Question: Is it wrong for Catholics to experience fear or worry? Shouldn't our faith keep us from having both of these emotions? (P.L. Chicago)
Answer: The word "faith" is sometimes used incorrectly, even by people of a religious background who should know better. Simply defined, faith means belief in those things that have been revealed to us by God. Knowledge of these revelations may come to us through the Scriptures or through the Traditions of the Church. We believe, for example, in things like the Trinity of Persons in God or the Immaculate Conception by virtue of faith.
There is nothing in God's revelation that claims that we will always have food on the table or that we will never meet a mugger on a darkened street. Even if we have "faith sufficient to move mountains" we must still exercise prudence in our earthly affairs. Fear and worry are emotions given us by God to make sure that we take stock of our surroundings and direct our efforts accordingly. Failing to heed such emotions may be seriously sinful if such failure causes us to ignore our obligations to ourselves or those dependent on us. On the other hand, excessive surrender to fear and worry could be sinful if it kept a person from performing his duties; not all poor people are muggers, and most of our economic decisions involve some risk.
Our Lord does make promises to those with faith. But these are rewards for keeping the Faith, not promises for wishful thinking. For example, we have assurances from our Lord and Lady that those who faithfully recite the Rosary or wear the Scapular, or receive Holy Communion on the first Fridays and Saturdays will receive important spiritual benefits. But none of these promises allow us to impose on God's mercy. It would be a serious sin of presumption to think that such promises work in a "magical" way; that we can simply "go through the motions" and then expect God to protect us from our own bad behavior.
While we have not been promised that God will deliver us from the physical evils of the world, we do have His assurance that if we cooperate with His graces we can work out our salvation. This virtue of "hope" is the "golden mean" between presuming that God will save us no matter what we do, and despairing of salvation no matter how hard we try.
"God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength."1 We may encounter physical problems and spiritual temptations, but God knows our strength and will not allow us to be burdened to the point of risking our eternal salvation.
1. 1 Corinthians x: 13.