A slave to fear?

The most recent issue of Time Magazine [June 1, 2015] included an article [p. 36] entitled “Bounce Back”, written by Mandy Oaklander.  She bases her article on the work of Dr. Dennis Charney and Dr. Steven Southwick.   She writes that “Resilience is essentially a set of skills –as opposed to a disposition or personality type — that make it possible for people to not only get through hard times but to thrive during and after them.  Just as rubber rebounds after being squeezed or squished, so do resilient people.”

That’s good news, because humans get stressed far more than they realize.  The hot-and-cold boss, the traffic delays, the spat with their spouse, the monthly bills — these are registered as stress in the brain.  ‘The vast majority of us will be faced with one or more major traumatic stressors during a lifetime,’, but the countless smaller stresses also take a toll.

St. Paul [Romans 8:14-12] teaches us that we “did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into FEAR, but we received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba Father!”

In the Gospel [Matthew 28:16-20], after Jesus send the disciples into the world to “make disciples of all nations”, he promised, “I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, UNTIL THE END OF THE AGE.”

OK – so, because Jesus is with us always — and in all situations — and the Spirit that came to us in baptism has freed us from slavery to fear, then there is no reason to stay in fear.  We might get afraid, but there is no ‘reason’ to live as a slave to fear.  We get hurt, but we bounce back.  We lose, but we are resilient enough to get up and try again.


There are two basic principles: [1] There is not one prescription that works.  Find what works for you.  [2] Very few highly resilient people are strong in and of themselves.  You need support.

The article lists ten tips for resilience:  1] Develop a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake; 2] Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened; 3] Try to maintain a positive outlook; 4] Take cues from someone who is especially resilient; 5] Don’t run from things that scare you; face them; 6] Be quick to reach out for support when things go haywire; 7]Learn new things as often as you can; 8]Find an exercise regime that you will stick to; 9] Don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past; 10] Recognize what make you uniquely strong — and own it.

These 10 tips are a classic statement of — God helps those who help themselves.  In other words, God’s grace and power is there for us all — and we have to DO SOMETHING and WORK to make the grace real and active in our life.

In my 65+ years I have dealt with ups and downs of health.  I have lived with and through conflicts with Church authority.  I have won and lost political battles.  I have walked with friends and family through tragic, painful times.  And yet, I am still here — and on most days — smiling and excited by what lies ahead.

A.  What are your/our core beliefs?  That life is good or evil?  God wants us to be happy or sad?  That the resurrection is for me and for everyday — or for others, and maybe at the moment of death?  How strong is my sense that God will see me through this situation?  Can things be good again one day?  Will my tears give way to a smile?  That God is real, deep in my soul — or up there in heaven?  Is God really with me until the end of this age, and the next age, and until the end of time?

B.  Who makes up my support team?  Who do I lean on?  Who knows the secrets of my soul?  Who are the resilient people I am willing to talk with?  How willing am I to reach out for support and advice?  Would I rather complain and sob, ‘woe is me’, or how easily do I create a plan to move out of this funk?

C.  What new things have you learned lately?  What new things have you tried lately?  What new thing am I planning to do soon?  Are there new people in my life?  Am I afraid to try new things because I might not like it — or I might fail at it?

D.  Is there an exercise routine in our life?  Walking?  Fishing?  Going to the gym?  Physical activities get the weary spirit moving — and re-focused.  Do I push myself to do something even though I do not “feel” like doing it?

Body, mind, spirit — all have to be engaged.  A positive attitude is a big part of moving forward.  But we need to take the hand of Jesus — and we need to crawl, then walk, then run.

The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of fear or slavery to fear.  We have been freed by the risen Lord.  We have been MADE resilient.  Now we need to believe it — really believe it — and live like we believe it.


About thegospelforliving

Retired Catholic Priest - now serving the community as a paralegal and charter school consultant.
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