An Edge Over Our Fears

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Do not fear. Be silent and know that God is with you. This is the idea at the heart of today’s scripture passage from Isaiah. You may have heard that the phrase, “Do not be afraid,” appears 365 times in the Bible, but this is not true. According to the Concordance, for example, The King James Bible records it some 103 times. The number of times it appears, though, is not as important as the message that God is sending us through the prophets, or through Jesus, each time this phrase is uttered. It is a declaration of assurance to us from God.

I babysit my grandchildren often. Recently I was with them for 3 days. Each night, when I put them to bed, my 5 year old pleaded with me to leave the door open and the hall light on saying, “I’m afraid of the dark.” I would put my hand on her forehead and tell her, “Don’t be afraid, sweetheart, I’m here.” She would settle back on the pillow, I’d put the covers over her, and I would leave the door open with the hall light on. In a few minutes I would go back and she would be sound asleep. All of us who have children can remember such conversations. Maybe we can remember those fears of the dark in our own youth and the assurance of our own mother or father’s promised presence and the words, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here.”

The world holds many real and potential fears for us. Sometimes we try to run away from our fears in a foolish attempt to avoid them. But the causes of our fears are like shadows that follow us everywhere. They do not go away or get relieved, until we learn to confront them, to face them head on and deal with them. This is never easy, of course, but with God’s grace, our faith, and the help of our friends or family, we can often do something positive about those fears. Throughout the Bible we often hear God saying to us, “Do not be afraid.” Are we not as assured by this thought as our children are when they hear us say to them something like, “[I will] take hold of your right hand…’Do not fear; I will help you” out of the depths of our love and compassion for them?

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Our children are assured when they have faith in our words and our deeds. They learn to trust what we say, if we follow through, regularly and consistently, on our promises. Sometimes we fail them in this and this can cause very real true anxieties in them. God, on the other hand, never fails us. His promises are always fulfilled. He never abandons us and we can trust that he will always be there when we need him. He is always ready to, “Take hold of our right hand,” and to relieve us of our fears. In this wounded world, this is a great comfort to those who believe. It is our faith and God’s fidelity that assures us in all of our troubles. Thanks be to God for his loving kindness and his unbreakable fidelity with us.

In our fearful times, let us turn to you, Lord, knowing that you are there for us, that you will always be at our side, protecting us, strengthening us, and encouraging us. Your Word and your fidelity are our greatest comfort. Help us always to honor you with an ever deepening faith in your love and kindness toward us. We pray these things in your most holy name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.