The Christmas story is jam packed with “fear nots”.
And for good reason. There was a lot of fear. A young unwed pregnant teen had to face her fiancé, her family, her community with the only explanation of her condition being, “it is God’s son.”
Her fiancé who would be socially shamed for moving forward with this marriage was torn between wanting to be kind and compassionate and keeping the law.
The couple traveled countless miles by foot and by donkey to be counted, thrown into adulthood before they were ready, before they had planned, knowing the girl could go into labor at any moment.
Although they arrived at their destination in time, they had no place to stay, not even a rack room at a hostel. Would they be safe in a cave full of animals?
Bright, glowing angels, not one, but an entire choir shouted and sang at nomadic shepherds in the usual, peaceful, quiet, night sky.
So many things to doubt, to be anxious about, to worry and fret over, certainly to be afraid of, yet, time and time again, God sent angels speaking two words, “Fear not.”
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. Luke 1:30
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10
Mary and Joseph and the rest of the crew at the crèche weren’t the only ones with fears. What are you afraid of today?
How you did on your midterms? How you’re going to pay for all of the Christmas gifts you bought on your credit card? Maybe you’re awaiting medical results and the potential outcome could turn your life as you know it upside down. You might have recently ended a relationship and fear being alone. Or maybe you’re in a relationship and are afraid of committing or taking it to the next step. Perhaps you’ve been called to move or change jobs or both, and you don’t have any idea how all of the pieces could possibly come together. It could be the pieces are coming together, but the fear of change is crippling. Or, do you have a teenager who drives, like I do? She is so responsible, but every time she pulls out of the driveway, I admit, there’s a little fear for her safety. Yet, Jesus tells us, “FEAR NOT.”
How can He say that when there is so much in our lives we can’t control, can’t predict, can’t do alone? He can say it easily, with complete confidence, because of course we’re not in control, but He is. God created us and therefore knows without a shadow of a doubt that we’re equipped with everything we’ll ever need, because He’s the one who did the equipping. He loves us, and therefore He’ll always be with us, giving us what we need, how we need it, when we need it. The things we’re uncertain of, He already knows how they’re going to turn out, and He knows when we trust in Him, they’ll turn out grand.
That medical scare I suggested, we just went through one. My husband went to the doctor because he thought he had abdominal pain. Within 24 hours he was sent to the hospital for a CT scan, and then an MRI. There were two potential outcomes of his tests: 1. He was fine 2. He’d have less than 100 days left on earth. We would have to wait almost thirty hours (which felt like thirty years) for the answer.
Fear? As my friends in North Dakota would say, you betcha! Fear of losing my best friend, life partner, and true love. Fear of what this kind of loss would do to the kids. Fear of somehow having to do everything by myself. But the fear was brief, because when something kicks you in the back of the knees and they buckle, the only place to fall is on your knees. And while I was down there, I started praying. I longed for God to tell me Brett would be fine. But God gave me something better. He told me He was with me. Jesus reminded me of the words in Isaiah 43 that even if I walked through fire I wouldn’t be burned, even if I were in deep water I wouldn’t drown. Over and over again I begged God that everything would be okay, and over and over again, God told me it would be, no matter what the diagnosis. An amazing sense of peace filled me. I couldn’t imagine losing my husband, but if I had to, I knew somehow God would get me through it.
John Ortberg says in The Me I Want to Be, “Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake without storms, it comes from having Jesus in the boat.”
I am praising Jesus, because my husband got a healthy diagnosis. But I know that won’t always be the case. I will face many more storms in my lifetime, and I know that sometimes my boat will crash or sink. But what I learned through this event which will mark our lives is there is no need to be afraid. Because the God of the universe has my back, and He has yours too. Invite Him into your boat. He’ll calm the storm. Still the waves. What are you afraid of today? I’ll leave you with two words, the words the Christmas story is saturated with, Fear Not.
Laura L. Smith