We fear what we don’t understand and can’t control.
Which begs two questions:
1) If I understand what’s happening to me, will my fear go away?
2) And if I can’t control the unknown, what can I control?
The future is scary precisely because we don’t know what’s going to happen next. And those fears are compounded if we have something truly terrifying happening in our lives: a loved one battling cancer, a teenager making poor choices, or an unexpected tragedy that’s left us without resources or protection.
The future is scary for two reasons:
1) Either we don’t know what’s going to happen, and we’re afraid.
2) Or we do know what’s going to happen, and we’re afraid.
But we don’t really know what’s going to happen.
And honestly I don’t think I want to know. If I did, I probably wouldn’t have the strength to move forward with my current reality. There’s a quote in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Dumbledore is talking to Snape, and he says, “Harry must not know, not until the last moment, not until it is necessary, otherwise how could he have the strength to do what must be done?” And this quote is important because from the very beginning, when we meet Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we learn that the dark wizard, Voldemort, is out to kill Harry. He’s already killed Harry’s parents and stolen a childhood that might have been filled with joy, young Harry surrounded by a family who loved him. He might have grown up warm and happy, with siblings and even pets. Instead, he was raised by a cruel aunt and uncle, mostly neglected, and certainly verbally abused at every turn. And yet, Harry continues to live (through seven more books!)—despite the fact that his past reality was kind of crappy and there’s a maniac with a death wish out to get him.
Like Harry, we don’t get to choose what happens to us. We must respond by going on living despite the scary stuff.
So how can we have the strength to do what must be done?
I’m a Christian, so it’s easy for me to say “With God, all things all possible.” And while that’s true, it’s not true in the way you think. Despite praying harder, having more faith, and giving it the ‘ol college, we still may find that some things remain impossibly out of reach.
But we can remain strong by staying connected to God.
Remember this verse?
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and In in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing….This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”—John 15:5,8
And it’s this fruit that is so important in combatting fear. Without it, I’d be a blubbering mess.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.—Galatians 5:22-23
When we say we want to know the future what we really want is the assurance that the future is good and that we’re going to be okay;.
Neither of those things might be true.
So how can we maximize the time we have in the present?
“Remain in me.”
That phrase is firmly grounded in the present. And here’s the reward, the Fruit of the Spirit. There is no fear in the fruit of the spirit—just love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
You may be lonely, frustrated, scared, paralyzed, and uncertain about what’s next, but what’s next is out of focus.
“Remain in me, and I in you, and you will bear much fruit.”
When we’re scared and we don’t know what’s next can we have more joy? Experience more peace? Practice more patience? Live more faithful?
I think it’s possible.
The root cause of your fear is part of a larger story, and all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You may not understand this messy middle until you get to the very end.
That’s what happened to Harry Potter. He kept going, even though it looked like he was walking straight into his own grave.
Sometimes the only way forward is through.
And remember, experience, no matter how scary or unpredictable or marked by hardship, is ever wasted.