I write these words in the aftermath of a blizzard. Generally speaking we tend to over-hype these storms; we even give them names: Winter Storm Jonas! We heard warning after warning prior to the storm urging us to be prepared, and to be sure this storm was the real deal. Sadly, there was some loss of life. Property was destroyed in some instances. Most of us though, had little to fear. Life has its storms, and they can wear on us and raise our "fear factor." But the manner in which we respond to the storms in life can be a powerful witness.
A Gallup Poll a few years ago surprised me by reporting that our greatest fear is the fear of snakes! We are also deathly afraid of public speaking. That too surprised me until I remembered the butterflies I still have when I get up to preach. We are afraid of heights, cramped spaces, spiders, flying on airplanes, and dogs. Some are afraid of thunder and others of lightening. We’re afraid of the dark, of crowds, of going to the doctor, of terrorist attacks, refugees, recession, job loss, and .... Mercy, stop already!
We live every day facing the reality of fear in our lives. Fear is a significant force, and our fears, large or small, ought not be trivialized or neglected. I find it fascinating that there are 365 places in the Bible where we read the words “Fear not” or “Be not afraid.” It is as if God is reminding us every day that the things we fear are more often than not, nothing to be afraid of. Could it be that the intent of these verses is to assure us that no matter what the future brings, or how frightening the events in our lives might be, God is with us and for us? I believe so.
No matter what we fear, we don’t have to face it alone. Jesus said, “I will be with you always.” Not sometimes or maybe, but always, anywhere and everywhere, no matter the circumstance, at all times, period! We have all heard people say, and probably have experienced ourselves, that most of the things we worry about never happen. But even when they do, we have the assurance that there is someone who loves us and will guide us and care for us.
The scripture assures us that perfect love casts out fear. Of course, it is not our love for God, which is always imperfect, but rather God’s love for us. So, in facing down our fears there is another way, the way of courage and faith, words that seem to go together. Indeed, someone has said that courage is only fear that has said its prayers. We live by faith and not by fear, and because of that we can face life with courage and faith, believing that even after every Washington snowstorm, the sun will come out again.
May the peace of Christ rest in all our hearts,
Rev. Dr. Doris Barron-Shell