Why Put Up With Fear?

 

Gordon F. Campbell, C.S.B., of Santa Monica, California

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

For a short time, when I was a boy, I had trouble with the dark. The trouble wasn't really the dark, but Marley's ghost. It really wasn't even Marley's ghost. The trouble was a gruesome portrayal of it in a play based on Dickens's "Christmas Carol."

Marley, of course, wasn't a bad sort, but his ghost had a hideous face with lighted candles for eyes. It appeared on an otherwise dark stage. Its appearance and its voice made quite an impression upon a seven-year-old boy. I hadn't had the advantages of television. I wasn't conditioned to that sort of thing. So for several days, whenever I was alone in the dark, I had the anxious feeling that the ghost was about to appear. At first my fear seemed very real to me. Then, I began to think about it.

What was I really afraid of? I was afraid of experiencing again the first impact of seeing the ghost in the play. I saw that I was afraid of something which couldn't possibly happen again. As to the validity of my fear, if I had had a chance to meet the actor behind Marley's ghost, following the play, or if I had examined the costume, I'd have had no uneasiness about it. If I'd seen the costume before the play, I might even have thought it was funny. Here's the important thing. If I'd known the facts, I couldn't possibly have been afraid.

Don't all of us have Marley's ghosts of one kind or another that seem real to us? Some are responses to actual danger, some to fancied danger as was mine. What are some of the things we fear? We're apt to fear the unknown, the future, being socially unacceptable, illness, or destruction. Our anxieties apply sometimes to ourselves, or to those who are a part of our existence. Many of our fears are self-imposed. But more often something external convinces us that there are evil forces which can cause harm.

Would you like to feel that there's never any real reason to be afraid? That's what we're here for at this lecture. Fear serves no purpose. It's not inevitable. On the contrary, it's perfectly normal to feel an abiding assurance of good. Fear's the intruder.

What causes anxiety? For centuries people have been taught to be afraid of God. Some theological systems show God afar off, His subjects alienated from him, that is from good. They teach that man is basically lost, separated from God. If we think this way about God, we have a basis for fear.

Or sometimes advertising may persuade us that something distressing is going to happen to us. We may become socially unacceptable if we don't use a certain product. We may suffer pain if we don't use some medicine. The authors of such advertising understand what people most commonly fear. They make use of this fear to sell more of their product. If you look through the popular magazines or watch television, you'll find much advertising that is useful and excellent in tone and content; but you may also be surprised at the great extent of the appeals to fear. These fears have no more basis than mine about Marley's ghost.

Anxiety is based upon a belief that there is an evil or harmful power. Something's got to dispel this belief. And it's to this something that we look for our answer. Really, we're not here to discuss fear. It's a replacement for fear that we're interested in. We can't just push fear out any more than we can darkness. We need the facts which can dispel fear, as light dispels darkness. That's what we're going to talk about the facts. No one really enjoys being afraid. Why put up with fear when we can replace it with a quiet assurance of the supremacy of good?

To gain this assurance, there are two facts to acknowledge and one thing to do. If we acknowledge the two facts, we'll have at least the hope of gaining this assurance of good. If we do the one thing, we'll have this assurance permanently.

These, then are the two facts: first, God, good, is the only power; second, we are inseparable from God. And the one thing we must do is this: we must scientifically understand these two facts and make then part of our living.

 

God, Good, Is the Only Power

If we know the facts we can't be afraid. Remember, it's like me and Marley's ghost. So let's consider the first of the two facts, that God, good, is the only power. Perhaps the experience of a friend of mine will help us. This friend was an active, alert businesswoman, but she had a Marley's ghost.

Now I know that we tend not to be interested in each other's ghosts. Our own keep us busy enough. But my friend's seemed big to her. She was afraid of certain foods. She believed that it caused her great suffering whenever she ate them. She was becoming interested in Christian Science and hoped to be healed, but she hadn't as yet overcome this fear, nor the apparent results.

One day she was downtown in a large city, shopping. A short time after lunch she began to feel uncomfortable. Then she thought of something she had eaten that might have contained one of the ingredients she feared. And she began to feel much worse. With great difficulty she boarded a streetcar to go home. Then she thought, "This thing has troubled me for years. Right now I'm going to find out if God heals."

