These words come from articles located in the Ensign Magazine and my own thoughts originally written on August 10, 2003.
Isa. 35: 4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.
Isa. 41: 10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Ps. 27: 1, 3 THE LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
Fear is such a varied emotion. There are deep fears and subtle anxieties. We, as parents, may fear that our children will lose their way and never find the way back. We may fear the pain of losing someone we love deeply. We may fear the unknown or the unexpected. We may fear what we know to expect in the last days. We may fear trying something new, changing our lives (even if it is in more accordance with Heavenly Father’s plan), or the ridicule of others. That last fear, the ridicule of others is what may be holding most of us back from doing missionary work. We all know that we have the best news, the good news that is the gospel, but we allow what others may think of us as being more important than sharing Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation and happiness. Fear can even be an emotion that many people refuse to admit they feel.
Who among us can say that he or she has not felt fear? I know of no one who has been entirely spared. Some, of course, experience fear to a greater degree than do others. Some are able to rise above it quickly, but others are trapped and pulled down by it and even driven to defeat. We suffer from the fear of ridicule, the fear of failure, the fear of loneliness, and the fear of ignorance. Some fear the present, some the future. Some carry the burden of sin and would give almost anything to unshackle themselves from those burdens but fear to change their lives. Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith.
Why is fear part of earth life? Perhaps our Heavenly Father’s greatest hope is that through our fears we may choose to turn to him. The uncertainties of earth life can help to remind each of us that we are dependent on him. But that reminder is not automatic. It involves our agency. We must choose to take our fears to him, choose to trust him, and choose to allow him to direct us. We must make these choices when what we feel most inclined to do is to rely more and more on our own frantic and often distorted thinking.
Fear doesn’t come from God, but from the adversary. Fear is the antithesis of faith. Mark 4: 40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? God gives us power, love, and a sound mind as antidotes to fear. 2 Tim. 1:6-7 states: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
These principles are the great antidotes to the fears that rob us of our strength and sometimes knock us down to defeat. They give us power. What power? It is the power of the gospel, the power of truth, the power of faith, the power of the priesthood.
A mighty fortress is our God, A tower of strength ne’er failing. A helper mighty is our God, O’er ills of life prevailing. He overcometh all. He saveth from the fall. His might and pow’r are great. He all things did create. And he shall reign forevermore. (“A Mighty Fortress,” Hymns, no. 3.)
There is a mighty strength that comes of the knowledge that you and I are sons and daughters of God. Within us is something of divinity. The power of the gospel gives us the strength that comes from knowing we are sons and daughters of God. As children of our Heavenly Father, we can learn to be happy, to trust in Him, and to not be afraid.
In the children’s classic story The Secret Garden, the author tells the story of the orphan, Mary Lennox, who is taken to her uncle’s house, where she meets her cousin, Colin, who is a recluse. Even though there is nothing wrong with him, he is paralyzed by the fear he will become a hunchback if he lives, and he has convinced himself that he will soon die.
Mary Lennox is a lonely child who is determined not to be interested in anything. One day while walking on her uncle’s estate, she stumbles upon the key to the entrance of a garden enclosed by a high wall. Once she enters the garden, a transformation takes place. In working to restore the garden to its former grandeur, she experiences a freshening of her spirit. Colin is coaxed from his gloomy room into the garden, and the author writes this commentary: “So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his hatred of people who looked at him and reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring and also did not know that he could get well and could stand upon his feet if he tried to do it. When new beautiful thoughts began to push out the old hideous ones, life began to come back to him; his blood ran healthily through his veins and strength poured into him like a flood. … Much more surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has sense to remember in time to push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place. ‘Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”
Satan is our greatest enemy and works night and day to destroy us. But we need not become paralyzed with fear of Satan’s power. He can have no power over us unless we permit it. He is really a coward, and if we stand firm he will retreat. He has the power to bruise our heel, but we have the power to crush his head.
Heavenly Father will comfort us. Remember, the Lord has said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” unto the Father. “Fear ye not therefore” (Matt. 10:30-31). He knows us, He loves us, and He knows our needs. He will comfort us if we will only trust in Him and His goodness and wisdom.
