Many of us struggle with fear. It is a very uncomfortable emotion. We would be happy to be rid of it. It causes our hearts to race, our focus of attention to narrow, and terrible possibilities to enter our minds. We wish we could banish fear from our hearts by sheer will power. We wish we could simply stop feeling afraid. Unfortunately fear is not dismissed so easily.
There is something about texts such as this one that leave us very uncomfortable. The words "do not fear" seem like a simple command. God says "do not fear". It looks like a simple imperative. Our job is simply to obey. But, we cannot seem to obey. No matter how hard we try not to be afraid, we cannot seem to make our fears go away.
The key to understanding texts of this kind is to see that when God says 'do not fear', it is not a simple imperative from an authority figure. The words "do not fear" are spoken as words of comfort. And they are followed by a specific promise of God's presence with us.
A loving parent speaks to a child who awakens from a nightmare with words such as, "Don't be afraid. I'm here with you. You are safe." This is not a rejection of the child's fears. It is not an instruction to do the impossible. It is, rather, a promise of protection. If a parent says only "Don't be afraid," then the child learns that the parent doesn't understand and the child feels unprotected. But if the parent says "Don't be afraid, I'm here with you," the child's needs are validated and the child is comforted by the parent's protection.
God comforts us in the way a loving parent comforts a frightened child. God says to us, "I know that you are afraid; but I also want you to know that I am here with you. I will not leave you. I will give you strength. I will give you help. I will hold you by the hand so that you will not fall".
You know, God,
how often I am afraid.
And you know the soil in which these fears have grown.
And you know how I have struggled to be free from fear.
Help me to draw courage today from your presence.
Be with me.
Give me strength.
Uphold me with your hand.
Still my fears, God of all Comfort.
Still my fears with your powerful love.
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery