Last night, Denzel Washington and Emma Stone won Screen Actors Guild Awards for outstanding actor and actress in a leading film role. John Lithgow and Claire Foy won for their leading television roles in “The Crown,” one of my favorite series of the year.
Over the weekend, Roger Federer won his eighteenth Grand Slam by defeating his friend Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open. Serena Williams won her twenty-third Grand Slam title at the same event. And the AFC defeated the NFC in last night’s Pro Bowl as Lorenzo Alexander and Travis Kelce were named Most Valuable Players.
Most Monday mornings, such news would be the focus of our attention. But not this Monday morning. Today’s headlines are dominated by President Trump’s immigration order, a technology glitch that halted Delta Air Lines flights yesterday, and a Sunday evening attack on a Quebec City mosque that left six people dead and eight injured.
Former Soviet Union head Mikhail Gorbachev is making headlines with an op-ed in Time magazine titled, “It All Looks as if the World Is Preparing for War.” He is deeply concerned about the militarization of politics and a new arms race and believes that “the burden of fear is felt by millions of people.”
Such psychological distress is not good for us. In fact, researchers now say it may increase our chances of dying from cancer, news that makes our distress even worse.
This weekend, I was thinking about the juxtaposition of fear and faith and was struck by the number of people in Scripture who found divine strength in the most perilous times. Name some of them with me: Daniel in the lion’s den, Paul in the Philippian jail, Moses standing before the Red Sea, Peter and John on trial before the Sanhedrin. You can add others. Each faced imminent death. And yet each found the faith to trust God with their fears.
What can they teach us today? Faith is a prayer God empowers.
Paul counseled us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Moses taught us to “be strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Peter advised us to “cast all your anxieties on [God], because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
God always gives us what we need to do what he says. The key is not to try harder to do better. It is to admit our fear and ask God for the faith we lack. Then God redeems our challenges by using them as conduits of his courage.
Erasmus noted that Satan hates nothing so much as for evil to be used for good. So let’s anger our enemy. Name the fears you face this morning. Ask God for the strength to trust them to his omnipotence. And know that your Father will give you what you lack to do what you must.
On the way to his martyrdom, St. Ignatius wrote to Christians in Smyrna, a perilous place to follow Jesus (cf. Revelation 2:9–10). Yet he could say to them, “I celebrate the glory of Jesus Christ as God, because he is responsible for your wisdom, well aware as I am of the perfection of your unshakable faith.” Their “unshakable faith” was a gift bestowed by divine wisdom.
Does our Father love us any less than he loved them?