Do Not Be Afraid
Scripture Reading For the Day: Matthew 1:18-2:12
Nothing has induced more fear in my life than parenthood. As a first-time-mother, I loved this little person much, but I was overwhelmed with the reality that his actual life depended on me. The more kids we’ve added to our family, the more I’ve realized how out of control I truly am. I wish I could say that I’ve surrendered my kids to the Lord, and I can now parent in peace. However, this is an area I continue to need to grow in.
Many years ago, we began the process to adopt our third child from China. This was a season that sparked an incredible amount of anxiety for me. As I looked at the mountains of paperwork and decisions to be made, I often felt paralyzed. Each decision to me felt like I was saying “yes” or “no” to a specific child, whose faces stared back at me on waiting child listings and agency brochures. The decision to adopt was the easy one for us. It was the decisions that came after that, at times, felt like a weight on my chest. It felt like surely this was going to turn out to be something much bigger than I could handle.
One day in particular, I was ruminating and obsessing about more decisions, unable to come to a conclusion, when I felt a firm stop in my spirit. The words, “Trust me with your family,” cut through all of my anxiety and worry that had been there only seconds before. Somehow, I knew that the Lord was speaking straight to my heart, reminding me of who he was, that he knows my future, and that my burdens could be placed on him. I have leaned on that message and those words ever since.
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In this passage, Joseph is suddenly faced with a future that felt very unclear. His betrothed wife was pregnant, and not by him. The law demanded that he divorce her, but if he divorced her publicly, she would be viewed as an adulteress, and worse, she would likely be stoned. But Joseph had mercy on Mary, despite her apparent unfaithfulness, and vowed to divorce her quietly, so as to not cause speculation.
An angel then appears to Joseph in his sleep with the words, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid to step into a future that seems scarily unclear. Do not be afraid to step outside the very law you have lived your life by to this point. Do not be afraid to lean into this story of redemption. The angel began to tell Joseph that God intended to redeem the whole world, just as the prophets had declared, through the baby that was carried in Mary’s womb. As he woke, Joseph surrendered his life to what God had planned.
I so often find myself like Joseph. I can limit myself by getting caught up in my own expectations or ways of doing things. I hold a little too tightly to the plans that I think God should have for my life. Sometimes I even believe the lie that if things feel hard, that something must be wrong. I forget to listen to the still small voice that reminds me that he is in control, he can carry my burdens, and he has paved a way to eternity.
Over and over God reminds his people, do not be afraid. Do not be afraid, Moses. Have no fear, Abraham. Do not fear, David. Do not be afraid, Mary. His plan for us is greater than we can imagine. We know our physical world, but he knows our souls and the eternity that he has paved a way to through this very physical baby: Jesus. He knows how fleeting our present-day challenges are. And so over and over, like the gentle Father he is, he asks us to trust him.
Because he listened to God and believed him, Joseph took a bold step of surrender. Immanuel, “God with us”, was coming. Something much greater was unfolding that Joseph couldn’t have predicted. So, he let go of the law he used to live by, and took Mary as his wife. He trusted God to equip him to take on the role of Jesus’ earthly father. He believed the promise of salvation. Like Joseph, there are parts of my life that I do not fully understand, that I need to just lay before God. When I hear the words, “Do not be afraid… trust me with your family,” it dissipates my anxiety and allows me take the steps forward into a future unknown because God has already told me that salvation has come. I have everything I need, and I have nothing to fear.