Now that gifts are unwrapped, the food at least half-eaten, the many emotions grabbing at us during the season fading, the loneliness getting deeper and the grief, abandonment, "being left out" -- all having left their wounds...and the dread of bills looming in the back of our minds. We feel lost! So enters in...fear! Yes, fear!
God had set me up one year to think of fear...
from the terror of a grandchild seeing glimpses of a horror movie on Halloween to a blog by a young mom about the fears for herself and her family....
from the anxieties of aging to the arresting truth, read in a book, that fearlessness is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit in a life...
to finally, meditating on story after story of the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, to our fear-infested, dangerous, earthly, human existence:
Fear not! Fear not! Fear not!
Did you know that fear not occurs in almost every book of the Bible. And I've been told that it's the "command" (or maybe better, "invitation") most often given in Scripture. I wonder why that is?
Could it be because we are a fearful people? And this existence is a fearful existence on this fear-filled earth?
The good news, however, is an over-whelming thought, the actual the reason most often given in Scripture for not fearing!
Fear not...because God is with us. He is Emmanuel still!
If that's true, why fear anyway? When did it all begin?
Fear wasn't a part of the creation. In fact, don't you sense a comfortableness as you read of Adam in the garden with God naming the animals, getting his helper Eve from the Hand of his Creator?
Then it happened because of that rebellious choice for autonomy:
When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid.I was afraid because I was naked.” Genesis 3:8-10 NLT
And so it begins...fear of God, fear of one another, fear of ourselves, fear of the broken, dangerous world in which we live, and fear of God's arch-enemy, the devil and his cohorts!
But in the midst of it all, we find God pursuing man and preparing His creatures to receive His free gift of re-creation in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. All of this so that His original purpose of having a family of sons and daughters in His Son, pulsating with His eternal, indestructible, never-ending, courageous life, would be fulfilled. He could then commune with them in comfortable love and acceptance.
So He never abandoned His people. Even before the coming of His Son, He was near His people. And He is still near all of us in our circumstances, in every storm we face, in every grief we bear. The good news is that we are are not alone. We can call out to Him and invite Him into our stuff, no matter how ugly, broken, messy it might be.
Look at these comforting Old Testament Scriptures that are familiar but loved and treasured in times of stress and suffering, and yes, fear!
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NLT
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NLT
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NLT
On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior.He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful singing. Zephaniah 3:16-17 NLT
When I was going through a period of high anxiety and panic attacks as a young mom, the Lord gave me this verse that became my signal. Whenever I would start into the fearful path of panic, I would use my fear as a signal to turn to the Lord.
...when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NLT
Did you notice that God says "when I am afraid"? WHEN! Not "shame on you for being afraid!" God expects that we will be afraid. Remember, it's all part of living in a sin-cursed world, and apart from HIM, we are needy and helpless.
So may I pass my verse (and all these comforting verses) on to you, dear friend? May your fear, even panic, be your signal also to turn to the Lord.
Don't be afraid because God is near you!