By Jessica Faith Hagen
Originally Published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 3
I don’t like heights.
If I’m at high altitudes and I happen to do what everyone knows you’re not supposed to do when high up—look down—I get dizzy and a knot forms in my stomach. And if I don’t get calm and reoriented quick, that knot tightens and threatens to squeeze any contents out of my stomach.
Yep, I don’t like heights.
My mom, she’s fine with heights. But bugs and spiders? Now that’s another story. She’s been known to scream and cry and hurriedly run from the presence of these little creepy crawlies.
Then there’s my grandma. I’m not sure how she feels about heights, but I do know she will get to the highest ground available, while letting out a squeal, if any furry mouse scurries by.
We all have things that cause us to fear. Some are tangible, like heights and spiders and mice. Some are harder to see and also harder to avoid. Like the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not having enough, the fear of what others might think or say. These fears come out in anxieties and insecurities and stress.
We all have them.
But, throughout Scripture, we are called to not be afraid.
In Genesis 15:1, as God makes His covenant with Abram, He says, “Do not be afraid.” In Exodus 14:13, as Pharaoh chases the Israelites in order to take them back into captivity, Moses tells the people, “Do not be afraid.” In Deuteronomy 20:1, as God gives His people instructions for facing their enemies, He tells them, “Do not be afraid.” In Joshua 1:9, as Joshua succeeds Moses as Israel’s leader, God commands him, “Do not be afraid.” In Luke 1:20, as the angel brings Mary the news that she will bear God’s Son, he says to her, “Do not be afraid.” In John 14:27, as Jesus speaks of His soon returning to the Father, He tells His disciples, “Do not be afraid.”
All through God’s Word, we read the phrase “do not be afraid” again and again and again. When we read this phrase, it is followed by a reason not to fear. Whether leaving their homeland for a new home, fleeing captivity to start afresh, staring into the face of an opposing army, stepping into a position of leadership, receiving a message from an angel, or wondering at what the future will hold, the hearer of the words “do not be afraid” also hears words of reassurance that there is no need to fear.
The words of reassurance are not “do not be afraid because you’re stronger than them”, “do not be afraid because this actually isn’t hard”, or “do not be afraid because things will be safe and easy and comfortable.”
Rather, the words of reassurance are, “do not be afraid because I am with you.” The reassurance is the promise of God’s presence.
God was with Abraham as He led Him to a new land.
God was with His people as they left Egypt, and walked across the dry path God cut through the sea.
God was with His people as they entered the promised land and drove out the wicked nations.
God was with Joshua as he inherited the role of leader from Moses and led the people into the promised land.
God was with Mary as gave birth to the Son of God and watched that Son grow, and eventually die.
God was with His disciples through His Holy Spirit, even after Jesus had returned to heaven.
And God is with me in whatever I may be going through and having to face, whether hard or scary or difficult or uncomfortable. And He is with you in whatever you are going through and having to face. Right here, right now, God’s ever-present presence is with you.
Reassuring peace and confident calm in the face of fears are found in the presence of God.
One of my favorite verses that speak of this is Zephaniah 3:17: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
And yes, this verse is a reassurance following those words “do not be afraid.”
I love how this verse speaks of God’s might and love. We need not fear because our mighty, loving God is with us. He is living among us. He is living in us.
Our God is all-powerful. Whatever scary, stressful, uncertain stuff we may be going through, He can handle it. He will protect and provide. He is able to work all for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). When we choose to submit our worries to Him instead of fretting over them, the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:6). Our circumstances may give us legitimate reason to worry, but God whispers to our hearts, “I’ve got this. I’ve got you.” This peace guards our hearts and minds from the lies fear feeds on; the lies that we are alone, that we must earn approval and love, that we are not enough nor do we have enough, that our significance and worth are based on our success and others’ opinions.
God is not only with us; He delights and rejoices in being with us! It brings Him gladness and joy! He is not with us in a because-I-have-to-so-I’m-just-putting-up-with-you way. He chooses to be with us because of His love for us.
And His great, perfect love calms all our fears, for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Fear flees in the face of love, for fear feeds on lies and causes me to become self-focused. But love rejoices with the truth and causes me to become others-focused. Insecurities, worries, anxieties, and stress melt away as God’s love washes over me. I’m not afraid of failing because I know He’ll still love me and pick me up when I fall. I’m not afraid of rejection from others because I know God’s arms are open wide to me. I’m not afraid of not being good enough because I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength to do good. I’m not afraid of what others might think or say because I know what God thinks and says of me. He loves me and says I am His beloved daughter, and He calls to me to share His love with others.
He loves you. You are His beloved daughter. You have His love to share. You can do all things through Him, no matter how afraid or stressed or insecure you might be feeling.
Let us enter into the presence of our God who is always with us, taking time out of our busy days to let Him calm our fears and give us peace, that we may walk through each day in the confidence of His love, and hear the singing of His joyful songs over us. His joyful songs that give this reassurance: I am with you.