As we begin the New Year with its hopes for blessings and prosperity, we acknowledge also that there is much in life to dread. The Bible does not gloss over the very real problems of living in this imperfect world. From the very first family, with its envy and strife; through the daily battles of God’s own people, the people of Israel, with neighboring tribes, with famine, slavery and wandering through the wilderness . . . through tears and tribulations . . .we see in their travails that life is not easy. The Bible portrays no Pollyanna view of life. Life is harsh, demanding, and sometimes cruel. There is much to dread.
After Jesus was born, there was no time for his family to bask in the warm memories of Christmas. Joseph and Mary and their newborn son had to flee for their lives into Egypt. It is a very human drama that has been repeated often through the ages. Even today, around the world and within our own borders, families are packing up their belongings, setting off in the hopes of finding jobs, food, or freedom. Some in places like Syria and even Central America are actually fleeing for their lives. They have to leave family and friends behind. With a sense of dread and uncertainty they move to new homes in search of a better, more secure life.
The biblical testimony is realistic that there is much in life to fear. The problem begins when we allow our fears to overwhelm us. Fear can do amazing things with our minds. The most basic of all human emotions is fear. And fear in proper doses is healthy. Many people, however, are almost totally dominated by their fears. It may be fear of failure, or fear of ridicule. It may be fear of places, or fear of people. There are as many fears as there are demands upon the human creature. Anything we are asked to be or do can create fear.
We all have the capacity to make our lives miserable by giving in to our fears. But there is an
antidote to fear, and you can find it in the scriptures. It is an antidote that allowed the heroes of the Bible to dissolve their fears and fight great battles. This antidote is more than simply being courageous. Courage is an admirable quality. It allows us to face our fears for a time and do battle. But courage is somewhat of a limited ally. It all too easily falls prey to its greatest enemy, an emotion with an interesting name: discouragement.
Courage and discourage. For courage to be lasting and effective, it must be able to see hope. If it sees no hope, it quickly transforms into discouragement. The opposite of fear is not courage; the opposite of fear is faith. What we need to pray for in the upcoming year is faith.
Faith tells us that although the odds are against us, we are not alone. That is the biblical answer to fear. We may see no hope, but we know the One who is the source of hope. That is faith‑‑not in ourselves, but in God. And that kind of faith can always defeat fear.
Even in the darkest times, God is with us. In our difficult times, God is with us. Life is hard, but we are not alone. Immanuel means “God is with us.” And that is the meaning of faith‑‑not that the way will be made easy for us, but that God will be with us.
So why are you afraid? Why are you dispirited and downcast? God is at work. Because of God all things are working toward the good for those who love God. Why not turn your fears and frustrations over to God?
Without faith we are in bondage to our worries and anxieties. But with trust in God, we can be set free. Christ can give us new life.
And today is the first day of that new life.
Blessings and Peace,