“Uncertain times.” How often have we hear that phrase in the past year? Uncertainty has seemed constant. As we have gotten somewhat acclimated to one issue, something else comes racing behind it: Uncertainty added to uncertainty. We have faced a barrage of adjustments and “what if” scenarios. Although we have waited for things to settle down, the uneasiness seems continual.
So where is God in all of this? Where is He?
Even in uncertain times, God says, “Do not fear.” But on what basis can He say that?
Even through uncertain times, God repeatedly says to us, “Do not fear. Do not be afraid.” He admonishes us to not be afraid even in the midst of some of the most trying and fearful circumstances. But on what basis can He speak such a directive? In the face of great frustration, desperation, and threat; how can He earnestly say to us, “Do not fear?” The words defy logic.
Yet, throughout history, that is exactly what He does.
For example, years ago, there was a man named Moses. Moses had fled Egypt, fearing for his life. Decades later, he had an encounter with God in which God asked him to go back to Egypt (Exodus 2 – 4). Of course, Moses was afraid. But that’s not all. God told him, “Go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Approaching Pharaoh with such a request was not likely to be met with generosity and kindness. Nor was hearing this mandate likely to help calm Moses’s fears? Increase them, maybe. But get rid of them? Not likely. But God told Moses, “I will be with you.”
Joshua heard similar words. He was given the command to lead the Israelites into the land that God was giving them, which meant winning numerous battles and defeating various enemies (Joshua 1). He was told to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.” That was a seemingly unrealistic expectation. There were large armies which possessed a definite advantage over Joshua and his men. The challenge ahead for Joshua was daunting.
Gideon is another example. Gideon was minding his own business; thrashing wheat in a winepress, when an angel showed up and told him to deliver the people of Israel from the Midianites. Gideon was aghast, since his clan was the weakest, and he considered himself the least of the group. But what were the Lord’s words of comfort? “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die,” (Judges 6). Those words were an extraordinary promise, considering that soon afterward Gideon faced more than 100,000 men of the enemy armies with only 32,000 men of his own – which God promptly (even before battle) reduced to 10,000, and then to 300 men. How was Gideon supposed to not be afraid?
The disciples of Jesus also knew the feeling of fear. When a storm arose while out in their boat, they fearfully awakened Jesus, asking him if he cared if they drowned (Mark 4: 35 – 41). What did they expect him to do? Help bail water? Help throw stuff overboard? Regardless of their expectation, they were obviously afraid. But Jesus came to their aid, in a way they did not expect.
All of these scenarios had a couple of things in common. The individuals involved were facing circumstances in which their security and even their lives were threatened. Who in their right mind wouldn’t be terrified? Yet, in each case, God said, “Do not be afraid,” or something similar. And what was God’s reasoning for why they did not need to be afraid? Because He, God Himself, would be with them. He promised them His Presence. “I will be with you.” That was supposed to settle the matter of fear. He who was the Almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, and compassionate one was on their side. More accurately, the Almighty was recruiting them to be on His side. If they joined with Him, they didn’t need to fear.
He who is the Almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, and Compassionate One is with us.
It’s encouraging to note that in every case mentioned here, the individuals dealing with fear were on the threshold of something great; something historic. They were about to experience mighty deliverances, astounding victories, history-making miracles, and amazing displays of God’s power working on their behalf. In order to take hold of it, they needed to hear the word of the Lord, and to go do as He said. On the other side of following Him was the fulfillment of the promise of God’s Presence, and the opportunity of walking into the identity of their calling. All of them were stepping into the beginning of something wonderful and great.
So here we are today, facing uncertain times. Many of us find our security (and perhaps our lives) are being threatened. Fear and anxiety flow as a current through our society; sometimes under the surface but sometimes tangible and very visible. In the midst of these circumstances, what is God saying to us? What does He want us to hear?
Is it enough that God is with us?
If we listen carefully, will we hear His patient voice, calmly telling us not to be afraid, but just to follow Him and to live on His side? Will we be able to take ahold of His words of promise, “I will be with you;” and to rest in the sufficiency of that promise? Are we courageous enough to walk without fear, and to step with obedience and confidence into the things God has planned for us?