No Room for Fear in Redemption
Restoration and Protection Promised
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
Feeding the Four Thousand1
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.
We binge on fear as a society. It is addictive, quite literally, as many of us seek greater and greater stimuli for our adrenaline. We want to feel the rush. It is not that we like to be afraid. We want to feel the relief after the short burst of fear passes away. We want to kick our fight or flight instincts into high gear and feel more alive.
Unfortunately, the producers of fear in our world do not control all aspects of our lives, and something’s those various forms of fear begin piling up on us. The news, for instance, may hope only to give us a daily adrenaline shot, but unknowingly bring on complications when we have not yet been relieved from the anxiety they introduced us to the night before, and the night before that. The creators of horror movies may be excited about giving us nightmares after seeing one of their films, but they have no way of knowing if and when it may trigger some past experiences in our lives that end up giving us nightmares for weeks or months.
In those cases, fear is not a stimulus shot… it becomes a paralytic. The response to fear when there is no place to run and hide, day in and day out, is that we simply shut down: mentally, physically, and emotionally. The anxiety spreads to other parts of our lives which may have no real cause for anxiety. Our whole life becomes lived through the perspective of terror and high anxiety.
We joke in church about “signs of the apocalypse”, which rarely means a celebratory return of our Lord and often refers to incoming trial and tribulation. While that timeline has been debated over the years, what is clear in the Scriptures is that even in suffering God remains with us. His Holy Spirit, His very presence may be one of the most precious gifts we can receive from Him, because without that presence, there really is no light, life, or love.
With His presence though, we can go through anything and everything. Perhaps not without taking some scars or suffering pain, but we can do it without being overcome by fear because the presence of God pushes out fear.
The message of Isaiah in particular, and really all of the prophets was not that we needed to be more afraid of God or anything else. They did not ask for fear. They asked for faith. They asked for trust in God.
Missing a meal or two may not seem as fear-inducing as being surrounded by the armies of your enemies, but it may have been a different story for their disciples. According to Matthew, it was not just the crowds that were asking about food. It was Jesus Himself who commanded them to feed the crowds. It was knowing how little they had and how great the mountain was in front of them, and feeling the hand of God pushing them forward. It may have felt like skydiving without a parachute.
The same God that delivered the faithful armies of Israel delivered the obedient disciples that day. As He took those gifts of bread and fish, blessed and broke them, His presence overwhelmed their fear in a way that marked them for the rest of their lives. It was like an invisible, holy scar, they took from that encounter that would come back and remind them every time the mountain in front of them looked too great and they felt the hand of God pushing them forward. Instead of fear addicts it turned them into faith addicts.
Where do you experience fear in your life?
How can you invite the presence of God into those places?
- (Mk 8:1–10) ↩