Throughout Scripture, we are told not to fear. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10)
No fear. God is with me…Emmanuel…so I cannot fear. If I fear, then I must not be doing this faith thing right. If I fear, then I’m doubting God…and I can’t doubt God. I mean, what happens once I start doubting God?! Will God help me, will He care, if I’m doubting him or questioning His Will?
Anxiety builds as we are simultaneously instructed by Scripture to hope. If there is one word to describe the message of Scripture it would be hope. The good news of the Gospel is the news of hope. Hope for salvation, for renewal, for forgiveness, for reconciliation…for a strength to get through today, and a trust in a better tomorrow. We are told over and over again to hope. To never let go of it. And if I let go of hope…well, then I must be letting go of God.
So, this means I have to choose, right? Fear or hope. One or the other. I often feel the tension between the two. It bends me. Challenges me. I fight its battle time and again. Scripture makes clear what the “correct” choice is…”Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Rom 12:12) But what if it’s fear that I’m experiencing? What if I have more fear than hope? What if that which I am told not to feel is exactly what I feel in the deepest parts of me? What if I keep trying to hope but every few minutes fear continues to take hold of my mind and heart?
A better question is what if it’s not fear or hope? It doesn’t have to be an either/or. What if, sometimes, it is fear and hope? …Because sometimes I don’t have the luxury of choosing between the two. Sometimes it’s and. Fear and Hope. Together. Coexisting. Or possibly…even…dare I say…working together.
Without fear, could I ever experience the full reality of hope? Without knowing fear, living and breathing it, could I ever fully know the relief of hope? The comfort and strength that is alive and active in it? It isn’t until we experience rain and storms that we truly appreciate the beauty and warmth of sunshine. It isn’t until we experience rejection and hate that we are able to experience acceptance and love fully. The fullness of hope lies within fear. Even when I cannot see the hope myself, it’s there. Sometimes someone else has to see it, live it and hold it for me until I am able to receive it for myself….but it’s there. Even when fear brings me to my knees…and all I have left in me to do is cry before the Throne…that cry itself is hope rising. The act of going before the Throne of God is an act of hope. Hope that He’s listening. That He cares. That He is Emmanuel…that He is with me in this. I am hoping that He’s with me. And as this hope rises, the Word that says His perfect loves casts out fear begins to come alive…
The hospital rooms I sit in all day long hold both, fear and hope. Even if only one is overtly showing its face, I know that the other is just hiding somewhere….somewhere in that scared, lonely, and confused heart lies the other. And I try to help that person find it. I try to help them find it because God wants it. God wants all of it. Hope and fear. He already knows it’s there. He sees it all. But God wants to hear about it because its the heart of his beloved. Even if the only way to hear about it is through tears, screams, curses or cries…He wants to hear about it. He can handle it. If I try to deny the fear that is taking over me then I am barricading and isolating myself in the fear. Blocking anything…or anyone…from reaching it, including God.
Allowing God into my fear does not mean my circumstances change. Or even that the fear goes away. It just means that God is able to reach that scared, lonely, confused place in my heart, and bring peace to it. Bring comfort. Love. And possibly even Hope.
Emmanuel. God With Us. It is not God with us only in hope, love and joy. It’s God With Us. Period. God is with us in our fear just as much as He’s with us in our hope. There is no choice to be made between the two. They can coexist and the results can be beautiful.