Don’t Be Afraid – Just Believe

Even in the mid-90’s, 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 . . .

Depression in December feels out of place whether it’s post-partum depression (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.

This post first appeared at Blessed But Stressed. 

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16 thoughts on “Don’t Be Afraid – Just Believe”

  1. 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. I thought I would leave my comment here as well as at Inspire Me Monday. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These words hit home. Your words need to be heard and read by others. People just expect happiness at Christmas time because that’s what we do. There are many who need to hear the angel’s words “Do not be afraid”. They need them sung, whispered in their ears or written in many places to remind them they will be okay and they are loved. I am glad you shared this at Anita’s. Blessings on your week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary, it is my prayer that God will use my story to encourage others who are slogging through the season, wondering what’s wrong with their faith, wondering why they can’t find “happy.” Thanks for reading and for offering your words of encouragement. Blessings to you as well!


  3. Michele, the winter months here are horrible! The sun sets between 4:00-4:15 the second and third week in December. If the day is overcast then it will be completely dark before 4:30. The short days plays into what I want to call the winter time blues for me. Having a family to care for is what keeps me on my knees asking the Lord for help this time of year. I’m so thankful He hears me when I call on him. Thank you for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.


    1. Oh, yes. We’re fortunate here in the Northern Hemisphere that we have the Christmas celebration with all its lights and beauty to break up the dark season, but sometimes January lands like a bag of lead, doesn’t it? We are kept ever mindful of our need of a Savior!


  4. Michele, how my heart needed to read this today. It has been one of those weeks (actually last 2 weeks) and I cherish the reminder that we are not to look at the circumstances but to look to Jesus. Thank you.


  5. So glad I found this on Grammie Time today, Michelle. I really needed this encouragement. I love how you said that we look at our fear acknowledge that it is there and then make a choice. Thanks for reminding me that I can choose to believe despite my fear.


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