The only thing she could think of at the time was the Lord's Prayer. Most of you will remember that when Jesus' disciples asked him how to pray, he gave them this prayer. Since it is pertinent to our discussion, let me read it from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament (6:9-13): "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." My friend spent the half-hour trip home thinking about each of these verses. The last one meant the most to her "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever."

She had been studying Christian Science long enough to be aware of the spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer, which appears in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science gives the spiritual interpretation of this final verse of the prayer in these words: "For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and All" (p. 17). My friend was struck by the difference between this and the ideas about God she had long been familiar with. For years she had respected the concept of a good God who had good intentions toward her and others. But He hadn't always seemed to be at the right place at the right time. Now she found in the Lord's Prayer a larger thought of God "all-power, . . . over all, and All."

The earlier parts of the prayer had brought out that God is wholly good. His provision of daily bread, His forgiveness, all emphasized this goodness. "Why," he thought, "God is good and is the only power there is!" At this point all fear and discomfort left her. The first of the two facts I mentioned earlier had become clear to her, that God, good, is the only power. To her this meant that evil has no power. She was convinced that nothing really had any power to harm her and found that she could eat any kind of food without harmful results.

More important, even the tendency to be afraid was replaced by her assurance of the power of good. This assurance of God's goodness and power ever afterward strongly characterized her thought and actions throughout her long and active life.

 

A Higher Concept of God

Let's examine more of this change in my friend's thinking. She had been afraid because she had had a firm conviction of the power of evil. This conviction had persisted for years, even though she believed in God. Like many of us, she had grown up believing in a God who was supposed to know and perpetuate both good and evil.

She had come to believe that God could actually permit and support the presence and activity of evil. This concept of a limited, partly evil God was her trouble. The only source of good she knew of was not entirely good. She had believed that God's power was divided between good and evil. So with no pure Principle of good to rely upon, she had every reason to be afraid.

But her brief study of Christian Science had given her a glimpse of a far different idea of God. In Science and Health she had found this definition: "God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love" (p. 465). It was this glimpse of God's nature that had given her at least a hope of overcoming her fear. As she thought through the Lord's Prayer, she had become completely engrossed in this new, deeper understanding of God.

At the same time, she saw that, since God, good, is All, the evil which she had so greatly feared could be nothing more than the apparent absence of good, not a positive thing at all. Darkness isn't something; it's just the belief of in the absence of good.

She reasoned further that since God is infinite and supreme all presence and all power evil could have neither place to exist nor power to hurt anyone. She saw that God, good, is the only power. As she gained this fact, she lost the fear.

What are these two divergent concepts of God, a God unknowable, remote, and a God knowable, always present? What is their history? The traditional God my friend knew is much the same as the God of early Bible history. He was a distant God, an unknown God, a God to be feared. The early Biblical Jehovah was a God who governed through fear. He loved some and hated others. He was the fearsome enemy of all but a chosen few a tribal God. His followers acknowledged His omnipotence but feared that this power might be used against them.

Occasionally in Bible history God appeared as a protector who blessed those who followed Him. He said to the prophet Isaiah: "Fear not: for I am with thee" (Isa. 43:5). But as a tribal God He was still not a God to all men. He was still an exclusive, remote God. He might be present to help, He might not.

Later, Christ Jesus brought to the human scene the pure concept of God as a loving Father to all. To Jesus, God was the ever-present loving creator, always available. Jesus said of Him, "I knew that thou hearest me always." Jesus and his disciples knew God as good, as a God of light in whom is no darkness. To Jesus, God was Life itself, Love itself, Truth itself. He was responsive only and always to the power of God's goodness. He expressed God's power only and always to save and heal. He never connected God with evil, but rejected evil as false as a liar and the father of lies. He didn't justify evil and suffering, but destroyed them. This is a sharp contrast to the earlier belief in a fearsome, hating, often destructive God.

 

Mrs. Eddy's Discovery

One of Jesus' most devoted followers, Mary Baker Eddy, also recognized God as a loving God, as omnipotent good. As a girl she knew both concepts of God, the God of the Old Testament and the one taught by Jesus. Her father firmly believed in a stern, almost vengeful God. Her mother, on the other hand, taught her of God's universal impartial love.

Thus the child Mary Baker was presented with the two widely different concepts of God we have been talking about. One was much like the old, limited, vengeful God of early Bible history. The other was the loving Father which Jesus knew. Mrs. Eddy found comfort and healing in this loving, good Father. The concept of a God, who sent a chosen few eternal bliss and everyone else eternal damnation, didn't seem very believable. Her own experience showed her that fear didn't heal people or make them good. She saw that it is love, not fear, which has the power to help people, to make them better. What mankind needs from God, only the power of a good, loving God could give. A fear-inspiring God provided nothing for mankind's good.

