Why Not to Be Afraid – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

 Matthew 8:23-27

The Sea of Galilee is notorious for its surprising and violent storms. The Sea of Galilee, which is actually a fresh-water lake, lies 700 feet below sea level. Immediately to the northeast are the hills of the Golan Heights, reaching 2000 feet. The large difference in height and temperature between these cool, sometimes snow-covered hills and the semi-tropical sea causes large air pressure changes. Strong winds funnel down from the Golan Heights, sometimes creating the perfect storm over the water. Storms literally come out of the blue, even when the waters have been calm and the sky perfectly clear. This must be the very thing that happened here with the disciples and Jesus who are in a boat on the sea. Aside from the wind and waves coming at them, there was something else that surfaces: fear. They are terrified. You will probably know how it is to be sailing through life on the sunniest of days, where all is calm, all is bright… and then a storm hits.

In the Scriptures, nothing is talked about more often than fear. Fear is a dis-ease of the soul. The psalmist writes, “Do not fear, though the earth should change, the mountains tremble and shake in the heart of the sea, fear not.”[i]The prophet Isaiah says: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Do not fear.”[ii]  In the scriptures, we hear about fear from the very beginning: in the Book of Genesis, the story from the Garden of Eden. The angel of God comes to Adam and Eve, and they are terrified.[iii]  We hear again about fear much later in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, where the women have come to anoint Jesus’ body. Once more the angel of the Lord appears, and the women are terrified. Fear is a very costly, distressing emotion when we’re in touch with impending danger, or pain, or evil, or confusion, or vulnera­bil­ity, or embarrassment. Whether the threat is real or imagined, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is our sense of powerlessness. We don’t feel we can stop or divert or control what threatens to overwhelm us. I imagine that all of us here know about fear, either in a particular situation or perhaps recurringly. What are you afraid of? What causes your heart to tremble?

Are you afraid that you might be wrong, or afraid that you might be right? Are you afraid that you might be excluded, or afraid that you might be included? Are you afraid that you might fail, or afraid that you might succeed? Are you afraid that you might never finish, or afraid because you’ve come to the finish? Are you afraid of making a commitment, or of not making of commitment? Are you afraid of being sick, of dying? Are you afraid that you’re going to have to face being well again? Are you afraid of someone? Are you afraid of yourself? Are you afraid that you might be sent, or might not be sent? Afraid that you won’t get the attention, or maybe that the attention will be on you? Are you afraid of being discovered, or of never being discovered? Afraid of heights, or depths, or something else between? Most of us will know something about fear, maybe even right now. If so, why? Why are you afraid? That’s Jesus’ question for his disciples, and it’s his question for all of us. If you are afraid, why?

To be sure, there are therapeutic protocols to address our fears, and phobias, and anxieties. And there are medicinal ways to address fear, to chemically lower fear’s looming capacity to inundate us. And there is physical training and stress-reduction techniques that may enable us cope with or conquer fear… These may be helpful, even necessary. But what is it about fear that is a “spiritual issue” for you?  

Rather than presuming that fear, our own fear, is a sign of the absence of God, our fear actually gives witness to the presence of God. Our fear often arises out of something that is bigger than we are – perhaps concerning our health, or family, or vocation, or endurance. And we find that in-and-of ourselves, there isn’t enough: not enough strength, or patience, or hope, or encouragement, or provision. Our life is unmanageable. We come up short. And we’re afraid that our boat is going to sink, that we’re dead in the water. Fear raises issues that may well need to be dealt with on many levels; one of those levels being spiritual. Where is God in your fear? What is the invitation from God in your fear? Fear is like a beam of light pointing to that deepest place of need within your heart. Fear is very illuminating. What is the your fear exposing, where you are too small, too powerless, too needy to go on?  What is it? Why are youafraid? Because in the fear is an invitation from God that God wants to be God in your life, to claim the ultimate authority and highest power in your life. We cannot live our life and be our own God at the same time.  

We don’t need to be afraid, not because fear is “wrong.” We’re supposed to be strong and resilient. No, it’s not that. It’s not that we don’t need to be afraid because we shouldn’t be. This is not a de jure statement: “Don’t be afraid because strong people are not afraid.” No, it’s not that. This is a de facto statement: “Don’t be afraid because you don’t have to be afraid.” It’s Jesus’ promise that he will meet us in the experience of fear. He tells us, “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[iv]

“Why are you afraid?” Jesus asks us all. Jesus longs to hear why. Jesus longs to be invited into your fear. And if you’re afraid that you are going to lose your life, or lose some part life, you don’t need to be afraid even of that. Why is that so? Because it’s going to happen. We all are going to lose our lives; we’re all going to lose the life that we now recognize. But Jesus assures us that in losing our lives we find life. Not to fear.[v] The Scottish philosopher John Macmurray writes of an old adage about fear, an adage which some of us were probably taught… The old adage is: “Fear not; trust in God, and God will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you.” That’s not true, in Macmurray’s view. On the contrary. Macmurray rephrases the old adage to say, “Fear not; the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.”[vi]Why not? Because Jesus tells us, “I am with you in this… This is the way into life. Trust me.”

Tell Jesus about your fear. This may be your most honest prayer. Tell Jesus about your fear. And if you’re afraid even to talk with Jesus about your fear, then start there: why it is that you are afraid to talk to Jesus about your fear. Tell him! Go ahead. Try it. Jesus is all ears. Jesus has an open heart. And he is waiting.

Here, an ancient Celtic prayer:

Jesus, from this world’s stormy seas 

Give your hand for lifting me.

Jesus, lift me from the darkest night.

Jesus, lift me into the realm of light.

