Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 10:26–33
Among a list of my fears, I place airplanes and sharks at the top. Yes, in that order. If we were meant to fly, the Lord would have given us wings. Though I know you frequent flyers will say it’s safer than riding in a car, the physics just don’t add up for me. Also, I watched the movie Jaws religiously as a child, so that might explain the sharks.
What’s creeping up that list is the fear I have of the opinions and judgments of others. While I begrudgingly travel by air and I will get into the ocean on beach vacations—these vanity fears are ones that I have yet to overcome.
Recently I’ve experienced them in situations where I find myself in the company of friends or acquaintances who may not share my faith beliefs or, worse; they make critical or derogatory statements about the Catholic Church. Rather than demonstrating myself as an upstanding disciple and defending my Church in an intelligent and well-versed apologetics argument, my fear paralyzes me, and the dreadful “what ifs” take over.
What if I fumble my words? What if I don’t make any sense or can’t explain the Bible well enough? What if they think I’m naive or close-minded? What if I make a fool of myself, and they laugh at me?
The list of these “what if” questions is interminable. Ultimately, I choose to stay frustratingly silent, attempt humor as a means of deflection, or simply walk away.
If, like me, you can relate to feeling discouraged or even imprisoned by your fears, buckle up for this week’s gospel. It provides a healthy dose of conviction to reevaluate our fears, bring them out of the darkness, and place them under the light of Jesus’ authority.
Just prior to this week’s passage, Jesus chose His twelve apostles for their first journeys out as missionaries. He gave them instructions to follow but also warned them of what they would face as they set out: namely hardship, betrayal, and persecution.
This was the apostles' first time being sent out to evangelize without Jesus. That alone would have been anxiety-producing, never mind the warnings. We have to imagine that rumblings, side eyes, questioning glances, and “what ifs” might have begun amidst the group.
However, if there’s one thing our Lord can do—you know, besides miracles—it’s read a room.
In this week’s passage, Jesus, having sensed the fear and trepidation rising in His friends, offers encouragement with His words, “Do not be afraid.” In fact, He repeats this three times (Matthew 10:26,28,31). It’s a message He wants to ensure that we hear loud and clear. “Christ longs for us to accept [Him as] an antidote to our fears: to see life and all its hazards from the perspective of eternity.”
Jesus is instructing us to face our fears through the lens of an eternal perspective, with heaven set in our sights! This is a far different view from the fear-induced navel gazing found when we opt for a lens focused only on ourselves.
However, this is the paramount view that results when we surrender to our fears rather than to Christ. Fearfulness keeps us imprisoned, overcome by the “what ifs” and the dangerous “should haves.” These anxieties and worries keep us shackled and bound in darkness, where it not only becomes easier to keep the lens on ourselves, it starts to feel more comfortable to our world-weary hearts to stay there, give in, and remain silent.
But sister, we have a God of freedom! And so, Jesus offers Himself as the antidote to our fears.
Where would our Church be today if the disciples from this week’s gospel had allowed their fears, anxieties, and worries to overwhelm and paralyze them?
When such a more glorious and steadfast option remains open, why are we choosing to surrender to our fears? Realizing we have a choice is the first step. Choosing to surrender to Jesus over ourselves is the next, often more tricky, step. But if we hope to be acknowledged by Jesus before our heavenly Father, then I’d say it’s worth our consideration (Matthew 10:32).
Choosing to surrender to Jesus means trusting He is more powerful than anything we might fear—be it sharks, planes, the disregard of others, humiliation, persecution, or even death. Choosing to surrender to Jesus means trusting that His will for us is greater than our own!
The experience of Corrie ten Boom—the heroine of the Dutch resistance to the Nazis and survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps—helps to keep this in perspective. She writes, “There are no what ifs in God’s Kingdom. We must surrender to His will and hide ourselves there. Living outside of His Will only causes us all to go mad.”
Corrie made a choice to surrender to God’s will daily, to hide there as she spent years in one of the most notorious women’s concentration camps in Germany. It could have very well been easier for her to succumb to what she termed “concentration-camp life: the temptation to think only of oneself…where selfishness had a life of its own.” Many would have forgiven her this one “luxury” if it meant survival.
However, when life became increasingly bleak, when more women were forced into already overcrowded barrack with fleas, bugs, smells, and sickness, and when the deplorable conditions became unbearable, Corrie was reminded of Saint Paul and his thorn. Each time that Paul begged the Lord to remove this thorn from his side, the Lord would reply with a reminder that His grace is all that Paul needs (2 Corinthians 5:17). Corrie writes, “The truth blazed like sunlight in the shadows of Barracks 28…the real sin lay in thinking that any power to help and transform came from me at all. Of course it is not my wholeness, but Christ’s that made the difference.”
Who better to trust our lives with than the One who has counted all of the hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30)? Who better to open our hands in surrender than to the very One who, in His provision, even the smallest of birds finds themselves seen and cared for (Matthew 10:29)? Who shall we trust more with our “what ifs” than He who is the light of the world (John 9:5)?
It is Christ who makes all of the difference, plain and simple.
What if we take Jesus at His Word and view our lives through an eternal lens?
What if we surrender everything, including our fears, over to the full authority of Christ?
What if true peace and freedom lie in wait for us if we make a choice to rely on God rather than ourselves?
By God’s grace,
Food for thought or journaling…
What tops your list of fears? What feelings do you associate with these fears? Are these fears and feelings more powerful than Christ?
“Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will! Don’t let me go mad by poking about outside of it.” —Corrie ten Boom
 Bartunek, John, The Better Part: The Gospel of Matthew (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2020), 160.
 ten Boom, Corrie, The Hiding Place (Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen, 2006), 234.
 Ibid, 224.
 Ibid, 225.