Dear Church family,
Each week I lead a short chapel service for the 3, 4 and 5 year olds at the preschool. We sing and pray and I tell them a Bible story. This fall I have been teaching them about Paul and I have shared a new Paul “adventure” each week. This week I told them about the time Paul was in Corinth and he was facing people who were angry with him and some who even wanted to harm him. While in that city, he had a vision of Jesus. Here is how the book of Acts puts it: “One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you…‘” (18:9-10a)
After I told this story I asked the children to raise their hands if they were afraid of something. Every hand immediately shot up. Now, this is not altogether unique because they like to raise their hands a lot, even if you haven’t finished asking the question! But this instance felt different. Quickly the children started shouting out all the things they were afraid of: bears, clowns, monsters, the dark, and more bears.
It reminded me that fear is one of the earliest things we have in common. Every child, no matter how beautiful their background, is afraid of something. They know about fear. And I think they know it so well because they also know about control. They know that they control almost nothing in their lives and that lack of control leads to a lot of fear.
I’ve been thinking about the relationship between fear and lack of control and I wonder how closely the two are related for us, even as adults. When I look back over my life, the times I have admitted that I controlled very little of what was happening but I trusted the One who was in control, those were the times I had less fear. Those were the times when I made decisions that weren’t based in fear.
You probably have heard this before but it is said that, in the Bible, someone—God, Jesus, an angel—says “Don’t be afraid” 365 times. Of course, that is enough times to hear it again each day of the year. Whatever number of times it actually is, the point is still true. God knows we are afraid much of the time and so over and over again he tells us to stop it, to get beyond our fear.
To do that we have to admit we control almost nothing. The only thing we can begin to control is whether fear is going to have the say in our life or whether God has the say. He promises he is with us. And he is the “maker of heaven and earth” as the Apostles’ Creed puts it. That may be all the control we need to face anything we fear.
Christ’s peace be with you all,