Mrs. Eddy turned increasingly to this loving God. Later in her experience she felt the omnipotence of God so strongly that he began to see the deeper, spiritually scientific facts behind this power. She saw that God wasn't just loving, but divine Love itself; not just living, but divine Life itself. She saw Him as not just good, but as the infinite Principle of all good itself. She saw that God didn't just have power, but was omnipotence itself. She saw that God, or divine Spirit is the only source or creator, and that His creation must be wholly spiritual, not in any degree material.

Even her first glimpse of this brought her healing when she was in much need of it. She also found that others could be healed by this higher perception of God and His creation. For many years she worked constantly and fearlessly to bring this perception of God to others. Two results of this unselfish labor were her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" and her founding of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

It is evident in her book that Mrs. Eddy saw God as wholly good and His omnipotence as available to meet every human problem or situation. It's plain that she felt divine assurance of man's unity with God. This is brought out in what Mrs. Eddy felt to be the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Lord's Prayer. It shows the pure concept of God which had evolved her thinking. Her spiritual interpretation of the last verse illustrates this: "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever." "For God is infinite, all-power, all Life, Truth, Love, over all, and All."

But where do we find this God I've been talking about? We find Him in our daily experience whenever we see evidence of the activity of good. Wherever we see order, harmony, justice, freedom, honesty, health, kindness, joy, we see the power of God in operation. We can't deny that the very opposite of these qualities sometimes appear in our experience, and we may wonder why they appear if God, good, is the only power.

My friend who was healed of the fear of bad effect from food certainly was aware of a great deal that wasn't good. She didn't feel the omnipotence of good until she began to acknowledge it. She accepted the words of Jesus in the Lord's Prayer as true because of the proof of Jesus' works. With her acknowledgment that God, good, is the only power came the proof of this power. But, how does this work? How does this acknowledgment free us from fear? The answer is that faith in good, based on an understanding of spiritually scientific facts, dispels belief in evil. It replaces fear with assurance. Then the first step in being free of fear is to understand the fact that God, good, is the only power.

 

Man Is Inseparable from God

Now we may accept that God is all good and all power, but what if we're separated from God? How can we then have the assurance of good which destroys fear? Earlier we used the simple illustration of light dispelling darkness to show the power of good to destroy evil. The light we bring into a room does dispel darkness, which is but the absence of light. But suppose the light were suddenly separated from its source? It wouldn't dispel any darkness would it? Light separated from its source wouldn't even exist. If we were separated from God, we'd be as helpless as the ray of light separated from its source. We'd have a right, almost a duty, to worry.

People have felt this separation from God since the beginning of the world. As we said before, the older traditional God was a mostly absent God. Most people who believed in Him felt separated from Him. But not everyone did. Moses felt his nearness to God and heard His voice on occasions when he turned wholeheartedly to God for help. So did Joshua and the early prophets. When these men felt at-one with God, they saw the power of good expressed in practical ways. But most of the time people felt more away from than with God.

With Jesus it was different. He said of God, "I and my Father are one." He expressed the Christ, the "Immanuel" or "God with us." His very evident oneness with God was the prime characteristic of his life. Everything he did, he attributed to his expression of God's power. He said, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30), and ". . . the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14:10). Come to think of it, this is very much what a ray of light would say, if it could speak. "I can't shine. I can't dispel darkness by myself. It's my source that does it. But I'm never separated from my source. My very existence is in my source."

Now here's something to think about. Would anyone of us be afraid if we knew that we have the same relationship to God, the omnipotent good, which a ray of light has to its source? We have such a relationship. It's the relationship of cause and effect, of Father and son.

In Christian Science we know this relationship as the Christ, or divine sonship. Jesus gave better evidence of it humanly than anyone else has ever done, so we call him Christ Jesus. But we too, all of us, have this same relationship to God. In spiritual fact we can no more be separated from God, good, than the ray of light can be separated from its source. God is our source. Our real existence is the shining forth of divine Life. Our unshakable assurance of good is the shining forth of God's infinite power and goodness. The better we understand this, the less we're tempted to feel afraid.

