Don’t Be Afraid

The guest blogger today is Hannah Hawkinson.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19, NRSV)

I don’t know about you, but I’m afraid.

COVID-19 has thrown our community, our nation, and our world into chaos. We’re doing our best to flatten the curve, but the number of cases continues to rise and the death toll continues to climb. And even as this pandemic dominates the front page, one look on page two reminds us that the virus is just the beginning. The fight for justice for Ahmaud Arbery only resulted in arrests after widespread public outcry months after his murder in February; the economy continues to plummet as unemployment rates skyrocket; a military exercise goes awry in Iran, killing nineteen civilians; obituaries abound for beloved figures like Little Richard and Jerry Stiller. We can’t even get a break from shark attacks. And all this on top of the immediate worries in our own lives—financial strain, waiting for diagnoses, job hunting, home schooling, caring for loved ones.

There’s more than enough fear to go around these days, that’s for sure.

And yet, over and over again throughout scripture, God’s people are commanded, “Don’t be afraid.” I used to take it as a given that they followed this command because of their exceptional strength, casting their fear aside and mustering a miraculous courage that they didn’t know they had.

But now I’m not so sure.

The author of 1 John famously writes that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

What if “Don’t be afraid” isn’t a command that we follow to demonstrate our own strength of character? What if “Don’t be afraid” isn’t a call to disregard and downplay our fear, to roll up our sleeves and forcefully imprison our fear by our own volition? What if “Don’t be afraid” is an invitation to step outside of ourselves, to acknowledge our fear and to freely place it in the hands of our God whose perfect love casts out fear?

I’m reminded of the words of George Matheson’s beloved hymn:

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

In these days when so much is uncertain, when isolation and fear seem to be our bread and butter, let us resist the urge to go it alone. May we rest our weary souls in our God who will never let us go, whose perfect love casts out fear.

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