Ã¢â‚¬Å“. . . fear is speaking, and we should listenÃ¢â‚¬Â (p. 37). ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the gist of chapter three. FearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most obvious message is that there is danger, but Welch hopes to help us listen carefully enough to get beyond the obvious.
After acknowledging that the world is full of real dangers, the author points out that fear speaks not only about our situation, but about us. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Something can be dangerous, but you can still be safeÃ¢â‚¬Â (p.39). When we admit we are afraid, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re saying not only that something is dangerous, but also that we feel vulnerable. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Danger points at the threatening world around us. Vulnerability points to ourselvesÃ¢â‚¬Â (p.40).
Welch goes on to observe that we often express our vulnerability in terms of what we think we need; comfort, approval, love, admiration, etc. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Whatever you need is a mere stoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s throw from what you fearÃ¢â‚¬Â (p.41). Both body and soul reflect neediness or vulnerability.
Linked to what we Ã¢â‚¬Å“needÃ¢â‚¬Â is what is valuable to us, or we could say, to what we love. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The cluster of things attached to fear is growing. What began as a study of fear and danger has enlarged to include God, control, need, love, trust, and being ruled or owned by something elseÃ¢â‚¬Â (p.45).
Finally, Welch points out that as powerful as all of these factors are, the specter of death and the afterlife can make them all seem trivial.
In this chapter, the author wants us to understand that fear does more than simply help us label whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dangerous Ã¢â‚¬Å“out there.Ã¢â‚¬Â Our experience of fear says a lot about who we are as individuals. As such it can give us insight into our souls and prepare us for the grace of God to be applied.
My own journey
I find this clarification that fear is saying something about me, not just about my situation, very helpful. There is something hopeful in it. If fear is only about what is external to me, then all I can do is hope to avoid the danger. But if fear is also something about me, then maybe there is a more satisfying answer.
I think it may also affect my prayer life. Praying that God will remove the danger (whatever it may be) is certainly legitimate. But I can also pray that God will increase my trust so that I am less vulnerable.
What are some personal illustrations of the idea that something can be dangerous and you can still feel safe?
How about the oppositeÃ¢â‚¬â€are their situations that are safe and still make you feel afraid?
What do you make of that observation?
Review some of your fears and ask: Ã¢â‚¬Å“What do these fears say I trust in? What do my fears say I love?Ã¢â‚¬Â