Fasting from fear

Blog Published: April 13, 2022
By Elisabeth Deffner
feeling confident in faith

Perhaps you’ve noticed it, too.

More and more, I’m hearing people talk about their anxiety—and they phrase it that way. “That’s bad for my anxiety,” they’ll say, half-joking, as though they’re talking about a pet or a plant.

Clinical anxiety is nothing to joke about—and even for those of us who don’t have a diagnosis, but are all too knowledgeable of the physical sensations of rapid breathing, escalated heart rate, queasiness, or trembling, anxiety is serious business.

If I sound like it’s a familiar state of being, well—let’s just say that I’ve definitely had my anxious moments.

I’ve developed a bag of tricks, too, to help me re-adjust my thinking and try to stop anxious reactions in their tracks. I’ve done breathing exercises. I’ve gone for walks. I have a list of reassuring Bible verses to read through. I have a rosary in every room of the house and every purse I use.

But then I came across an idea that stopped me in my tracks. Instead of trying to manage my anxious responses to life’s ups and downs… why not try, during Lent, to fast from fear altogether?

We all know that our frame of mind makes a tremendous impact on the way we feel and how we behave. What if we re-envisioned fear, or anxiety, or worry, as a habit we could set aside for these 40 days—a habit just like so many others we try to quit during Lent, like smoking, drinking, or eating chocolate?

Of course, many of those habits are things we enjoy—that’s why giving them up is a sacrifice worthy of Lent! And few of us would say that we enjoy worrying or feeling frightened. But could it be that these unproductive feelings actually provide us with a sense of security? They are familiar, after all, and there is comfort in the familiar.

What would it be like to walk through each day completely fearless? What would it be like to attend to every task without worry, because we know we are completely in God’s hands?

For me, the practice of fasting from fear has been enlightening. I haven’t kicked the worry habit, but I’ve certainly made a start. And although Lent is nearly over, I’m going to continue with this sacrifice and strive to truly follow Jesus’s commandment: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).  

How would fasting from fear impact your Lent—and beyond?


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