“Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger…my love is stronger than your fear. Don’t be afraid…my love is stronger and I have promised…. promised to be always near.”
These words will be familiar to those of you who attend the 9:00 AM service. They are the lyrics to a tune often sung by our choir at the beginning of the service titled, appropriately enough, “Don’t be Afraid” written by John Bell, Scottish Pastor, author and member of the Iona Community.
Whenever our choir sings this short hymn, I feel the words are directed specifically to me, and I take comfort from them. I have often thought that our 9:00 and 11:10 choirs are wonderful preachers.
We live in a scary world. Maybe even a deranged world. A pandemic, war, inflation, gun violence, supply chain disruptions, abuse, neglect, white supremacy, racial inequity, congressional stalemate, threats to democracy, climate change, tough diagnoses and a myriad of other problems threaten us every day.
The Prophet Isaiah also lived in troubled times. Judah was engaged in war with the Assyrian Empire. The nation had been invaded and its cities were under siege. The Hebrew Nation had been plagued by corrupt kings and a dysfunctional religion centered more on preserving its institutional status quo than helping people understand God’s teachings and living Godly lives. Everything seemed on the verge of collapse. But God gave a message to Isaiah, a message of hope.
“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.” Isaiah 41:10.
God is aware of our tendency to fear. And He cares about every fear we face. In Scripture we find commands and encouragements to not feel fear, take courage, fear not, and more – over 300 times. God doesn’t want us to be consumed by fear. And yet, our fears do not surprise him in the least.
We need to realize God is not disappointed in us when we have fears. No more than you are disappointed when one of your children is afraid.
It’s important to understand why God tells us not to be afraid. It’s not because what we are facing is easy. God tells us in the world we all will, without a doubt, face difficult times. It’s a certainty. See John 16:33.
God tells us to fear not because he goes through the trials with us. He is there no matter what we’re facing.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3
God is our ever present help in troubled times. Thanks be to God.