In my reading this past week I came across a health article that warned me strongly that my underwire bras were a hazard to my health. (Very heavy sigh). Apparently the wires can cut off circulation to the lymph glands and the danger signal has been sent!
It was an addition to the ever growing list of menaces to watch out for, which we hear about every single day. Perhaps I should just throw my devices away (I’ve been tempted), for they might cause cancer too… In fact, I think I read that somewhere too.
But I like staying connected, so I take the risk.
From bats to ticks to rattlesnakes, and then there are the black widow spiders. There is the amount of coffee I drink and the sugar I consume… even in fruit! This morning I went for an early morning walk and a dog charged at me. My heart was in my throat, until I realized that the dog, wildly growling had been tethered to a chain, just out of reach. It took me a while to calm down, my heart that is, because I’ve been attacked by dogs in the past. My fear shows, I’m sure.
I don’t like being fearful. Years ago I attended a seminar where the instructor told us we are either wired to be angry or afraid. I’m not sure I agreed with him, but given my personality, I tend to be on the fearful side.
Fear can paralyze us. And I often tell people I meet, people with challenging stories, difficult diagnoses, crippling pain, that fear is common to us. I am comforted with the fact that there are three hundred and sixty five instances in the Scripture where God reminds us not to be afraid. I don’t see this as condemnation, but a loving reminder that we are not alone. When we remember that God is with us, and knows our story, we don’t have to be afraid.
A case in point is the influenza vaccination we are required as health professionals to take every year – to protect those in the hospital, and to protect ourselves.
Now this is a thorny issue for some, and every year I hear many stories about how I should be afraid of the flu shot. And some of the stories are true, there are those who have reacted to it. I fully respect those who choose not to get it.
But when you work in healthcare, it seems the wise choice. I went to my naturopath all fearful, and wanted some advice. This was some years ago. He was so kind, but understood my anxious spirit… and told me that my anxiety over the vaccination was probably more harmful than the shot itself. I laughed and began to relax.
And I remembered that amazing story in the New Testament where the apostle Paul gets bitten by a poisonous snake (now that is a fearsome story), and he tells those around him that God is far bigger than any snake bite. He lived to tell about it. And the moral of the story is not to ignore snake bites, but to know that God is watching over us, and we don’t have to fear.
Of course the bigger question – and one I get asked all the time as a hospital chaplain is why do bad things happen, why do people suffer? And I think about that when I hear of a tragedy, or sit with people who are suffering. The reassurance I feel from a wonderful God who keeps showing up in the midst of everything is that God doesn’t cause our pain, but is present with us in the midst of it.
And because God is present, I can relax, like a child on a parent’s lap, knowing the One who created me loves me and sees a much bigger picture. And for one like me who can be prone to anxiety and fear, the very act of relaxing in God’s presence can help with pain. I am healthier.
I refuse to give trite answers or claim to know the whys of it all. I don’t. This week I have felt the deep pain of loss and suffering as I have witnessed it first hand. But I have also witnessed God showing up in tender ways, providing just what is needed at the right moment.
So I can say to myself (every day if I need to), be not afraid. I don’t have to face this life alone, no one does. We are loved and cherished and precious to the One who made us.