The Old and New Testaments teem with God encounters: Abraham serving three strangers, Moses taking his sandals off to approach the burning bush, Elijah watching the Almighty pass by at Horeb, Gideon putting out his fleece as a test, Balaam’s talking donkey, Jonah’s wilted plant, Job and his desolation, Gabriel robbing Zechariah of speech, and Mary believing Gabriel when he said, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
More often than not, these wild, hard-to-believe inbreakings of a God, at once inscrutable and close as skin, begin with His saying, “Don’t be afraid.” He knows his children, their ways, their knee-jerk reactions, so if He is omnipotent and He is Creator, and I believe He is both, then He could simply lop off fear, could he not?
This amputation would be the work of a millisecond. He could cauterize the raw place left in our hearts and stitch in fear’s place some extra awe, or perhaps a new faculty for apprehending the numinous. We could leap out of our flesh on command and commune with the Alpha and Omega on a higher plane, the third heaven Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 12.
Surely, fear is an encumbrance we’re better without. A quick fear surgery would enable us to better ease into intimacy. Fear could become a psychological relic akin to the body’s poor, irrelevant appendix.
If God acknowledges fear and shushes it like a mother comforting a distraught child, then why do we have it? Why does fear persist?
The older I get, the fewer prosaic answers I have. Here is one at least: Fear starts a turning.
God provokes awe. His awesome presence magnifies, limns, illumines, our impossible smallness. As vapor, specks of dust, disappearing drops of dew, why should He care about us? Why should He show up at our doorsteps and scare the living daylights out of us? I can only assume that He likes being close to His children and letting them knowHe is close.
A jolt of fear fires up the soul’s machinery, and we turn from our worries to face Abba, the One Who Gave Us Jesus, the One Who Gave Us Himself.
Fear starts a turning, and we discover, yet again, that God is very near. We encounter a Greatness that will not let us stay small. Oddly, fear, once it subsides, once the Spirit becalms it the way Jesus stilled the storm, we see Love. How strange that the Almighty names us “Beloved”!
Today, Beloved, may your fear turn you to God Who Is Love, Perfect Love Who Drives Out Fear. Emptied of fear, even if for a moment, may you lean into the Prince of Peace. May you turn again and multiply that peace with others.
Austin L. Church