Fear causes us to miss out on the beauty and joy that exists in every life. Fear robs, steals, pillages our very hearts and leaves behind a greasy film not removable by human hands. Fear is the unwelcome greedy guest, the depressing third wheel, the clinging darkness clouding the light of the Son. Fear takes all the joy out of today, sucks the life out of me and everyone around me — but worst of all, fear says, “I don’t trust You; You are not good,” to God.
I know I’m not the only one who has a list of fears. You might not have walked through cancer and bereavement, but maybe you’re the woman who has blown it so hard that you’re bracing yourself for the consequences of your sinful actions. What if you have experienced a violent breakup and now fear a hostile man? Or you’ve had addictions to substances or unhealthy behaviors or habitual lies and are too afraid to quit, fear begging you to carry on? What if you are so broken up inside over your wretchedness, over the sin you have hidden, over the pain you have caused, that you feel you can’t go on, afraid that you have been rejected by God and anyone else who knows who you really are? Fear has got you in its vulgar grip.
What about the girl who feels unseen, unloved, overlooked, and fears being left alone? Or the one who appears so amazing on the outside and is applauded for her perfection but is a hot mess on the inside? The pretender who fears being found out?
Or maybe your life is awesome and wonderful, and you’re afraid that it will come crashing down at any moment, for no apparent reason.
We all have fears. But that’s not the end for us.
Because you know what I know? You know what I overheard through the tent? Don’t be afraid. Over and over in the Word, God said to His people, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus repeatedly told His disciples, “Fear not.”
This may sound like a pipe dream of boldness and courage, yet wearing fear like an everyday garment is no way to live. Though fear is a formidable and relentless monster, we can learn how to fight. We can learn to be guided by Jesus when we are held down, crushed, and suffocated.
I have learned to put down my Coke bottles and pick up my Truth lenses. Strength comes swiftly as I seek to know what is true about the whole business. Jesus said in John 14:27,
I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
You who fear, do this with me. Lean closely enough to hear Him and understand with clarity what He is saying to us. Let us make a trade; instead of storing up fears in our hearts, give them to Jesus. Pour them out at His feet, pooled and congealed. A disgusting virus to be rid of. Setting aside the fear of the future sets us free — and in it we realize we never had control in the first place.
By faith we receive in return for our fears a glorious truth: that He is for us, that He longs to give us peace, that He is right here with us offering to carry our burdens. By faith we hold these things; by faith we look at Jesus’ track record and realize He can be trusted. By faith we see ourselves in light of the history of the world and realize there’s a greater plan.
By faith we obey His Word, knowing He is worthy, He is bigger than us, and He is love.
What a gift it is to know and believe He truly is our Shepherd, that He searches to find us when we’re lost, fights wolves for us. I don’t want to be defined by my circumstances or let them dictate my days. Do you? We can experience deep heartache and still experience exultant joy. We can daringly walk in who God made us to be and not be swallowed up by fear. And we don’t walk alone. Our community of suffering provides comfort, yes, but it also ignites courage.
I want to take our friendship with Mary a little deeper. Let’s look at some crucial and scary parts of her life a little more closely. Because Mary was dauntless in her yes. And Mary was favored in ways so inconsistent with how we understand blessings.
Not Mary the sinless, blond-haired, baby-blue-dress-wearing picture of placid perfection — Mary of serene loveliness, smiling with lips softly closed and head tilted just right. No, not her. The Mary I read of in Scripture is the one with guts, true grit, and unwavering faith in her Creator, the Master Storyteller.
Bold Mary — chosen not only for the most mysterious and honorable task a human can perform, but also one incredibly risky. Her responsibility laid bare her whole self and forced her to give up everything.
Fearless Mary — destined to be seen in her community as unfaithful to Joseph. She didn’t allow the fear of others’ opinions to affect her obedience.
Indomitable Mary — who relinquished her security, choosing the unknown of what was to come. She was aware that she could be stoned for what her neighbors and family thought she had done. The first human prepared to die for Jesus, before He was even born.
The night she pledged her service to the King of Glory — the night she agreed to the blessed yet rugged life — she said yes to things she couldn’t imagine. She would need supernatural courage to walk through them. And though she was considered favored and blessed by God, He allowed her to endure the unimaginable.
Mary, favored and blessed, fled a murderous king in the night to protect her Treasure, our Treasure. Mary, favored and blessed, endured losing her twelve-year-old Son while on a trip to Jerusalem. She anxiously, frantically searched for her Firstborn. And Mary, favored and blessed, was destined to watch her precious God-man Son — the One she made room for in her young womb, the one she nursed in the night, whose fever she felt with a mother’s kiss, whose tears she dried, whose skinned knees she bandaged — endure torture and shame. Mary, favored and blessed, watched as her Boy hung on the cross, consumed in excruciating pain. Mary, favored and blessed, heard His familiar voice as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mary, favored and blessed, hung her head and slowly turned toward home as they laid Him in the ground — rolling the stone firmly over all her hopes.
Mary lived a lionhearted life. From the harrowing adventure beginning with celestial greetings, to the tedious years of Jesus’ boyhood, she fearlessly served God. Mary’s life — it wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t conventional or even safe, but it was blessed. The Mary I know was audaciously willing to be a vital part of the narrative, the grand story culminating in flesh. Regardless of the scary parts, regardless of the fear. And she did it with her eyes ever fixed on the God to whom she said yes.
Mary’s life makes me rethink what it means to be favored and blessed. She causes me to adjust my perspective on fear. She shows me what to do with it, how to handle it. And Mary’s life encourages me to no longer see mine as tragic and unfortunate, but rather as favored and blessed. Her company reveals how stunning bravery looks on a woman, how being clothed in strength is utterly becoming.
When we search the Word and read of historical heroines, and even when we step back and look at ourselves with open eyes, we see how God is ever working. We experience the tough times, yes — the hardship, ugly crying, confusion, and trouble — but with courage we are able to say by faith that we trust Him. We will go where He leads. We look up and know that though things might not be going according to our own plans, there is a much richer one in place, put there by the Master Planner.
It’s up to us. We decide if we are to hold on to disappointments. We can let fear creep and grow like pond scum, reaching to our exterior and crowding out the light, or we can walk in the strength He supplies, exchanging the despicable for the dependable. We decide if we are willing to laugh without fear.
Watch the Book Trailer
Excerpted with permission from And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick, copyright Kate Merrick.
* * *
The heroes is in the Bible are examples of lionhearts. We were born to be brave. Born to endure, obey God’s Word, and laugh without fear because God is worthy, He is bigger than us, and He is love. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you!