Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. [Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)]
“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” [Mark 6:50 (NLT)]
Recently, our pastor asked us to write down both a prayer concern and a joy that anonymously could be shared with the congregation. Once compiled on a sheet of paper, the list was made available to anyone who wanted to offer those worries, needs and joys to God in prayer. As expected, most of the joys had to do with family, friends, health, and God’s love and forgiveness. Most of the concerns also were what we’d expect: health and the health of loved ones, finances, government, family turmoil, and children. At our Florida church, we start our weekly Bible study with prayer requests and praise reports and the list from our northern church was remarkably similar with one glaring exception. One person wrote, “I’m always afraid.”
Those words have haunted me all week—“I’m always afraid!” This person brought his or her concern to the right place—God and the church family but what now? Always afraid doesn’t mean a few quirks like fearing thunder, spiders, or mice. Always is a continual state of fear and, out of concern, I wanted to know more. Is the fear pathological? Does this person have irrational fears that make him or her paranoid? Is psychological counseling what is needed? On the other hand, is there a basis for the fear? Is it fear that a secret, like addiction or adultery, will be discovered? More likely, could there be violence or abuse in the home? You don’t have to live in Afghanistan, Syria or Nigeria to live in a war zone. My first response upon reading those words was wanting to fix the problem; yet, I am powerless to do so. I don’t even know what the actual problem is let alone who is involved. Moreover, it is not mine to fix nor am I qualified to do so. Nevertheless, my heart cries for anyone who lives life in fear.
While I can’t offer a solution, I can pray with compassion for this fear filled person. I can pray for God’s gifts of courage and perseverance—courage to relinquish the fear and perseverance to continue through the difficulties and setbacks that are sure to arise. Whether that means reaching out to our Pastor, seeking counseling, finding a shelter, or making some other change, I don’t know but, without courage, perseverance and trust in God, the fear will remain.
Heavenly Father, throughout Scripture, you’ve commanded us not be afraid and yet some of your children live in fear. Knowing that your grace is sufficient and your power is made perfect in weakness, we lift their needs to you. May they come to trust your guidance; fill them with courage and perseverance as they find refuge and strength in your loving presence.