A Fearful Child of God

A Fearful Child of God

“I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.”

If you have been coming out to Hope Church for a while, you have no doubt heard one of our praise bands sing this song at least once. It has become one of my favorites, and often this simple but powerful line pops into my head. Sometimes I’m at work, sometimes I’m driving in my car, and sometimes I’m having a hard time getting to (or back to) sleep because my brain won’t turn off.

The Bible is full of places—more than 60, according to the Bible Gateway website—in which someone who is afraid is told not to be. In the Christmas story, the angel Gabriel tells the quaking shepherds, “Fear not.”

While both the words of Gabriel and the song can offer us reassurance, I have to also acknowledge that even when I am at a period in my faith walk when I am especially feeling God’s presence, I can still find myself lying awake at night anxious over a multitude of things. And this has often made me wonder if my faith really isn’t legit. If it were, wouldn’t I just be able to say, “Don’t worry, God is in control” and sleep every night like a contented baby who has a full tummy and a dry diaper? 

What I have come to realize or accept is that there are different reasons life events cause us to worry. From all corners of the globe, there seems to be a continuous stream of storms, fires, and earthquakes, as well as horrific suffering and violence often due to political unrest. In my own world, a close friend has two family members struggling with life-threatening illnesses; another friend who battled lifelong depression took his own life after a series of months-long struggles became too overwhelming. A third lost his wife of more than 30 years to a vicious, quickly moving cancer. In the last year, I have dealt with an unusual amount of medical issues myself. While I can find moments of tranquility amidst all this pain and suffering, even as a child of God, I still become fearful of the unknown and all that is going on in the world that I cannot eradicate.

Part of me wishes I could take the attitude of Alfred E. Neuman, the fictitious head of MAD Magazine, and just go blissfully, or more likely, blindly, through my life without a care or trouble. But if I did that, how could I be a follower of Jesus? To be a light, we have to be of the world, experiencing or at least aware of all that is happening, not oblivious to it.

So, how can I reconcile being a child of God and someone who, while not paralyzed by fear, is still not immune to it? I am starting to understand that it’s by realizing that to honor the Baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, we need to be verbs—people of action. Yes, pray always, but don’t let that be the only thing you do. As James, the brother of Jesus, so aptly put it, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James: 21:14–17, NIV). And while you’re at it, remember the words (and music) of Michael Card from a few thousand years later: “Celebrate the Child who is the light, now the darkness is over. No more wandering in the night. Celebrate the Child who is the light.”

My fears may never end while I am still on this Earth. But following the Light of the World by doing what He asks of us—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, as is told in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46)—may help me keep that fear at bay.  

Lauree Padgett

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