Don’t Be Afraid! Just Believe!

Fear Not!Even in the mid-90s, no one was still listening to records anymore, but for me, there is still some Christmas music that must be heard against the crackling of needle on vinyl. Classical guitar, organ and chimes, brass quintets—all instrumental arrangements of ancient carols whose lyrics, inscribed in memory like grooves on the record, flood into place every year.

In the muted light of window candles, the only sound in the house was Christmas music, and even though I was cradling my own little olive-skinned, dark-haired replica of the baby Jesus, the carols seemed somehow sinister that year:

“The hopes and fears of all the years . . .”
“. . .through all the weary world.”
“. . . a cold winter’s night that was so deep.”

I was sinking in all that deep, and I knew this in my bones as surely as I knew that I had left the hospital the day before with a breast pump, instructions for “cup feeding,” and a deep knowledge that this. was. not. going. to. go. well. at. all.

Depression in December feels out of place whether it’s PPD or an on-going struggle. All the earth was rejoicing—although not necessarily over the birth of Jesus—and the only words from the Christmas story that resonated with my despondent heart were “Fear not!” Those words—spoken by an angel—were supposed to quell the fears of shepherds who had probably never witnessed anything brighter than their evening cook fires. What were they supposed to feel on being exposed to heavenly glory?

The fear that blazed through my heart throughout that two-decades-distant yuletide season was the sneaking suspicion that I was doomed to be a failure in this mothering gig. I knew that I was not patient, nor kind, nor longsuffering by any standard. Like the shepherds, I was “greatly afraid.” Viewed through the haze of raging hormones, the blazing glory of all that I should be was terrifying.

Those words—“Don’t be afraid”—show up at least eighteen times in the New Testament, and eleven of those occurrences are directly from the mouth of Jesus. My favorite example happens in Capernaum. Jesus is walking down the street, and a man (Jairus) has been tracking him down. His daughter is ill. He has come to ask if Jesus will come to his house and heal his daughter. She’s dying.

Jesus starts to follow, but a side drama unfolds in which a woman, in dire need of healing, interrupts. In the meantime, someone from the crowd comes forward to give bad news to the man. His daughter has died. Don’t bother the teacher anymore.

I could completely identify with Jairus in that woozy, paralyzing cocktail of despair.
But the story continues as Jesus looked Jairus in the eye (as if they were the only two people on that crowded street) and said,
“Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”
“I know how this looks, but you have to trust me.”
“Don’t look at the circumstances. Look at me, and believe for hope.”

This is not a state of denial, but an invitation to make a choice. Jairus needed to look away from the screaming banshees on the street—the howling wasteland in his heart—and to acknowledge that they were real.
But then to trust Jesus anyway.

You know how Jairus’s story ends. Jesus gets to the man’s house and restores his daughter to life.

How did my story end? I slogged through the season, eventually the haze cleared, and the growing faith that rescued me that Christmas has persisted—in spite of being blown out of the water every few years.

The hard truth of living on a fallen planet, especially at Christmas time, is that there is often reason to fear:
All the little girls who are sick will not be healed.
All the little boys living in poverty will not be warmed or fed.
All the mothers with cancer will not go into remission and see their babes graduate from high school.
Real things happen that strike fear in my heart—and only a fool would not fear.

But that long-ago Christmas, the angel’s words in Luke 2 were an invitation to me to step over a line—to go from trusting myself to trusting God; to stop trying to calm my daily anxieties with my own fortitude or accomplishments or with random distractions. All of these things change way too fast to give me any lasting peace or security.

Now, every Christmas, I read and I listen carefully, because I still need to hear the angel’s words to those shepherds. Every year, I want to accept that invitation to look up from my own small, pitiful fire—and to behold the glory of God.

Michelle MorinMichele Morin is the wife to a patient husband, Mum to four young men and a daughter-in-love, and, now, Gram to one adorable grand-boy. Her days are spent homeschooling, reading piles of books, and, in the summer, tending their beautiful (but messy) garden and canning the vegetables. She loves to teach the Bible, and is privileged to gather weekly around a table with the women of her church. You can find her excellent book reviews and other thoughts at Living Our Days where she blogs about the grace she receives and the lessons from God’s Word that she trusts.

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Hi Michele, I am excited reading your post here!
    There is hope in the midst of the hopelessness that surrounds us. Jesus is that Hope and not even a thousand fears we face can take that Hope Jesus offers away from us.
    Lots of Love Michele.
    God Bless
    Ifeoma Samuel recently posted…How to Successfully Plan for 2016 and free PlannerMy Profile

    • Not even a thousand fears. So true, Ifeoma. Thankful that my heart has begun to learn that truth in the years since my boys were babies! Ironically, God has used motherhood as a teaching tool for that very thing.

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  • Dear Michele and Anita … thanks for talking about depression at Christmas, for it, sadly, is alive and well. Praying for comfort and peace for all those who read this post and need a healing touch …

    Hugs for you both …
    Linda Stoll recently posted…2015’s Shareworthy ReadsMy Profile

    • And hugs back to you, Linda. Remembering the years of foggy Christmases, I am always motivated to pray for those with new babies, new adjustments, new grief to process during this season. Thanks for bringing the conversation around to prayer.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Don’t Be Afraid – Just BelieveMy Profile

  • Beautiful & encouraging words, Michelle. No matter what is going on in our lives, He brings His peace & hope to us as we bring ourselves to Him.
    Joanne Viola recently posted…Let’s Offer HopeMy Profile

    • Bringing ourselves to Him is key. It’s a conscious act isn’t it – an act that He gives us grace to perform. So thankful for your encouragement, Joanne.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Filling Empty ThingsMy Profile

  • Thanks for the opportunity to do a throwback post – I’m afraid I’m not getting many new posts up this month!

