“What is something I say all the time?”
That’s one of those questions floating around those facebook questions lists you’re supposed to ask your spouse or your children. I’ve seen some cute answers from “Go clean your room!” to “I love you.” Whatever the true answer may be, the thing we say all the time is likely something important to us or important for the person listening to hear.
There sure are times I wish I didn’t have to repeat myself and on the flip side there are things that it seems I cannot say enough.
There is one phrase from scripture that has been turning in my mind:
“Do not be afraid.”
Maybe it started with Christmas as the Christmas scriptures were read and we hear those words echoed to Zechariah and also Mary. Maybe it came up as I prepared for a message in church and last week’s blog post. It continued on as I listened to a blog post when driving… any way around it the words, “Do not be afraid” were on repeat…
The thing about fear is we often don’t intend to be afraid. It isn’t as if we set out to be afraid in the first place, much less debilitated by fear. And yet… all too often fear incapacitates, defines us and directs our decisions. The thing is, we know what God’s word tells us: do not be afraid. I’ve heard it said that the Bible tells us 365 times to “fear not,” one for every day of the year. And while I don’t want to get into the whole debate on how that is true/not true… it is true that God’s word repeats a very similar message: fear not, do not fear, do not be afraid.
From Abram for a promise, Hagar in a moment of desperation, Moses for courage, Joshua facing the seemingly insurmountable, Jeremiah with hope in desolation, Zechariah with the most unlikely of news, Mary for the unimaginable task, the shepherds with a message most curious, the disciples with courage for the unknown future.
It could be easy to hear these repeated instructions, commands, promises and think that just as straight forward as those words are… there is no reason for us to be afraid… we should not experience fear.
I think that misses something… the VERY reason that the Bible tells us that over, and over and over and over and over again…
We will face many circumstances that make us afraid, scare us, leave us trembling in fear…. That is why, in each situation, God spoke as each person needed to hear the same message: Do not be afraid. Go back through that list: Abram, Hagar, Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Mary, the disciples (and hundreds of examples more) faced moments when fear was a natural response.
Scary times will come. Fear will rise. And in those moments, God’s truth speaks right where we need to hear: Fear not.
But why? Why, in the face of things that would scare even the toughest amongst us, does God come with the message: Do not be afraid?
Jesus’ words to his disciples give us courage in the face of whatever we may face, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” As Jesus shares with his disciples the hope of the coming of the Spirit we see that with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us we are never alone, not forsaken, filled with the love and power of God.
Fear isolates us as it insists we are alone. Fear attacks us as it whispers there is no hope for us. Fear cripples us because it leaves feeling helpless.
But the truth comes rushing in as the Holy Spirit speaks truth to the lies fear weaves in our hearts and God reminds us that even in the midst of the most uncertain, unimaginable, trying, unforeseen, frightening of times we too need not be afraid because God has provided us the assurance of His peace, presence and power in our lives.
Friends, what fears are you facing? How does God’s truth in the Word speak peace to your fear-filled places?