The popular secular Serenity Prayer says “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
There are many things that we cannot change. We all have difficulties and disappointments. But often these turn out to be opportunities. The Lord can measure how strong we are by how we handle these difficulties in our lives. As the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
Sometimes the Lord allows us to have trials to shape us into productive servants. In our desire to achieve, we often fail to see that the Lord is trying to prune us away from false pride and vain ambition so He can teach us discipleship. His all-seeing eye is over us and ever watching us as our Eternal Heavenly Parent. When trials come, as surely they will to all of us during mortality, let us not sink into the abyss of self-pity but remember who is at the helm, that He is there to guide us through all the storms of life.
We can overcome fear and doubt, worry and discouragement through the sustaining power of love—love of the Lord, parents, family, friends, and Church leaders. D&C 68: 6 insists “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.” Deut. 31: 6 (6, 8) asserts “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
As we try to live his commandments and pray to him, there are things he will direct us to do that will help calm our fears. These actions often require great courage and direction from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost may help us to understand when and with whom we should share our fears. He will support us as we face our fears and try to do things that we have never done before.
A former Primary General President, Sister Michaelene Grassli said, when I was afraid my performance would be far less than those who had come before, and I would certainly be a disappointment to everyone and probably an embarrassment to the Church, it was comforting to me to know that I need only be concerned that what I do and say is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord.” Concentrating on pleasing Heavenly Father brings peace, a respite from fear and anxiety.
The prophet David said: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1.)
Vincent van Gogh, a famous painter, said, “I am always doing what I can’t do yet in order to learn how to do it.” A large part of conquering daily fear is simply doing things that we don’t know how to do—yet.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
As we concentrate on pleasing the Lord rather than others and continue to work hard, doing the things we don’t know how to do yet, we will experience personal growth. We will increase our confidence in Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. This faith assures us that in the end, we will not only survive but we will know great joy and happiness.
After the death of Christ, Paul was converted and became a great missionary. He had a junior companion, whom he loved as a father loves his own son. When we pick up their story in 2 Timothy, they are separated in their service. Timothy is lonely and afraid—being a missionary can be a fearful thing. Paul is in prison in Rome. He writes Timothy a letter: “To Timothy, my dearly beloved son. … “I thank God … that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; “Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears.” (2 Tim. 1:2-4.)
Isn’t that a tender letter? Pretend it is coming to you from one who is mindful of your tears.
Paul then goes on to remind Timothy of his strengths: “I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee.” (2 Tim. 1:5.) He reminds Timothy that both his grandmother and his mother were women of faith.
Think of some of the strengths that your grandmothers and mother have passed on to you.
Then Paul asks Timothy to remember to use the gift of the Holy Ghost: “I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” (2 Tim. 1:6.) Are you remembering that you have had hands laid on your head—that you have been given a gift? Use that gift to conquer your fears! And then my favorite part of the letter: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7.)
Are those just the things you want when you are fearful—power, love, the ability to think clearly? The power of a sound mind leads us to see that the gospel is simple, beautiful, and logical.
As we overcome fear, let us walk with confidence—never with arrogance—and with quiet dignity in our conviction concerning the Savior. “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. … Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” (D&C 6:34, 36-37.) “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love. …”
Love of what? Love for the Lord, love for his work, his cause, and his kingdom; love for people, love for one another. Love of God can bridge the chasm of fear. Love for the Church can also lift one above doubt.
I am grateful for the marvelous words found in D & C 93:36 that “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” And for the counsel given us to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom” and to acquire knowledge “by study and also by faith.” D&C 88:118
“And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. that which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:23-24.)
I wish we would ponder these words. They are wonderful in their promise concerning the great potential that lies within each of us and is an expression of God’s love for his sons and daughters. What have any of us to fear regarding our challenges and difficulties in life? “Only fear itself,” as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said.
Let us refer again to the tremendously important truths taught by Paul: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7.)
Then Paul gave his great direction to Timothy: “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” (2 Tim. 1:8.)
President Hinckley says “May this counsel be as a personal charge to each of us. Let us walk with confidence—never with arrogance—and with quiet dignity in our conviction concerning Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Let us find strength in the strength that comes from him. Let us find peace in the peace that was of the very essence of his being. Let us be willing to sacrifice in the spirit of him who gave himself a sacrifice for all men. Let us walk in virtue, and repent of our sins, and seek forgiveness. Let us demonstrate our love for him through service to one another.”
I pray we learn lessons of those who came before us, the prophets and teachers of the gospel. Those who have learned to live without fear, such as Abraham, Daniel, David, Job, Paul, and Joseph Smith. Let us heed the words recorded in the scriptures time and again to walk through this life without fear, but with the love of God. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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