Fear rears up in every season of our lives. Alice Fryling helps us see where peace helps us release it.
Facing Fear and Finding Peace
By Alice Fryling
Several years ago, when I was still in my young sixties, an older woman approached me after I spoke at a church gathering. She must have been ninety years old, with white hair and a curved spine. She looked up at me and said, “I am just so scared.” I was much younger than she was, and I didn’t understand. The talk I had just given was not about aging.
Looking back, I can see that she wasn’t looking for a reason why she didn’t need to be afraid. She was more likely longing for someone to love her in the midst of her fear. I was busy balancing my coffee cup and catching my breath from giving a talk I barely remember now. I also don’t remember the rest of my conversation with this very honest woman. But I have wondered about her since then. How did God help her in her fear? Was she able to draw close to God’s love and grace? And did she see love in my eyes, even though I did not know how to respond to her?
Now I know that this ninety-year-old friend was brave enough to express what most of us keep hidden: As we age, we come face-to-face with fear in a way most of us have not known before.
We have all been afraid at some of the milestones in our lives. I was afraid the first day I went to school, afraid when I started my first job, and afraid when we took our daughters to college. I faced new fears recently when we moved a thousand miles across the country at the same time we were advancing into the eighth decade of our lives.
Even though fear is a familiar companion, for most people I know, fears multiply and intensify as we get older. We fear experiencing more and more losses. We may fear illness or financial loss. We probably fear becoming vulnerable. Fear is very personal, and we experience it in unique and intimate ways. The learning curve is steep as we age.
How can we live well with our fears? We cannot ignore them. Usually we cannot solve the problems behind them. But our lives do not need to be fear driven. In fact, Scripture says that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). This verse is a reminder that God’s love can remove the fear of punishment and judgment after death. But could it also speak to our fears this side of death? The translation in The Message indicates that it does: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:18, MSG).
As we notice and respond to our fears, God extends mercy and grace and offers to transform our lives from lives of fear to lives of peace. Jesus said, as he wept over Jerusalem, “I wish you had known today what would bring you peace!” (Luke 19:42, NIRV).
We are invited, as we age, to learn what will bring us peace in this always-new season of life.
Alice Fryling is a spiritual director and author. Her books on relationships, spiritual formation, and spiritual direction have sold over half a million copies and are published in over ten languages. Her most recent book is Aging Faithfully: The Holy Invitation of Growing Older. She and her husband, Bob, are parents of two daughters and grandparents of two grandsons and two granddaughters. They live in Monument, Colorado. Learn more about Alice Fryling at www.alicefryling.com.