On the night that Jesus knows he will be betrayed and arrested, he begs his apostles to come with him and pray. Three times he begs them to stay awake and pray. He warns them that this is the way to avoid falling into temptation. Each time he returns to find them, they are overcome with fatigue and they fall asleep. Fear and anxiety combined as a burden too heavy for them to carry or even stay awake. Fear won.
As the night falls at my house, I tune into my local news and feel a familiar concern begin to rattle around in my head. We are dealing with a worldwide pandemic and it seems that illness, anxiety, and even death crash over our planet like a massive tidal wave. There is simply no place to hide from the destruction by an invisible foe. Hope and toilet paper are in short supply. Many people hoard the latter and have given up on the former. Fear won.
After falling asleep three times in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter follows after Jesus from a safe distance. He has already tried to intervene violently with his sword to prevent Jesus’ arrest. He’s determined not to let Jesus down, and he proclaims he is ready to suffer whatever is necessary. However, within a very short time he has repeatedly denied even knowing Jesus. Three times he has failed. Fear won.
After Jesus is resurrected from the dead, he visits his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. They share a meal and then Jesus engages Peter in a conversation by asking, “Simon (Peter) son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter and Jesus go back and forth on these questions and finally Jesus directs Peter to “feed my sheep.” This charge becomes Peter’s directive for the rest of his ministry. Jesus engages Peter and restores him, so that Peter can teach others to endure and to thrive in adversity. He speaks from a place of authority as someone who has walked in fear and fallen victim to it, but he also experienced a miraculous restoration. Fear defeated.
How do I overcome fear? The kind that wears me down and leaves me feeling overwhelmed. “Cast all anxiety on the Lord for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). I am taking these words to heart today because the one who penned them understands. As Jesus faced his own execution, he spent time on his knees in prayer. He directed Peter to join him because he knew what Peter needed most. Fear defeated.
Help me to take those fearful thoughts and cast them to your feet. I will take time now to name them and confess each one by name to you. Please refill me with truth about your power and might. Help me to know that you alone are faithful and will restore me in all circumstances. It is in your precious name, I pray. Amen.
Anthea Kotlan serves at the women’s ministry coordinator for the Diocese of the Western Gulf Coast. She attends St. Timothy’s Anglican church with her husband Fr. Bill Kotlan. Anthea would like to thank local artist, Rachel Schwandt for sharing her inspirational work with us.