    We have experienced the deaths of my parents and grandmother, a friend, and our dog all in December (though in different years), so December has for years been a mixture of sorrow and joy. Thank God the joy – the reason for and hope of Christmas in the first place – helps dispel the sorrow
    Barbara H. recently posted…Friday’s Fave FiveMy Profile

  • Good for you — letting God turn your heart toward joy is like choosing gratitude! Thanks for sharing your experience. So sorry for your multiple losses centered around December.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Behold Christmas — What Do You See?My Profile

  • I like your point – we have an invitation to choose. Choosing to trust Him in the face of adversity is never easy, but it always pays off. He works everything for good – even when the answer to our plea is no.

    • Yes, and we see the truth of this more easily, it seems, at big crossroads in life. The truth is that every day we are given that same choice in the seemingly inconsequential happenings in our days. Thanks, Jerralea, for reading and commenting with such grace.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Words About THE WORD: Recommended Reads for ChristmasMy Profile

  • “This is not a state of denial, but an invitation to make a choice.” That is so true. We can choose to keep our eyes on ourselves and our circumstances or we can look to Christ. He may not make our troubles go away, but He sure will be there with us and give us grace and strength and even joy.
    Gayl recently posted…Make Room for JesusMy Profile

    • Thanks, Gayl, for your affirmation. I always wince a little bit when I write about this kind of resolution of faith issues, because Christians are often accused of over-simplifying the darkness in life with a “just add faith and stir” response. It’s true that God comes through for us in our faith and He rescues us from our selves, but it is equally true that we live in a state of longing for the day when we are released from the darkness once and for all.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Don’t Be Afraid – Just BelieveMy Profile

  • I so relate to what you’re saying here, Michele. I know that God is powerful enough to answer everyone’s prayers the ways we want, but I know that he doesn’t choose to do that, whether I understand or not. 🙁 But I want more faith to trust that he knows best and to release my fears for all the “what if’s.” Thanks for sharing this!
    Lisa notes recently posted…4 lessons on living in the nowMy Profile

    • Accepting the unknown and living in the unresolved are so much a part of this walk of faith. Thanks be to God that we have community to help us in keeping our vision clear. Very often your words have done that for me, Lisa. Thank you.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Don’t Be Afraid – Just BelieveMy Profile

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  • Michele, I love this open, honest, transparent post, especially this great Scripture…”“Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” “I know how this looks, but you have to trust me.” “Don’t look at the circumstances. Look at me, and believe for hope.” How encouraging! Many blessings to you!

    • Thanks, Beth, for your encouraging words. Jesus’ words are important for me to remember even today — twenty years later!
      Michele Morin recently posted…Weeping Woman of RamahMy Profile

  • Gosh, what strikes me is how Jesus is always there for us, in our darkness and through the years..fear can never last with Christ! Thank you for your vulnerability in this post, it helps us all to unleash our own fears from the shadows and remember to trust in God whose light shines in and through the darkness!

  • Oh, I was hoping that sharing my experience in the shadows would encourage others! So glad that you stopped by to read and to share your thoughts.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Made FleshMy Profile

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  • Oh Michelle, your story touched my heart deeply this morning. Jairus’ story is one of my favorites, but I never looked at it quite this way. He needed to tune out everything else and focus on Jesus. Focusing on Him brings a joy and peace like we’ve never known! Beautiful words:)

    • Kristine, so thankful that the Spirit of God has used these words to enrich your appreciation for one of His stories. Jesus’ tenderness pours off the pages in this account, and it enhances my understanding of the angel’s words: Fear not! Let’s replace the fear with a better thing: belief!
      Blessings to you!
      Michele Morin recently posted…Don’t Be Afraid – Just BelieveMy Profile

  • Michele, I appreciated this post so much. I’m sitting in the throws of fear this very minute as tomorrow the long awaited for, but dreaded oral surgery takes place. I’m letting myself play the what if game which I need to stop doing.

    Thank you for the reminder to “fear not” and to remember that “God has got this”.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Oh, Karen. Ouch. Since I’m just now reading this on the day of surgery:
      Lord, I pray for your hand of protection to rest upon Karen today, that her surgeon would be deft and wise, and that the purpose of the surgery would be accomplished. Bless her healing process, and may she find peace and rest because of her trust in you.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Hard-wired for AweMy Profile

  • Michele,

    I love your transparency and the way that you have been able to use what you learned and bring Him glory through it. We need to remember that now, this season, when there are so many for whom the joy of Christmas is not met with lights and welcome but darkness and despair. Each year I grow older it also marks another empty chair at a table which belonged to a soul that was loved deep and it just makes me long for the message and hope that Christmas was meant to give.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • So true. We find comfort in the message of Christmas even as our celebration of the day brings up reasons to be melancholy. There will be another advent, though, and we will all be restored, the creation will no longer groan, and Jesus will be at the center of our celebration — something we just can’t seem to manage perfectly here on earth, right?
      Blessings, Dawn, and thanks for reading.
      Michele Morin recently posted…Every Story Whispers His NameMy Profile

  • Michele, I want to join you in seeing the glory of God. I pray I can keep my focus on Him during these dreary winter months.

    • It’s hard sometimes to remember the truth that “the heavens declare the glory of God” when it feels as if the sky is dark most of the day. Staying close to His Word and filling my mind with truth really helps — and a daily walk (when the weather permits)!
      Michele Morin recently posted…Every Story Whispers His NameMy Profile

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