Spirituality

“Do not be afraid” – Big little words

I keep thinking about the words Jesus said to the two Mary’s after His resurrection. Matthew 28:1-10 tells us they to go the tomb. However, they find an empty tomb and hear the angels announce Jesus had risen from the dead! Then Jesus appears and says these big little words: “Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid


Sit with that for a moment.

For days they were soaked in fear, eyes riveted to the door. Will they come for us next? Yet their desire to visit the tomb is overwhelming, despite the terror, anguish and sorrow. So, they go, apprehensive and filled to the brim with grief.

Furthermore, these women had seen their hope, their vision for the future, their healer, deliverer, their friend – they had seen Him die. He was broken, brutalized, beaten – dead. He was dead.

Dead.

Then angels, dazzling lights, and shaking earth. Jesus, alive, because – resurrection.

But is this a ghost, last night’s dinner, nerves stretched thin, or hallucinations?

Jesus?

My Jesus?



Can you feel this leading to their wild hope, and incredulity? The gasp of joy, the ripple of shock and fear from head to toe.

Nevertheless, He speaks, tender and strong, “Do not be afraid.”

Warmth to chill of fear


Surely not, are you kidding me, no fear – do not be afraid?

Still, these big little words fall like warmth, gentle the chill of fear.

These, therefore, are the words we all need. The song in our hearts restored, the vibrant splash of colour in a painting, the relief of light against the darkness. Spring blooms after cold, hard earth.

“Do not be afraid.”

But fear of death, disease or disaster rattles us, haunts us.

Perfectly safe?

Carolyn Arends, of Renovare, quotes Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy, as saying, “Jesus brings us the assurance that the universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be.”

Arends says it stopped her short. It does me as well.

“Scripture asks us to consider what it is we imagine, and to replace worst-case scenario thinking by anticipating the future God intends for His creation. The prophets tell us the universe is heading toward shalom—everything set aright and flourishing as it should. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ​‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). “‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom’” (Luke 12:32).

If we believe God is indeed working all things together for good, it changes the nature of the threats we encounter. The possibility of physical harm or even death no longer means the end of the story. The probability of pain does not equal a meaningless march toward nothing.

Some of the most debilitating anxieties are the fears that we are alone, that our suffering is pointless, or our future is hopeless.

That’s the fear the Bible tells us — over and over again — we need not have. But we’ll only be free of that fear if we actively immerse ourselves in the way God sees the world, not just CNN.”

Carolyn Arends
https://renovare.org/articles/why-the-world-is-a-perfectly-safe-place-to-be

In this world you will have trouble

That said, Jesus never promised a trouble free world. Moreover, He doesn’t ask us to be pretenders, positive for the sake of being positive. Jesus came, a tiny babe squalling, born in rude circumstances. He grew up, lived, died and rose again, appeared to the women and to His disciples.

Jesus became human, entered, and enters our pain and suffering. The suffering and pain of our lives has meaning, even when we can’t comprehend what it is.

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Hence, Willard’s words, as shocking as they are, say what Jesus Himself is telling us – “Do not be afraid.”

Big little words, indeed.

Perspective

Is this even possible? What if my child is dying or I receive a devastating diagnosis? When relationships end, and there are wars, threats of nuclear disaster? What about losing a job? Or struggling with depression and anxiety? How can I go on?

Might we focus and/or refocus, sink into the truth of His promise to never leave or forsake us? “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2a.

As Arends posits, perspective is everything; “we {need to} immerse ourselves in the way God sees the world.”

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Alpha and Omega

Since He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, can we trust Him in the in-between in the now and the not yet? Therefore knowing that one day as the prophet Amos declares, “justice {will} roll on like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24.

Do we fully realize He is the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with our grief – that because of this He weeps with and for us? He is Emmanuel, God with us – in all of it – our joy, grief, anguish, laughter, pain and death.

Consequently, can we open our hands, closed so tightly, surrender our hopes, dreams, failures and successes? Turn over those we hold so dear to the one who loves them more than we can ever comprehend? Might we then ask Him to open our eyes, to see what He sees and therefore have His perspective?

And might we remember this – these big little words:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Did you know in the NLT this verse starts with these words: “Do not be afraid.”

Isaiah 41:10.

Do not be afraid – instead have hope

From the beginning of Scripture and all the way through, these big little words are a refrain that sings hope to our fearful souls.

Could we with the poet Emily Dickinson say –

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all.

Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash

So might we lean into hope and never stop – at all?

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Would you like to read more? See also –

https://judygibson.ca/love-and-loss-elisabeth-and-seana-happy-birthday-elisabeth/

https://judygibson.ca/bless-the-lord-oh-my-soul-anxietys-ease/

https://judygibson.ca/hope/

Author

judy.g.gibson@gmail.com

Comments

Judith
April 25, 2022 at 9:51 pm

I enjoyed reading your Do Not Be Afraid post. Great thoughts. Yes, let’s walk on in hope.



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