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Fear (and Love)

“Sin enters into mankind through death, and the fear of death is the occasion of all our sin and our slavery to that fear (Heb. 2:15). What does that mean? The fear of death may be quite literal. We might harm someone else so that we can escape being killed. But it may also result in our fending off death in more general terms. I might cheat someone because I fear what will happen to me if I don’t have everything I want. I might be violent toward someone else out of fear of not getting what I want. I might be cruel toward someone out of fear of having my feelings or privacy impinged on. I might ignore someone out of fear of experiencing someone else’s suffering. I might drown my sorrows in drink or indulge in gluttony to stave off feelings of lack. All these are forms of sin based on the fear of death.” (Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick)

“We live in a world that still longs for its redemption and remains all too subject to the fear of death, which fuels insecurity and anxiety about the host of challenges presented to us by contemporary culture and in our own daily lives. Those who believe that their ultimate meaning and purpose is found in their ability to advance a worldly agenda or attain a goal of whatever kind will always be enslaved to worry fueled by the reality of the grave. The more successful they are, the more they have to lose, as it could all disappear in an instant. That is true of our possessions and accomplishments, as well as of our own lives and those of everyone else we know, love, or view as our allies in any endeavor. Viewing the world in this way leads to fear, suspicion, and resentment and inspires anger, hatred, and even violence toward those we view as potential threats to our wellbeing. Inevitably, those who do so will see far more people as threats to be overcome than as neighbors to love.” (Fr. Philip LeMasters)

“What do you say to people who are afraid to accept the will of God in their lives? How can this fear be overcome? This fear can only be overcome through the experience of love. As the Apostle John says, There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear (1 Jn. 4:18). It is important to feel what Divine love for you is. And it is achieved by spiritual efforts and prayer, because through prayer and purification of the heart you acquire spiritual wisdom that allows you to understand these things. Spiritual experience and growth are needed.” (Bishop Euthymius Moiseyev)

“We need to be gentle with our fears and the fears of others. It takes time, prayerful dedication, and patient persistence in the life of Christ lived through the Church to get to that place deep in our hearts, deep in our being, where fear of death and fear of suffering no longer consciously and unconsciously rule our thoughts and behaviors tyrannically. Trusting in the Lord in all circumstances is hard. I can trace my own growth in this regard directly to the love of other Christians who went before me on this journey and shared the love of Christ with me even when that sharing was just being around them. They rubbed off on me so to speak. I still fear death in the sense of leaving loved ones behind and missing loved ones, but not without hope and trust in God and the bigger picture of reality beyond this earthly existence. It is a great source of comfort that is embedded in me now and goes beyond just wishful thinking.” (Sacramental Living Ministries) 

“God removes man’s fear. The works of God have no fear in them. A man might feel fear momentarily—it’s in our nature, but God takes this fear away from him. When God acts, there should be no fear. There is love, there is peace in the human soul, but fear departs.” (Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol)

“As children of the darkness that rules through fear, self-interest, greed, and power, our great motivators are survival and self-preservation. But as children of the light who know that perfect love casts out all fear, it becomes possible to give away all that we have for others. As children of the light, we prepare ourselves to become true martyrs: people who witness with their whole lives to the unlimited love of God. Giving all thus becomes gaining all. Jesus expresses this clearly as he says: “Anyone who loses his life for my sake…will save it.” Every time I take a step in the direction of generosity, I know that I am moving from fear to love. But these steps, certainly at first, are hard to take because there are so many emotions and feelings that hold me back from freely giving.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen) 

“…if we refrain from sin merely out of fear of punishment, it is quite clear that, unless punishment had awaited us, we should have done things deserving punishment, since our propensity is for sinning. But if we abstain from evil actions…because we hate such actions, then it is from love of the Master that we practice the virtues, fearful lest we should fall away from Him. For when we fear that we may neglect something that has been enjoined, the fear is clean (cf. Psalm 19:9), arising for the sake of the good itself. This fear purifies our souls, being equal in power to perfect love. He who has this fear and keeps the commandments is the ‘whole man’, in other words, the perfect and complete man.” (St. Theodoros the Ascetic)