Jesus, lift me from my body’s pain,

Jesus lift me up and keep me sane.

Jesus, lift me from the things I dread,

Jesus, lift me from the living dead.

Jesus, lift me from the place I lie,

Jesus, lift me that I never die. Amen.

[i]Psalm 46:2-3.

[ii]Isaiah 41:10.

[iii]Genesis 3:8-10.

[iv]Matthew 28:20.

[v]Matthew 10:39; 16:25.

[vi]John Macmurray (1891-1976), a Scottish moral philosopher, writing in Persons in Relation (Humanity Press, 1998), p. 171.

Support SSJE

Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.

Click here to Donate


  1. Chris on August 22, 2023 at 14:25

    Oh no! All these comments applauding this sermon – but it is the worst thing I’ve read for ages: I have been facing huge issues these past few years. And Being totally honest – in my prayer – about how overwhelming this is. Asking for some relief. But God’s regular reply is “I’m not Santa Claus or an ATM – you’re gonna have to live with these fearful people & events”.
    Some reassurance here would help, brother!!
    I am not brave. I cower and wait for each storm to pass. And Jesus never seems to wake or even speak a single word of reassurance. I sit beside him in the boat – slowly drowning, while he sleeps, apart from the occasional murmur “trust me”. But my trust bucket is empty and Every day he seems more distant and absent.

    • Gabe on August 23, 2023 at 11:07

      Dear Chris,
      Thanks for dropping by. I feel your frustration. Please continue to do the work. Don’t give up because wouldn’t you want to see what could happen next. Sadness and gratitude can both happen at the same time as they make us more alive.
      You will be in my prayers.

    • Rick Porter on August 23, 2023 at 13:09

      Dear Chris, I pledge to pray for you. I do not know your specific circumstances or the sources of your fears. But I have had all kinds of fears; from being in war, having cancer twice, having 3 heart ablations and two shoulder surgeries and all of the endless troubles and fears that come naturally from my wife and me being 80.

      All I can tell you is to have faith and keep praying. Sometimes we have to stay in deep dark valleys a long time. But the Lord loves you and He will ultimately provide a way for you to see the light. For me, when things get bad, I have to focus on just doing the next right thing, one step at a time. God bless you in your troubles.

      • Jan on August 23, 2023 at 15:42


    • Janet on August 23, 2023 at 16:09

      Dear Chris
      My heart hears your pain as another human experiencing fear that wakes me up at night. I’m not sure I know how having the Love of God with us helps but somehow this acknowledgment does comfort me. Perhaps the real day to day help comes from other humans who (through the energy of prayer perhaps) offer some energy or respite or a smile. Then I can feel myself lifted up just enough that I can take the next step and carry on. Most of the time I’m not sure of the next step but I take the one that seems best and trust that it is. I do believe that the Loving Light is attracted to dark places in our lives and rushes in even if we don’t sense it right away. I hope you can begin to feel some ease, some lightening of your fear knowing that many of us reading your post are sending love and understanding.

  2. Juliana Suarez on July 28, 2021 at 22:30

    This touch my heart so profoundly I am in tears

  3. Margo on July 28, 2021 at 08:01

    This is my very favorite of all your sermons. I’m skeptical of ever being totally fearless but I love the idea.
    I have that Celtic prayer pinned above my bed.
    Thank you. Thank you Thank you Most revered of brothers.

  4. Cynthia Nott on July 28, 2021 at 06:31

    Thank you.

  5. vikki d brandstetter on July 28, 2021 at 06:01

    Such a blessing today. Thank you.

  6. Tom Lutzy on July 7, 2020 at 19:47

    Wonderful words from Brother Curtis. Words that make give me pause, words that make me dig deeper, and ultimately, words that comfort me.

  7. Cara Alfieri on July 6, 2020 at 14:04

    “God wants…to claim the ultimate authority and highest power in your life.” When our eyes remain on God, there is no room for fear. Thank you, Br. Almquist.

  8. Nancye on July 6, 2020 at 12:35

    With gratitude today I thank you for this message. I have put this fear on the alter of God and will not pick it up again!

  9. Fred Adams on July 6, 2020 at 12:27

    Wow! I can pray your sermon. In fact, I did, and will again.

  10. Janet C O'Flynn on July 6, 2020 at 12:23

    Thank you so much.

  11. Jan on July 6, 2020 at 10:36

    Why be afraid? Unfortunately, because there is so much to be afraid of, each day I read the news headlines and wonder where it will all end, what will happen to us? Pandemic, racial unrest, political upheaval, a world in turmoil.
    Why be afraid? Just look and listen to what is going on around us! Over 120000 people have died in the US with no end in sight, yet our political leaders tell us it will magically disappear, rioting in the streets and our political leaders continue to fuel racial unrest with hateful rhetoric, that is why I am afraid. I am afraid for for my family, for my community, for my country and for the whole world. Where will it end!
    You ask “Why are you afraid?”. Those are the things that make me afraid, they aren’t just one time things they continue to happen each and every day! That is why I am afraid.
    Jesus, lift me from the things I dread. It is a start.

  12. Jeanne DeFazio on July 6, 2020 at 09:01

    So amazing! I shared the Celtic prayer.

    Many thanks.

  13. SusanMarie on July 6, 2020 at 07:41

    I feel like I’ve just been set free! Thank you for a beautiful expose on fear; naming just about everything we could be afraid of (and pointedly many of the things I am specifically afraid of which I was unable to name on my own) and being clear about Jesus’ message about fear.

  14. Pat ells on July 6, 2020 at 05:34

    Just beautiful , brother curtis. Thank you and God bless you

Leave a Comment