the Father’s mercy for me, for those I feel offended by and for our country. I promise to seek forgiveness and peace in whatever ways you lead me. Amen.”

Excerpted and adapted from Mending Broken Relationships: Building StrongOnes by John and Therese Boucher

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Lessons I Learned from World Youth Day by Allan F. Wright


dscf3436Before World Youth Day:
The people at the International Center for Evangelization in Krakow, Poland, offered training for those interested in evangelization during the week before World Youth Day in July 2016, hoping to draw off the crowd of 3,000,000 pilgrims who would attend. And so they did! Over 1,500 young evangelizers came from 30 different countries came to this training. Songs of praise would be sung each morning and then a different Cardinal or Bishop would preside at a lively liturgy. The music ministry was composed of 50 young adults and the strings, horns and choir focused everyone on Christ the way good music can. A tent for Eucharistic adoration was also set up and free time for building relationships.

On the third day the formal evangelization training program began. Each evening the “kerygma” (basic message of the Gospel) would be presented and a different speaker from around the world would share their personal testimony to conversion to Christ. Then there would be a teaching on one aspect of the Creed. My responsibility was to explore the line of the creed that states; “I believe in Jesus Christ.” My focus was on the verb “to believe” which is not only an intellectual ascent to a belief but an active living out of a relationship with a person, namely Jesus and what that entails in our everyday lives. In regards to evangelization, while there is no perfect program, there is the perfect person… JESUS.

Mini-witness sites: After morning Mass the 1,500 would divide up to predetermined places in the city and share their witness stories with people they met, ask if anyone desired prayer, or begin a conversation about Jesus. There were five stages set up in the city at various locations in which mini-concerts were held and then people like myself, would share our testimony of God’s love for me through Jesus. As the number of pilgrims to WYD arrived, more and more people heard the good news proclaimed through music, prayer and personal testimony.

Lessons: Our assumption was that people coming to a religious event or even a Sunday service have not necessarily heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. This was re-enforced. Here are some additional things I learned from this experience:

  1. When planning a large evangelizing event, we need to train volunteers beforehand in how-to evangelize event participants (i.e. practical skills), in both person to person and communal ways.
  2. We need to combine proclamation of the Gospel message with people’s personal stories of how they have met Jesus Christ in a personal way.
  3. Never let an opportunity get away when I can share Christ in everyday life.

 

Allan F. Wright is Academic Dean for Evangelization, Diocese of Paterson, NJ, at St. Paul Inside the Walls, Madison, NJ. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Seton Hall University and the author of many books including, Jesus the Evangelist: A Gospel Guide to the New Evangelization (Franciscan Media).

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