I’ve been reading the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke this month as I prepare my heart for Christmas. And I found something that surprised me. In the one hundred and thirty-two verses of those two chapters, an angel tells three different people to not be afraid.
He tells Zechariah not to fear because his prayer has been heard.
He tells Mary not to fear because God has a surprise for her (quite the understatement, don’t you think?).
And he tells the shepherds not to fear because he’s here to announce a great and joyful event.
I think I underestimate the part that fear plays in my life. I think I wrongly consider myself to not be a fearful person. But in essence, I think I fear quite a bit.
What might happen tomorrow.
What might not happen tomorrow.
That I might have a sadness hover just below the surface of every experience for the rest of my life.
That I might make hugely wrong decisions.
That I messed up my kids profoundly.
That I might be missing what God’s purpose is for me.
That there won’t be enough of whatever I need in the future.
That I’m not working hard enough.
That I’m not enough.
You know, little things like that.
But what I’m seeing from Scripture as I look at Luke’s account of the arrival of Jesus is the common theme of not fearing – of being told to not be afraid – as if it’s something we supposedly can choose to do.
Apparently it must be.
My head knows every single thing about worry and fear that there is to know.
That it doesn’t add even an hour to my life.
That it isn’t some kind of proactive barrier that will make the potential bad news easier to bear.
That it takes my mind off the present.
That it’s basically saying I don’t believe that there is a loving God guiding my life.
I know, I know, I know. I know all of these things. And, for the most part, these truths do make their way to my heart and reside there.
There is a reason, I’m sure, that Jesus says do not be afraid like a zillion times. I think it’s because, in part, he knows our tendency to jump to fear as our default reaction. But I think it’s also because he knows something that we keep failing to truly integrate into our lives.
That his Father, who is also our Father, really loves us.
That our Father is not out to get us.
That he’s not coming up with wild schemes to mess with our heads and leave us feeling untended and abandoned.
That anything that comes our way – and I really mean anything – has been lovingly sifted through his hand before it enters our lives.
Author Ann Voskamp says in her book One Thousand Gifts that “all fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.” My life is proclaiming with each catch of my breath from worry that deep down I believe God’s love for me can come to a stop. If only, in those slivers of moments, just between a worry emerging and my entire body responding to that worry I could remind myself that I John 4:8 says that God is love, which means he cannot stop being something that he fundamentally is, nor can he stop acting out of his character.
So today, this is how I’m choosing to prepare my heart for Christ.
I will lay down my fears for this day.
I will set aside my dread and place it in my Father’s capable hands.
I will ask Jesus to help me be courageous by way of resting my weary mind in the hopes that space will be cleared for sweeter, truer thoughts to fill my soul.
Come, Lord Jesus, and I will fear not. Amen.
“You have nothing to fear: God has a surprise for you.” -Luke 1:30- (Msg)
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