Jesus told the disciples not to be afraid when he was transfigured, during the Last Supper, and again when he appeared in the upper room after the Resurrection. It was also one of his major themes when he taught his friends. This is what God and Jesus tell people over and over again. Why? We have a lot to fear. Or at least, that’s what we think.
I worry about the United States and North Korea. I think about people experiencing devastation from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and famine, and that’s not even getting into global warming. Meanwhile, closer to home, there are many personal issues affecting people. Families, personal health, aging, moving, money, death, addictions, school, and jobs are some of the areas where we can find fear. I think much of it boils down to fear of the future.
What will happen? What if…? When faced with the unknown, we tend to imagine the worst. But God continuously says, "Do not be afraid," often followed by "for I am with you."
‘I am with you when things are hard. I am with you when you lose something. I am with you when someone dies, and I am with the person who comes to me…I am with you. You don’t need to be afraid.’
Fear paralyzes and freezes us. It doesn’t lead to activity (although sometimes we take action in spite of our fears). We can be angry, we can be concerned, we can stand against injustice or take steps to make problems right again, but fear doesn’t help. And God says that we don’t need to be afraid anyway. Why is that? I believe the answer is that next phrase "Because I am with you." That is the ending of the Gospel of Matthew, "For I am with you always, even to the end of the world."
Now is a time when we may be afraid for our world, our family, ourselves or our church. We have people, places, and experiences that are very important to us. They are gifts, and God wants us to enjoy them. But when faced with their possible loss, when facing a new and unknown, possibly different future, God still wants us to experience it fully. We can fight hard to change things and celebrate success, and we can grieve fully and experience our loss. We can look to the future with trust, and know that God always offers us goodness. And God still says, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."
By Pastor Kathy Itzin