There have been a few times in my life when I have been struck by genuine fear and terror.
Maybe the first time I had a paralyzing fear was when I heard of the bombing in Oklahoma City. I was just married, living in Kansas, and I never thought that this kind of home grown terror would ever strike so close.
That was until I watched the Twin Towers fall on 9/ll. We were uncertain of the cause, unsure of what this kind of global terrorism would mean for our future, and I was genuinely concerned for our friends who lived in New York City.
Perhaps the worst fear I’ve ever known, though, was the time my youngest son was hit in the chest and stopped breathing. In the midst of prayers and tears I administered chest compressions until the ambulance arrived. He’s fine, healthy, and strong. But I knew fear that day.
We live in an age of fear. There is a virus spreading around the world and no one is sure how easily it spreads or how lethal it may be. Affecting more than just the physical health of the world, the markets have taken a beating as business are shutting down and citizens are required to shelter in place. The media only seems to fuel and thrive off of the ensuing panic. I visit with church members and fear is the thing that we are dealing with; fear of the future, fear of the virus, fear of the unknown.
Isn’t it remarkable then, to know that the most often command repeated in Scripture to the people of God is this: “Do not be Afraid.” Just a quick search on Logos Bible Software brought up over 85 occurrences of this direct command from God. I don’t have the space to write of all the times this charge is given in God’s Word – so allow me to summarize.
The command is given when the people are rightfully afraid:
When they were facing tremendous obstacles – For example, when Joshua was leading the people into the promised land, repeatedly God commands him to be of good courage, to have no fear. When enemies were attacking, God would often remind his prophets and people not to fear, for He would be with them to deliver and protect them (Isa 41 & 43; Jer 42; Ps 46).
When they are encountering God – We especially hear the command “Do not fear” when the Lord appears to His people. When the angel of the Lord visits (Abram, Hagar, Gideon, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds in Luke 2, etc.), the people are rightfully terrified. They are in the presence of the Holy One, and they are not holy, therefore standing under the judgment of God.
In every circumstance, whether encountering the living God, or facing the terrifying circumstances of the day, the repeated command is clear: Do not be afraid.
Why? What is the source of courage in the face of terror. What assurance do we have in overwhelming circumstances? What hope do sinners have in the presence of a holy God?
We do not fear for God is with His people. Isaiah 41:1 & 5 say, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.'”
God is for His people. Rev. 2:10 says, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
I think it is helpful to remember in the midst of trials and suffering that God is greater than the terror we are facing; and God often works through seasons like these to bring about His ultimate purpose for His glory. What man, or nature, intends for our harm, God uses to draw us close to Him, to help us see His mighty hand is able to save, and to wean us from the false and empty gods of this age.
So I encourage you, d.o not be afraid. I know that is easier said than done. But remember His promises. Remember His goodness. Remember what God has done for you in Jesus Christ to bring about your salvation. And remember, if God has done all of that for you, nothing you face in this life can ever separate you from God’s love and saving grace (Rom 8:38-39). Do not be afraid in these times, but look to your Savior Jesus Christ and be of good courage.