 

Bringing Good Into Human Affairs

We've referred here to our true spiritual selfhood and its eternal relationship to God; but the presence of good is evident in everyday human affairs as well. It's seen in the joy we find in the betterment of ourselves and others. It's seen in the motives behind better social justice, the relief of disaster victims, the desire for peace. Do you know of any real human progress that has the power of an evil rather than a good motive behind it? Have you ever done anything helpful, satisfying, progressive, from an evil intent?

I realize there's occasionally some confusion in people's thought as to just what is good and what is evil, but is this the normal thing? We may be tempted to think these are "gray" areas where both good and evil appear. In a dimly lit room there may seem to be a mixture of light and dark. The word "gray" can be taken to mean just this. But light and darkness don't combine. What produces the gray area? Does darkness do it, or is it just not enough light? Can we introduce more darkness into a room and make it dimmer? No. Why? Because darkness really has no source.

There is no source of darkness, is there? And isn't it for this very reason that we can say that darkness has no real existence? Just so, evil has no power or existence. It can't separate us from our source, from God.

I think another Marley's ghost may help us to understand our inseparability from God. The little daughter of a couple I know suddenly became very ill. These young people were both students of Christian Science. They knew that God, good, is the only power but in this instance the power of evil seemed to them far more present with the little girl than the power of good. They decided to ask the help of a Christian Science practitioner in seeking to heal the child through the application of Christian Science.

The husband called one whom they knew and told him how things were. He also said that his wife seemed frightened about the condition. The practitioner spoke to the young man assuringly. He pointed out that the real Parent of the child was God, divine Spirit. Therefore the little girl was free from any evil, destructive power. Her only being was the shining forth of perfect health and freedom. She was the expression of ever-present divine Truth, and so indestructible. She was inseparable from divine Love and so was safe.

The practitioner spoke a few more minutes in this way so that the husband might see the fact of the child's inseparability from God's nature and power. He finally concluded his remarks by saying, "And please tell your wife that she need not be afraid that her fear can hurt the child." We all have heard the expression that there's nothing to fear but fear itself. The practitioner saw that it was this fear of fear that was so oppressive in the mother's thought; she felt that her fear was more present to hurt the child than was God's power to heal. He knew that when she understood the facts she would lose her fear.

 

Destruction of Fear Brings Healing

The husband thanked the practitioner. As he put down the phone, he turned to his wife and said, "You can go ahead and be as afraid as you want to; it can't hurt the child." Well, this wasn't quite what the practitioner had said, but it was effective. The wife realized that what she thought was her fear had nothing to do with the child. She stopped believing the material senses and began to look at the spiritual facts.

Both she and her husband saw that nothing could disrupt nor affect the child's unity with God, good. The fact of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God became so clear to them that they lost all thought of any evil power concerning their daughter or concerning anyone. They saw the facts so clearly that fear was replaced by the assurance of good. By morning the child was well.

This experience illustrates the second of the two facts which must be acknowledged for us to be free of fear and its effects. Man is inseparable from God. We read in Science and Health, "The real man being linked by Science to his Maker, mortals need only turn from sin and lose sight of mortal selfhood to find Christ, the real man and his relation to God, and to recognize the divine sonship" (p. 316).

The difficulty was that the parents had been persuaded by what the physical senses told them. All that these false senses could tell them was that the child was a mortal material being, subject to mortal material laws of health. But what the practitioner told them helped them to see that the child, in her real being, was not mortal but immortal. They lost sight of what they had thought was her material selfhood and saw instead her true spiritual selfhood.

They saw she was as closely related to divine Life as a ray of light is to its source. They saw that her real being was the actual shining forth of unchanging Truth and pure Spirit. They were able to fully acknowledge the child's unity with God, omnipotent good, and their own as well. The Christ, or divine sonship, the real man and his eternal relationship to God, had replaced the belief in a mortal material selfhood separated from God.

It's easy to see in this experience the power and presence of God, good, overcoming the apparent power and presence of evil in the form of pathological law. The more we acknowledge and understand our two great facts: that God, good, is all power and that we are inseparable from God, the less we shall fear evil and the less we shall experience it.

 

Unity of God and Man Understood and Applied

You remember I said earlier that to be free of fear, there are two facts to be considered, God's omnipotence and our inseparability from Him. I also said that there is something that we must do. We must spiritually understand and live these two facts, and then we shall really have this divine assurance on a continuing basis.

