There is a good bit of fear-inducing uncertainty in our lives these days, isn’t there? The stock market is bouncing up and down like a 4-year-old on a trampoline. Political rhetoric is peppered with dire predictions. North Korea, Syria and Russia are in the news and raising concerns. A dangerous new virus has the world on alert. And you may have your own personal uncertainties as well, concerning health issues, or relationships, or financial interests or business matters.
So yes, uncertainty for our future is fairly likely, and fear can be the outcome of all that uncertainty. But must fear inevitably be the result of uncertainty? Is it possible to engage the uncertainties, worries and dilemmas of life with some other frame of mind?
The Bible would encourage us to face whatever is before us without the debilitating encumbrance of fear. “Fear not” (and related phrases) is found over 150 times in the Bible – making it one of the most frequently offered commands. And the command to “fear not” is undergirded with reasoning meant to quell every doubt. Sometimes the reason the Bible offers for a fearless facing of the future is that God will intervene, overcome or prevent the dreaded outcome. But often, the reason for fearlessness is more subtle and more profound. Sometimes we are told not to fear simply because we are loved.
In one of the most beautiful and memorable Gospel passages related to soothing fears, Jesus notes that even the sparrows are watched and maintained aloft by God. If God watches over the tiny sparrows, will He not also, because you are so deeply valued, watch over you?
It’s interesting to be compared to a sparrow, isn’t it? A sparrow, after all, is small, fragile and vulnerable. But perhaps we are, too. And acknowledging that human condition may actually be a soother of our fears, rather than a multiplier, if we also acknowledge that we fragile, sparrow-like folks are in the care of one much more capable, much more powerful and much more compassionate than ourselves.
When Jesus offers the reflection about God’s care of the sparrows, he is instructing his followers about how to go out into the fearsome and uncertain world. Although hardship, betrayal and rejection may lie ahead for them, their mission is nevertheless to fearlessly do their best to heal, to teach, to care, and to uplift. In other words, they are sent out to tend all the other fragile sparrows.
We wonder, could our fears be lessened if we, too, focused less upon the uncertainties of our own lives and more upon the prospect of being sparrow-savers ourselves? Maybe attending to the needs of others is the best antidote to our own fears. And caring widely and well for others is made possible when we recognize that we are loved in a way, and at a depth, and by a God who sees a future beyond our sight and protectively takes us there. So fear not!