#FEARLESS365 is a yearlong study of God’s commandment to us to live without fear. For 365 days, we will focus on one scripture and volunteers from all over the world will share their personal thoughts and what God has shared with them on the specific verse. For more info… go here.
So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Sometimes fear is debilitating. And sometimes fear is a creeping feeling that begins to drown us and overwhelm us. Fear is something that can make us act irrationally and can rend our logic helpless. Fear is a big deal.
My pastor recently preached a sermon that talked about this fear and the kinds of people that fall prey to it. She said, “Fear disguises itself in so many ways: as greed, hate, isolation, addiction…the list is endless. But in the end fear is at the root of all of it. And while you and I might not be murderous tyrants, none of us are free from the effects of fear in our lives. It keeps us isolated and small and it steals away possibility.”
That’s the truth. Fear steals away our possibilities. We see that here in Joseph’s brothers. They allow fear to steal from them over and over again. From when they were kids and set up his “death”. To tricking him about Benjamin. To now assuming they would be nothing more than slaves to their brother. Their brother; the powerful, mighty Egyptian, who honored their father in such a way as to make other nations take note.
Instead of partaking in the joy and celebration of their father, they trembled in the fear of the unknown. Instead of living in the grace of Joseph’s unending willingness to love them, they assume they will be punished. (And maybe they deserve it after they have acted that way.) But they never gave Joseph a chance to step in and show them what he thought should happen next.
I know I do this sometimes. I want to figure out the solution before I know if there is even a problem. I try to figure out all the options without knowing whether or not I need to worry about it. And that only creates more problems than it’s worth. It can leave me feeling hurt, worried, and hopeless. Wasted energy that doesn’t help me figure out what I actually need to know or do about a situation or problem.
And, no matter which side of the election we are on, we have to recognize that there are many, many people feeling fear right now. Minorities, women, transgendered people, immigrants, homosexual people, people with disabilities, people with life-threatening illnesses, people with pre-existing conditions, and all kinds of aspiring allies.
Whether we agree or disagree with those feelings, they are very real. And here, in this passage, Joseph gives us a very clear admonition. “‘So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.” (NRSV)
We are called to bring peace. We are called to provide for others. We are called to love families and their children. we are called to acknowledge, not dismiss, their fear. And we are to do it kindly; with warmth and reassurance. We are called to bring fearlessness into their lives with love, grace, and provision.
And when we do this, we deliver peace deep into the hearts of others. My pastor gave a beautiful summary of this command, “Do not be afraid. For in the heart of God there is enough love to cast out fear. It is from this heart we come and to this heart we return and it beats around us and is shown in the shimmering love that absolutely covers this world. There is enough love to cast out our fear. And it’s everywhere.” Starting with you.
Janel Apps Ramsey is a Pastor and Co-Director of Brew Theology who lives in Denver, CO. She has been a professional opera singer.