NT 4: Casting Out Fear

The other day my kids and I were discussing the angelic visitations recorded in Matthew 1 and Luke 1. We named everyone who received such a visit (Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds) and I asked the kids if they could remember the first thing the angel said to each person or group. My oldest daughter excitedly answered, “Don’t be afraid!” Why would an angel sent from God say “fear not” before anything else?

We could tie a specific expression of fear to each of the New Testament figures who received an angelic visitor. Zacharias may have been afraid of what people would think of a geriatric father. Mary could have feared for her socio-economic future and her life. Joseph was already afraid of society, shame, and (probably) what would happen to Mary if he divorced her. The shepherds may have been completely disoriented by the angel’s sudden brilliant appearance in the dead of night and probably feared for their lives and their sheep. Each group may have also been afraid at the outset of what God might require of them and feared being equal to the task.

Fear seems to be a universal emotion. In my mind it is distinctly tied to mortality. Fear doesn’t exist in the presence of God, in heaven––God is always encouraging us to cast out fear because it is contrary to His nature and what He wants us to experience (see 2 Timothy 1:7, NT).

I readily relate to the fear each group must have experienced. Fear is one of my default emotions: Fear of what people think of me, fear for my children when they’re out of my sight, fear for what my kids will pick up at school, fear of being shot down when I share the Gospel, the list goes on. The angel’s words of Matthew 1 and Luke 1 probably had a calming effect and created a sense of confidence and peace in the listeners. The words of 1 John 4:18 came to my mind as I pondered this theme and they had a similar effect on me: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear….” How does “perfect love” cast out fear, I wondered? What does “perfect love” look like?

If I love my kids perfectly, then I prioritize Gospel learning with them and I have faith in the lessons we learn at home; I have hope in their salvation through Jesus Christ (should anything happen to them while out of my immediate care); I am able to see the bigger picture and don’t get caught up in minutiae. What if I loved God perfectly? If I love God perfectly, then I keep His commandments, I love and serve others willingly; I put God before anything else in my life, I prioritize scripture study and prayer; I turn the other cheek and don’t hold grudges; I trust fully in His power, His plan, and His love.

And then there will be no room for fear.

Day 80: Did go to work

Ether 2:16

The brother of Jared sets a powerful example of diligence and obedience. The Jaredite group has spent several years living near the sea after being led out of Babel by God. When the Lord commands the brother of Jared to “Go to work and build” barges to travel to a promised land, the scriptures record his reaction: “And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did go to work…and built barges…according to the instructions of the Lord” (Ether 2:16). I love the simplicity of this statement––it speaks volumes! There was no hemming and hawing, no equivocating, just going and doing, and following instructions.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life thinking about working, thinking about what God has asked me to do, thinking about a school assignment or paper, mentally performing the work but feeling oh so reluctant to actually do it. I have definitely increased my stress level on more than one occasion with this type of procrastination. I have even scared myself out of a project because in my head it seems so much more difficult/onerous/time-intensive. One thing I have worked on in recent years is learning to just jump in, especially if it’s a church responsibility or personal revelation. It’s really easy to talk myself out of doing something good so I have tried to minimize the over-thinking and maximize the doing! I fall short of this goal often, but I do feel like I have made progress toward following the Spirit promptly and managing my stress level.

Like the brother of Jared, I can be more prompt and positive in my responses to God’s invitations.