I know I need to write this post, but I do not know what I am going to say.
Because I do not know how to not be afraid.
This is not a how-to post or an encouraging post or even a “me too” post.
This is a cry, perhaps a prayer, from the trenches.
I believe I am not alone here in the battle, and I am braver with compadres. So today, I’m stepping into the light and saying it: Fear chases me, motivates me, gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me up late at night.
Fear, as they say, is my life.
There’s a meme going around Christian pinterest boards that says that there are 365 places where the Bible tells us to not be afraid, one for each day of the year. 365 may be a bit of a stretch, but it is in there a lot, no matter what translation you use.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling anxious, I read through those verses.
But I’ve found that when God says, “Do not be afraid,” he follows it up with good news. Like when the angel came to Mary, or when he spoke to Abram about his descendants, or any of the hundreds of times in between.
Usually, when I’m afraid, it’s because I don’t believe I’m about to stumble into some eternal blessing. I get nervous about performance evaluations at work because if they go poorly, I could lose my job. I worry about meeting new people because they might not like me or what I believe. I’m afraid of commitment because what if everything changes?
I am afraid precisely because God has not shown up and told me he has good news of great joy.
It doesn’t seem fair, really. When those people faced the scariest time of their lives, following God into the unknown, they could look back and remember their interaction with God, when he told them that they didn’t need to be afraid.
Not everyone gets that. Some of my friends and I have walked through real evil here in this world, where fear was natural and necessary and warranted. Sometimes what comes next is not good news of great joy for all people.
The things I am afraid of sometimes come to fruition. Where does “Do Not Be Afraid” belong then?
I know the right answer to this question, but I don’t like it. Like it was for Job, who honestly admitted that what he had feared had happened and that his life was falling apart, the “correct” response is to believe that God is bigger and mightier and does not need to answer our questions.
This one doesn’t resolve, friends. Either I trust that God is Good and Mighty and Love and therefore that all of this will someday work for my good so on some kind of eternal timeline I don’t need to be afraid, or I am driven by fear.
It’s easier to look back and remember the times when the thing I feared came to pass than to remember the times when God provided and blessed me in spite of my fears. Maybe those things that were fearful aren’t done yet, maybe they will still work together for good in a tangible way, or maybe they won’t ever.
Is God still Good if they don’t? Can I “fear not” when evil has a terrifying hold on our world and lives?
Some people think that belief in God is a crutch to help you have hope instead of fear, to progress through life if you are not strong enough to make it on your own.
If anything, belief in God has given me a limp.
But sometimes, mercifully, I notice that he provides a steady arm to lean on in my uneven gait.
Maybe “fear not” means looking at the mountain up ahead and feeling the painfully twisted ankle and still moving forward.
Maybe good news of great joy will carry us up, and maybe sometimes it is just a place to stop and rest.