What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 (NIV)
One particular dark and stormy Christmas Eve, a mother was tucking her young son into bed. She was about to turn off the bedside light when he clasped her hand and, in a shaky voice, asked, “Mommy, will you stay with me tonight?” With a smile the mother gave him a reassuring hug and tenderly said, “I can’t dear. I have to sleep with Daddy.” There was a moment of silence, then turning to his mother, and with a trembling voice said, “That big wimp!”
The young boy isn’t the only one who’s fearful. Most of us are afraid of something. Commonly known fears include acrophobia, arachnophobia, hydrophobia, claustrophobia and agoraphobia. Less commonly known fears include peladophobia (fear of baldness), porphyrophobia (fear of purple), calyprophobia (fear of obscure meanings) and phobophobia (fear of being afraid).
Research in the USA by R. H. Bruskin Associates reveals that public speaking heads the list of fears with forty percent of people interviewed. When my niece was younger she was afraid of clowns. My eldest son, Matthew, would freak out if he were ever put in a straight jacket. Jonathan, my youngest son, fears getting poor grades (he’s a straight A student!). Some other fears people struggle with include the fear of abandonment, fear of loneliness, fear of the future, fear of flying and fear of death.
In the story of Christ’s birth there’s a little phrase that’s repeated four times: “do not be afraid.” Why would Joseph (cf. Matthew 1:20), Zechariah (cf. Luke 1:13), Mary (cf. Luke 1:30), and the shepherds (cf. Luke 2:10) all be told to “not be afraid”? In Joseph’s case it was because God wanted him to know that his marriage to Mary should go ahead. With Zechariah it served to let him know that God answers even seemingly impossible prayers. Mary is told to “not be afraid” because she had “found favour” (literally “filled with grace”) with God. And the shepherds no longer needed to be fearful because even though their sin deserved the judgment of God, the “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) was that the Saviour had been born (cf. Luke 2:11).
Here’s a word of encouragement for everyone who’s sometimes fearful: we need “not be afraid” because the God of Joseph, Zechariah, Mary and the shepherds is the same God today as He always has been. He will continue, as we trust in Him, to watch over our marriages, answer our prayers, grant us favour, and bring us “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10). Thanks be to God!