“It does not take too much life before our own love becomes a source of vulnerability for us and we begin to associate our love and the love of others with fear and hurt. It just becomes too painful to love as we should and much too risky. It does not take too much time in this fallen world to create the dynamic where we cannot love without be plagued by the fear of it somehow going awry or leaving us. We then try ever so hard to try and protect ourselves by loving just a little bit less and increasingly keeping the score. Before we know it, our life becomes filled with relationships that have been paralyzed by the existence of a vast emotional “no-man’s land” that exists between us and others. A cold space where time stands still and we prevent our love from crossing. It is a barren space that is born out of fear and hurt.” (Fr. Joshua Makoul)

“A long time ago I found a wounded baby rabbit in my yard. I went to help it and it struggled to get away from me. When I was finally able to get a hold of it I could feel how much it trembled with fear in my hand; yet all I wanted to do was help it. Such is the way fear works on us. We often mistake that which is benevolent in its intent – the love of a friend, family member, caring professional, and God Himself. Fear clouds our judgment. That is why the Bible links fear and love in many of its passages. Fear renders us incapable of really knowing God’s love directly or as it is expressed through and by others. Fear of death and fear of harm are the worst because they cause us to try to control things beyond what we can control. We then actually open ourselves up to things that are harmful to us while striving to do the opposite.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“Love and fear cannot co-exist. Wherever there is fear, there cannot be love and wherever there is love, there cannot be fear. Healthy relationships are based on love. Dysfunctional relationships are based on fear. When you are afraid of someone, you cannot have a healthy relationship with them. There are people whose names pop up on my cell phone and when I see them, my blood pressure rises. That is because the relationship is based more on fear than love….We all need to continue to work towards relationships that are based on love and not on fear.” (Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis)

“Fear and the lack of love produce hypocrisy. We are smart enough to see what should be done, but we shy away from getting involved for fear of failure and rejection. Our fear enslaves and isolates us…Fear causes great damage to the soul…To be free of fear, our inner and outer efforts in the spiritual life must work together…Those who fear God perceive every event contrary to His will as an affront against the Lord Himself.” (Father Barnabas Powell, Elder Efstratios of Glinsk, Dynamis 10/5/2018, Dynamis 10/8/2019)

“If you are attracted to something through weakness, do not become faint-hearted and confused, but strive to correct this through self-reproach and confession, first to God the Knower of hearts, and later to your spiritual father. Let these passionate attractions teach you, through restraint, carefulness, guarding yourself, and through the fear of God. Entrust yourself to the will of God, and with patience wait for your fate to be resolved.” (St. Ambrose of Optina)

“The Lord Jesus assures us that not even a hair of our head shall perish (Lk 21:18). But note what often happens after an angel comes to quiet our mind and heart. While we may understand the potential of the word he brings from God, agitation and fear may still arise (Jgs 6:22). In the end, God speaks directly to Gideon (Jgs 6:23), but only after the weak man of Manasseh arrives at the firm knowledge that he has received a true messenger from the Lord, not a demon or a fantasy of his own making. If we cry out in our fear and hesitation, we discover that the Lord is not indifferent to our struggles. Indeed, Christ our God “like His brethren . . . Himself has suffered, being tempted” (Heb. 2:17-18). God speaks peace and dispels fear so that we may act. He prepares us to worship Him and to offer ourselves in His service (Jgs 6:24).” (Dynamis 11/8/2019)

“God quiets the fear of His beloved ones. The Lord bypasses the frailty and dread that clings to us, calling us, as His people, to greater works…The fear of God is when you love Him, when you truly love Him with all your heart and you strive never to offend or sadden Him—not only with your deeds, actions, and words, but also with your thoughts. You try to please Him in everything you do or say. That is the fear of God—the fear of doing anything that might sadden or offend our Parent.” (Dynamis 8/7/2019, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica)

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