The understanding of these spiritual facts has to come through the spiritual senses. These senses are the ones which make us aware of Spirit, of spiritual identities and ideas, of all those spiritual qualities which can't be seen or heard materially. In fact, the material or physical senses can't show us spiritual facts. They can never show us the infinite goodness of God or our inseparability from God. Only the spiritual senses can do this.

God's goodness and omnipotence and man's inseparability from God aren't philosophical theories, but divine facts. The understand of these facts isn't a material or intellectual accomplishment. It's rather a spiritual attainment. It involves doing something. This doing is the living of these facts, the actual embodiment of them in our lives. This in turn develops our spiritual senses or awareness of God's presence and power. To spiritually understand these facts, then, we must live by them. This takes doing. Don't we find in our own experience that we understand best the everyday things we're involved with? As a Californian, I sometimes hear people say, "I never drive on the freeways. I'm afraid of them." But there's little or no fear about it when it's a daily routine. Why? Because instead of seeing only the rush and seeming confusion which a casual observation would show, we actually experience the basic order and safety of the freeways.

If anyone wants to overcome his fear of freeways, he must among other things drive on them and so understand their useful characteristics. He's got to see the intelligent laws behind their operation. But can he really understand these laws if he doesn't put himself under their operation? It takes more than a sideline observation to understand freeway rules. We get the facts about freeways by driving them. And won't the danger lessen and the fear disappear as soon as we do understand the facts?

 

Our Need to Express Divine Qualities

In much the same way we really come to understand God's power and our inseparability from Him by responding to them in our lives to the facts and laws concerning them.

This requires a genuine desire to express the qualities of God. This task isn't nebulous or hazy. We don't gain just a rosy picture of God as good and as always present to help us. Something far deeper needs to happen in our thinking and in our lives. We can understand all that God is only by expressing Him consistently, every day, as divine Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. And we find that behind our efforts to express God more fully and motivating them, there must be our consistent recognition of the two great spiritual facts I've spoken of. With this understanding and expressing of God there comes also a sturdy assurance of good. Then our newly invigorated and directed thinking begins to determine our experience along these new lines.

Now, since everyone wants to be free from fear, perhaps I should make it clear that this freedom isn't limited to experienced students of Christian Science. Far from it. Even a glimpse of the spiritual facts can begin to dispel fear right now for anyone, for everyone.

It's really true that, as the Bible says, "Perfect love casteth our fear" (I John 4:18). People have often risen above fear while doing something good for others. Don't we acknowledge the presence and power of God, divine Love, in a very special way when we allow this love to govern us? Can we doubt the presence and power of good, if we make it the foundation of our thinking and acting? Don't we lose our belief in the power of evil and therefore our fear of evil to the extent we refuse to be motivated by evil and accept the facts and laws of God, good?

There's no question that we're governed by the facts and the laws we live by; and when we live by the facts of God and the law of Love, we are freed from fear.

 

A Hope That Can Be Fulfilled

Now let's think again about what we've been saying. We're tempted to be afraid when we belief that evil has power and that this power may outweigh the power of good in our lives. It's fine and often necessary to be courageous, that is, to carry on in spite of anxiety. But what we most need is to have fear displaced by the absolute, spiritually based assurance of good.

When the spiritual facts are seen, fear is dispelled and healing is the result. Fear doesn't just leave to go somewhere else. The spiritual facts dispel fear just as light dispels darkness. Light doesn't set out to destroy darkness, but it does so without ever knowing the darkness exists. That's the way the spiritual facts dispel fear in our thinking.

It's important to see this because people sometimes try to push fear out of sight through escapist means such as daydreaming, alcohol, tranquilizers and other drugs. But only the spiritual facts can bring the sturdy assurance which makes fear impossible. On the basis of the allness of God, good, they destroy the belief that evil exists and has power, which is the only basis for fear.

As we have seen, there are two spiritual changeless facts to be acknowledged. First, God, good, is the only power. Second, we, in our real being as the expression of the ever-present Truth and Love, are inseparable from God. The spiritual understanding and application of these facts in our daily lives destroys fear and brings the sturdy assurance of good. We understand God's power by letting it govern us. We understand our nearness to Him when we make our lives the expression of God's qualities.

Freedom from fear is a valid hope for mankind. We have seen how this hope can be fulfilled. We can know the facts, apply them, and be free.


Copyright 1968

Gordon F. Campbell

All rights reserved

 

[1972.]

 

 

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