Beyond Fears to Action

What do you do when you are faced with controversy? Do you walk away? Do you scream and yell and abuse others verbally? Do you attempt to reason and discuss the issues? Do you pray and ask for God’s guidance?

Controversy and challenge are part of our society. For years, controversial issues have been lightning rods within national politics and church politics. Homosexuality, abortion, immigration, welfare, police brutality, are just examples of such controversial issues. Our preconceived ideas or ideals are often challenged. I am dismayed that many people today are afraid to speak out and be counted. The mean-spirited politics, the increase in hate and violence, and the obvious lack of civil discourse have many of us fearful. Some shrink from these issues hoping they will go away. We remain silent. Even though we are not comfortable about events around us, we are afraid to work with others to stop the spread of hatred, fear and discord.

We must articulate our fears to move beyond them to action. Let’s look at a few of our fears and suggest ways we might overcome them.

Fear of being different. In many communities, women still do not step forward during times of controversy because “that is not something a woman should do.” In other places, the majority opinion is so strong that to disagree with it draws attention to oneself. To be true to oneself and one’s faith, it is often necessary to be different. The majority is not always right. To dissent is the essence of the democratic process. We must dissent for all opinions to be heard.

Fear of not being accepted. When we take a stand, we risk rejection. It is helpful when others share our opinions and stand with us. Sometimes if one person speaks out, others will join. But this is not always the case. Being disciples of Christ sometimes means others will turn away from us. The Holy Spirit may be our only source of guidance, comfort and support. Throughout scripture, we are challenged to proceed without fear, for God is with us.

Fear of being a target of hatred. It is difficult to deal with this fear. In some communities those who speak out against hatred and violence become the targets of the same. Working in coalition with others can help dissipate such increased violence. When we deal with hatred and violence we are dealing with deep-seated societal issues of racism, sexism, poverty, greed, graft, extremism. Turning around communities and individuals is a long-term process, but one we each must commit to again and again.

Fear of change. Challenges can be God’s way of causing us to rethink or relook at ourselves or our communities, nation and faith. Dealing with challenges that require change are difficult for many of us. Change is constant and painful. Change involves us with both trivial and earth-shaking attitudinal shifts. The road of discipleship is not easy or even. Changes in methods, directions and focus are often necessary. Growth requires change, curiosity, stretching one’s mind and a willingness to risk making mistakes.

As people of faith, we are called to stand and be counted. We are to be God’s agents of transformation I our communities. Fear must not hold us from doing God’s work of justice and love.

“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, and cause thee to stand upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
“How Firm a Foundation” stanza 2

Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence


Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.