By Sarah Holsapple
“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10, KJV).
As the holidays are quickly approaching, I am reminded that much of what happened during those pivotal moments in the Christmas nativity narrative depended upon the trust and courage of those mentioned. God had a monumental task for each of them; their lives were about to change forever, and their choice to lean into faith instead of fear is evident. Imagine if they had let fear overcome them. What if they had pulled back, doubted, or failed to do what God wanted them to do?
And Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47, NIV).
Just like Mary, we too are fragile humans attempting to trust God despite our inclination towards fear. Mary was blessed because she believed. She witnessed a promise fulfilled because she chose faith instead of fear during a very unknown season of her life.
The Lord’s message to us today is the same message He sent through His angels so long ago: “Fear not.”
Isn’t it amazing how life can be moving along, and BAM, a loss, a betrayal, a difficult decision, or a health issue arises? Even though we’ve gone through thousands of transitions in our lives, we are shocked and wonder what is happening. I have had many opportunities to fear over the past six months as I have walked through many life-changing events, surgeries, and procedures, all with unknown outcomes at every turn: an unknown virus creating a pandemic that shut down church as we know it, a kidney obstruction requiring emergency surgery during the height of the pandemic, a procedure to remove a large tumor that was, thankfully, non-cancerous, a surgery to fix a broken tibia and fibula, a life detour being confined to a wheelchair and requiring assistance with every detail of my daily activities, and then, a landlocked hurricane with straight line winds of over 100 mph that catastrophically impacted every part of our city.
I had moments where doubt filled my head and fear filled my heart as control and independence were quickly being stripped from me. It is hard to admit that I couldn’t feel or see God working at times. How was I supposed to trust when I didn’t know if He would come through? And what if His idea of “coming through” was different than mine? We’ve all had times when it seems that prayers go unanswered and the season is filled with pain and uncertainty marked by loss, pressure, and the temptation to run. It is easy to get weary during such seasons.
I believe fear is a principal weapon in the arsenal of the enemy that he wields often so that we lose strength for the combat of life. Our unrelenting enemy never misses an opportunity to steal our peace, kill our trust, and ultimately to destroy our faith. You see, the only power fear possesses is the power we give it. In times of crisis we begin to lay down our peace willingly. We give it up, abandon it. However, no one can take your peace from you. You must surrender it. And as such, YOU are the only one who can take it back.
During this difficult season I turned to the Word and prayer and found a private place I could call out to the Lord. I learned to let His Spirit flow through me and fill my heart and mind with peace. The intimacy with God has surprised me. I learned that fear quickly became the feeling that pointed out the areas of my mind and my heart that were not aligned with God’s truth. I was learning how to trust God in every area of my life – not just the easy ones.
Although I would cry out for the Lord to heal the things I was encountering on the outside, He was already starting a miraculous healing on the inside, pruning away with shears of love, trimming away dead thoughts and hazardous ways of thinking.
“Fear not” is a command and a comfort found throughout the Bible, even in the Christmas nativity narrative. Fear Not. If the call is to “fear not,” it must be because we tend to fear.
I am so thankful that Jesus came to establish peace; His message explained peace, His death purchased peace, and His resurrection enabled peace. His name is the “Prince of Peace.” It was also the first attribute spoken of Him, the very first declaration of His life: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Just before He was crucified, He told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). He paid an enormous price for us to experience this peace.
We find in life that fear never has to be invited. Fear is quick to rush in when things are hard and uncertain. But peace comes when we courageously invite Jesus into our situation. Peace is not just a pristine scene, a place without noise and difficulties; it’s not just a feeling. Peace is the practice of realigning our thoughts and ways with His. It comes from a steadfast, trusting heart.
We serve a God that meets us in the chaos, the only one big enough to take all the calamities and questions of life and turn them into peace, His peace. True and lasting peace is not a location or a feeling. Peace is a person.
Let us turn to the one who said “Fear not” and witness promises fulfilled because we chose faith instead of fear.
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20).
About the Author
Passionate about discipleship and teaching the Bible, Sarah serves as Creative and Spiritual Development Director at First Church of the Open Bible in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, alongside her husband, Harris, lead pastor. Sarah is also the Director of Women’s Ministry in Central Region for Open Bible Churches. She and Harris have been married for 16 years and have two awesome kids who fill their house with joy: Hudson, age seven, and Lynnley, age four.