Ever have a moment where you are freaking out or super angry or super stressed and someone, meaning to be helpful of course, says to you “Relax!” “Calm Down!”
My immediate response to these statements is usually extremely sarcastic. “OH!! Is THAT what I need to do?!? Oh goodness, if you hadn’t just said that then I would be a mess over here, but now I know that I just need to ‘calm down.’ Thanks SO much!”
I almost instinctively have the same response when I read in the Bible wherever and whenever someone says “Do Not Be Afraid.” When Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her to not be afraid, did she just say “oh, okay” and calm down immediately? What about the shepherds when all of the heavenly hosts came down? Pretty sure just saying “Do Not Be Afraid” was not going to do the trick to calm them down. So why does it appear over and over again? Why is God constantly telling us to not be afraid?
I think because we constantly ARE afraid. It’s something we are good at. Just like He tells us constantly throughout the Bible to love one another. Because we don’t instinctively do that. We need to be reminded.
God also tells us WHY we shouldn’t be afraid (and also why we should love one another… but that’s not the topic of this post). A verse I keep going back to during this season of my life is “So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your GOD. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10). We don’t have a need to fear because God is there always, He won’t leave us, He is GOD! With His strength and Him lifting us up, we have no reason to be afraid of anything.
But we are still afraid. Often. At least I am.
Back in October my family moved out of the town I had lived in for 11 years. To say this transition was an easy one would be a complete lie. I had left my job, my friends, my support system, and mostly we had left our church. I loved the community in our church and how everyone cares so much for one another. I knew that moving meant finding another church and I was somewhat getting to a place where I was going to be okay with that.
Two weeks after we moved, our Pastor died unexpectedly. I won’t go into super detail about this, but needless to say it made finding a new church even that more difficult.
We pulled up to a new church a couple Sundays later. I was already crying in the car. Change in general is something that I am VERY afraid of, and this was mixed with grief. We walked into the church, which was very very crowded (another fear), and I went into panic mode. This was clearly not the church for us and I was NOT ready for this change. On one of the walls, however, there was a verse. Isaiah 41:10. Do not Fear. I am with you.
I’d love to say that in that moment I was immediately and unsarcastically “Oh! Yes! Thank you Lord.” But I wasn’t. I wasn’t sarcastic, and I really tried to take the verse to heart and not be so afraid. It wasn’t an immediate fix. We didn’t end up staying for the service. But since then God has spoken this verse to me over and over again (not in His actual voice…more of a gentle reminder).
So, the point of all this. Do not be afraid. Fear happens, we are all human and we become afraid time and time again. That’s why God constantly reminds us not to do it. Over and over again, He reminds us that He is there. That He will always be near. That He will strengthen us. We just have to lean into that. And allow ourselves to be reminded.
Since October, I have had many other moments where God has had to remind me not to fear and instead trust in Him. There are moments when I feel like I’ve become really good at this and can clearly see how trusting Him is the better way to go. There are times when it’s just not that easy. But the truth still remains. In all that has changed, and is about to change, in my life HE has always been there. Provided. Strengthened. Surrounded. Protected. He is with me.