Wars. Rumors of wars. Injustice. Hate. Poverty. Turmoil in our families. Shifting morals in society. An ever-present sense of darkness.
There’s a lot to be afraid of in this world that seems to get darker and more complicated each day. And while we shouldn’t minimize the problems and complexities of our day, we also shouldn’t let them paralyze us with fear. Some things we can control. Some things we cannot. But there is an antidote to fear, and it requires us choosing to stand with God every day.
President Gordon B. Hinckley was known for his optimism. Some of his most memorable teachings during his ministry were around his belief that we need to “stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.”
This is a man who lived through the Great Depression, two World Wars, Vietnam, political upheaval, the September 11 attacks, and much more, and we can learn a thing or two from his optimism and the source from which it came.
“I have seen a good deal of this earth. I have been in areas where war rages and hate smolders in the hearts of people. I have seen the appalling poverty that hovers over many lands. … I have watched with alarm the crumbling morals of our society.
“And yet I am optimistic. I have a simple and solemn faith that right will triumph and that truth will prevail.”
Our optimism can be more than just a positive attitude. It can be like President Hinckley’s—powerful, emanating from our very beings, and rooted in a firm faith and trust in God.
“It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning,” President Hinckley taught. “If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us.”
Act First in Faith
We can’t see the future. That’s what makes the unknown so scary. Sometimes sticking with what we know, what we’re comfortable with, what we can see, feels like the safest bet in life. But that’s not how God intends for us to grow. Sometimes life requires us to take a leap of faith, especially when it comes to overcoming our fears.
“The natural man and the natural woman says there is no way I’m taking this step. There is no way I’m moving into the darkness until the light moves and I can see where I’m going,” taught Elder David A. Bednar in the video “Being an Agent to Act.”
But the requirement for faith is that we act first.
“Most of the time we think, ‘Well, give me the power and then I’ll act,’” said Elder Bednar. “But the Savior’s gospel teaches that first we act and then the power comes. We don’t know where to go. We don’t know what to do, but my trust in Him enables me to act.”
As we act, Jesus Christ blesses us with His power. Our faith in Him grows, our confidence increases, and we can then navigate the most difficult circumstances in life knowing that we will never be alone and we will always have His help.
Overcoming fear requires a divine power, and we gain that power as we choose to act first in faith.
See the Long View
Fears are a part of this mortal experience. We’re never going to get rid of them. But having the right perspective can help us to overcome fears as we live with the right “end game” in mind.
War, terror, debilitating illness, death. The fear of those things can paralyze us if we do not have an eternal perspective and knowledge that this mortal life is just a moment in our existence. But we know through the gospel of Jesus Christ that death is not the end. Family relationships can continue for eternity. You can become all that God intends for you to be in this life and the next.
When you see life with the long view, with an eternal lens, none of the fears that we deal with in mortality should ever feel unconquerable. The Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us hope. It gives us power to know we can overcome Satan, fight past the darkness of mortality, burst the bands of death, and ultimately become like our Heavenly Father in the heavens above.
There is more to this life than what we can see in front of us. Choosing to live with the long view in mind helps us to keep these mortal fears from taking over our lives and allows us to more fully live by faith.
Serve Someone Else
When we’re paralyzed by fear, disappointments, and just the wrongs that happen as a result of mortality, it’s easy to feel justified in focusing on ourselves.
But spiritual power to overcome fear doesn’t come in wallowing, self-pity, and inaction. It comes through action and often looking outside of yourself.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson shared a story of how his wife taught this principle while they were presiding over the Japan Nagoya Mission.
When missionaries would come to them filled with fear and doubts, Sister Stevenson would apply her “cookie therapy.” She would give the missionaries ingredients to make cookies and the instruction to bake a batch every morning. Then, she told them to deliver the cookies each day to someone who needed them. As simple as the “cookie therapy” was, it worked wonders.
Elder Stevenson said very often, the act of thinking about someone else cured the missionary of his or her fears.
“The warm, golden glow that accompanies service and selflessness has the power to melt away doubts and fears.”
Going back to the optimistic counsel from President Hinckley:
It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is.
It all works out. Don’t worry. …
The Lord will not forsake us.
He will not forsake us.
If we will put our trust in Him,
if we will pray to Him,
if we will live worthy of His blessings,
He will hear our prayers.
God doesn’t want us to fail. Because of Jesus Christ, no failure is final. No fear in this mortal life need paralyze us. Faith can overcome fear. And if we trust that it does, we can move forward knowing that in the end, “it will all work out.”