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Editor’s note: As Missioner Erin McHugh prepares to return to mission, she shares how the fears that she faced over the last few months brought her to a deeper recognition of what it means to trust unconditionally.

The past six months have been an unexpected and challenging journey for me, what with having to return from mission in Jamaica due to health issues, and then discerning if I would like to be re-commissioned to Guatemala. At every step of this journey, I have been filled with so much fear that at times it has felt  like it was completely consuming me.  

When I was still in Jamaica, I was afraid I couldn’t keep going. I was emotionally and physically drained, and my body had become weak from not eating or sleeping for months.  

When the decision was made for me to come home, I was once again afraid: did I have the strength to make the journey home? How was I going to feel coming back to the United States much earlier than I had expected?

Once I was back, I was afraid that maybe this illness was more serious that I had originally thought, as my recovery was much longer than the doctors had expected.

After four months of recovery, my health was finally back to normal, but my fears began to shift: I was afraid I wasn’t called to mission anymore. My time in Jamaica changed me, and I was afraid I would never be myself again. I was so consumed by fears that my faith and hope began to slip away from me. I was afraid to take even the smallest leap of faith.

Now, as I prepare to go to Guatemala, I am still filled with fear.  I am afraid I won’t be enough. I am afraid of being lonely. I am afraid of stretching myself too thin and getting sick again. I am afraid of not being able to communicate. I am afraid of failing to build authentic relationships with those I meet.

When I pray about this, I repeatedly receive the message, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you wherever you go.”

God sent Jesus to heal our troubled hearts, to turn our fears into hope, and take us through the deep by being our friend through it all. I have come to realize that the best way to move past my fears is not to try and conquer them alone, but rather to give them to God, so that He can transform them.  

I don’t need to wait for Christ to be born in my heart; Christ is already and always with me. I need to embrace my weaknesses, realizing that God loves me unconditionally and cares for me even in my deepest fears and failures. I must ‘throw off’ the works of darkness – my fears – and with God’s protection  put on the armor of light.  In doing so, I am able to live in the light and become the person God has called me to be.

After all, God calls each of us to be children of light, filled with peace, joy, and hope, so that God can use us in ways we can’t imagine.

Reflection question: Have you been consumed by your fears? How can you throw off the works of darkness to become a child of light this Advent season?