Want to hear a horrible story?

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“Want to hear a horrible story?” This is how my priest should have begun his homily on Ash Wednesday. Because the story he told was indeed horrible. But the lesson has been chewing on my heart for days. It won’t let me go.

When he was on a train from Southern India to Northern India there was a family in his  car with several children. In the course of the journey one of the little girls died. A doctor on the train examined the child and declared that she had died of something terrible and very contagious. She could infect the other little daughter. The doctor told the mother to throw the dead child’s body out of the train before others caught the disease. Like any mother would, she refused to throw her child’s body from a moving train. They argued over it. The train then went through a tunnel. While in the tunnel the electricity to the train cut off and the train went dark. While it was dark the father of the child threw the child from the train. When the lights came back on it was discovered that he did not throw his dead child from the train, but his living child. The body of his dead daughter was still there.


Do you feel like throwing up? I did when I heard that. My heart was sufficiently wrenched. The pain, the trauma, confusion, suffering, anger. Injustice of it all.

This is what fear does.  When fear is our motivator we throw away what is good and alive while holding onto what is dead and dangerous.  Fear causes us to react rather than respond. It causes us to embrace what is terrible and reject what is good.

Fear causes the culture of death and the rejection of life.

Fear causes  people to throw away relationships and isolate themselves.

Fear causes the confusion that eventually leads to torment.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” I John 4:18

The enemy loves to make us afraid. He knows that if we become afraid we will make bad choices, disconnect from important relationships, and turn our love off.  Surrounded by beauty, with grace right there within reach, with Jesus being closer than a water is to fish. And we choose darkness.

Torment. That’s what it is.

The devil is a terrorist whose suicide bomb is fear.

Like the father who threw away his precious child whom he intended to protect, we will throw away our peace and freedom and cling to bondage.

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

We are in this season of fasting and self-denial. But are we doing it for the right reasons? What is our motivation?  Years ago I had a sign on my bedroom door that I would read every day before I walked out. It said:

Fear of what you might lose.

Hope of what you might gain.

Love of what you might give.

There are only these three motivations for everything we do, in every interaction we have with others, with every decision we make: Fear, hope or love. Choose love. Choose love. Choose love. Every day, a thousand times. It is the only way.

“In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I offer myself as a victim…to your merciful love.” (St. Therese of the Child Jesus) 

For some of us, because of our pasts or our brokenness or our sin, fear has to combatted on a daily, hourly or sometimes moment-by-moment basis. We have to choose all the time to banish our fears and drown them in the love of God. Perfect love is what drives out fear. Perfect Love is my lifeline. It is my prayer, my deepest longing, my vocation. As I learn to embrace and cling to and welcome and live in Perfect Love, fear–the kind of fear that throws the baby out of the moving train–loses its control of me.

Want to hear a horrible story? Fear destroys lives. Everyday.

Want to hear a beautiful story? Jesus is Perfect Love. Everyday. Everywhere.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear


  1. I gasped when I read this story.  Fear destroys.  I agree with Leslie above.  

  2. Georgina - February 16, 2016

    Okay, Daja, I admit I almost didn’t open this one.  I waited a day. The title was just too intense.  I didn’t want to have a visceral reaction.  But then I considered the source, you, and I knew your post would have purpose.  And it did.  Choose love.  Amen.

    God bless The Provision Room and all who visit.

    • Sorry to scare you, Georgina! 🙂 Glad you pressed on and opened it. Love you!

  3. This whole article was great.  I’ve been struggling with fear this month, which is really unlike me, normally I rest easily in Christ.  But my family is making some big changes and I’m… scared.  But I know I shouldn’t be.  So many great quotes here!

    • May God give you wisdom and peace as you make these important decisions and step out in faith and obedience! Thanks for commenting! <3 

  4. This story. And your take away? Poignant, gut-wrenching. But so real. Good, good stuff.

  5. I happened to be there in church the Sunday our priest told that story, and you could hear the gasp, almost as one. I will admit that the story so shook me that I ended up not listening intently enough afterward. I left church pondering his meaning of sharing that horrible story. THANK YOU for illuminating!! <3

    • It shook me, too. And I found myself wondering, too, what the rest of the homily was about. I had to think and pray for a while. And the more I meditated on it the more clear the Lord made it for me. Not many sermon illustrations stick with you forever and ever. But, I don’t think I will ever forget this one.

  6. Just let out the most audible gasp. But such a poignant illustration of how destructive and hurtful living a life motivated by fear can be. Thank you and your priest for sharing!

  7. That made my heart stop for a minute.  What a terrible story indeed.  So much of what is bad in society is motivated by fear.

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