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“Do not be afraid”

“Do not be afraid”

How Jesus can banish your fear

This month, I want to take another look at the issue of faith in Christ. Times are difficult – even very difficult – in our country right now. People are losing homes and jobs – fear is rampant. When everything seems to be out of control, what can you do?

First, open your Bible to the Gospel of Mark and read chapter 5, verses 21-43 out loud.  Do this now, before you continue reading this article. Keep the Bible right beside you. Remember that the word inside it is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword – it has the power to separate bone from marrow. (cf. Heb 4:12)  In other words, it has the power to reach right inside you, touch your spirit and help you see truth more clearly than you ever have before. God’s word has the power to change your life. Because it is so easy to become distracted, I want your eyes and your ears to take in these words, so that the life-giving power of it can penetrate beyond a superficial understanding. Approach this passage with as much faith as you have – no matter how little that may be.

You’ll notice that this passage contains two stories – both teach us a lot about faith and perseverance.

Let’s take a look at the first story. Jesus has been ministering to great crowds of people – casting out demons and healing the sick. He gets into a boat with some of his disciples and crosses to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. I’m sure he was exhausted at this point. But a clamoring crowd is waiting at the far shore. In this crowd is a Jewish synagogue official who had probably heard a lot of stories about Jesus. I can guess that, normally, he wouldn’t have wanted to be seen in Jesus’ company. But in this moment, he is a desperate father. His daughter is dying. He falls at Jesus’ feet and begs repeatedly – you can almost hear the desperation – “Come and lay your hands on her that she may be made well and live.” He has faith. He as, at least, heard of the miracles Jesus had performed. And Jesus agrees to go with him.

In the same passage, we meet a woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years. She has spent all her money on doctors and has not gotten better. In fact, her health has gotten worse. This is a woman who has exhausted all of her resources and the only change is for the worse. Have you ever found yourself in these circumstances – all human help has been tried and there is nowhere else to turn? Can you imagine the exhaustion, the fear, the despair?

But instead of hiding, she very timidly reaches out and touches Jesus’ garment. She is afraid, because, under Jewish law, she is unclean. She should not even be out in public. But she has faith! “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Ask yourself here: “What would I have done under similar circumstances? Then ask the Lord to increase your faith in him.

Pay attention here – note that the Scripture says that Jesus immediately knew power had gone out from him. And the woman was immediately healed. Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” Jesus listens to us the same way – God is never put off by our sins and failings if we are repentant.  Never let anything hold you back from bringing  your needs to him.

As the woman is being healed, imagine the anxiety of the synagogue official. His daughter is dying and all these people keep stopping Jesus to ask for healing. The official must be more and more frantic – perhaps even angry at all the delays. And then someone comes to tell him his daughter has died. Jesus hears the news and says, “Do not fear; only believe.”

What would you do at that moment? Slip away, hopeless and inconsolable? The official chooses to believe Jesus and keep his eyes fixed on him. Jesus goes to the little girl’s house, takes her hand and tells her to get up. And she does! He tells everyone to give her something to eat. How practical; how fatherly.

As you think about these two stories of healing and resurrection, think about what lessons they have for you. Where are you weak? Can you humbly and honestly place those weaknesses before Jesus and ask him to increase your faith? Ask for a faith that can burn steadily no matter the seemingly insurmountable obstacles: finances, work, family, health crises. Trust in his love for you – “do not fear; only believe.”

Sister Ann Shields is a renowned author and a member of the Servants of God’s Love. Questions can be addressed to Sister Ann Shields, Renewal Ministries, 230 Collingwood, Suite 240, Ann Arbor, MI 48103