Don't Be Afraid
1 Kings 17:8-16 CEB
"Don't be afraid." The sentence haunts the bible throughout the Old and New Testament. In the darkest, most desperate corners it seeps in and expresses itself. It often comes out when the only rational choice appears tragic. An unmarried pregnant woman could be stoned. A father is about to kill his son. A man has fled to the wilderness because he is murderer. A widow is going to starve to death with her son. It is a sentence spoken in the midst of fear. "Don't be afraid."
Then it becomes a life changing sentence. It takes the desperately real outcome and presents a Plan B. It offers up another choice that appears even more dark than the initial options. In the case of 2 Kings with Elijah and the widow, she was about to run out of food and starve. If she feeds him first, she would miraculously have food until the rains came. "Don't be afraid" pushes people out of the darkness when the darkness is so dark it appears doubly dark. Suggesting to feed Elijah only makes the situation appear darker when it will move her towards the light. "Don't be afraid," is ultimately a sentence filled with hope and possibility.
Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote the book Lean In created a video that is a little over three minutes long. She wants to show the world just how fearful women are in the world because of the subtle, ingrained messages given to them from childhood. I relate to it because I cannot relate to what it is like to be on the edge of starvation with my children and no husband to help. While the fears below might be miniscule in comparison to the widow, I think it introduces the sentence, "Don't be afraid," in one of the realistic ways we deal with fear today.
God's call can be fearful. God's call can seem to come when life is at it's darkest. Yet, life changing possibility exists when we are willing to accept the call. Yes, in the case of the video and the scripture, the call was sent to women. As a female voice I can see the widow in both genders. I see the widow in the voiceless person crying as loudly as possible just for the opportunity to be heard. I see the widow in the people seeking a hand up and find themselves reaching out to nothingness. I see the widow when a person is pushed aside because social protocol overrides their good ideas. The widow lives on the edges; excluded from everyone else.
It is when all hope appears to be lost this tiny sentence saves us from going over the edge. It give us a call. It is this purpose, or this call that saves us. It empowers us. Yet it is our fear, our rational understanding of the world that scares us when we hear the call. Maybe that is why the call begins that way so often, "Don't be afraid." Of course we are afraid! We have children to feed, a house to take care of, bills to pay. We have mounting debt from student loans and car payments. Of course we are afraid! It seems like the world economy is going to cave in any moment now. Of course we are afraid! We have struggled to just fit in, speak "gooder," and not be taken in by being told we are not good enough. Of course we are afraid! So in the darkness the words come to wrap us up like a blanket. The words are there to comfort us. The words tell us we can do it. We do have the ability, because God is there beside us. Don't be afraid. At the moment we are given a choice, a choice well said in the video: "F everything and run or face everything and recover." What are you going to do, run away or face the call? What would you do for God if you were not afraid? What are you willing to face for God in the midst of those fears?
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