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Do Not Fear, Really: Isaiah 41:10

Jeannine Yousif

I’ve heard it said that the sentence “Do not fear” is found in the Bible 365 times. While I can’t quite narrow down a credible source for that, I can confidently say that it appears enough within Scripture to warrant the claim that God knows His children and the emphasis that we place on our fear. No matter the century or the cultural climate, fear is a very motivating force.

Humans are fearful creatures. Evolutionarily speaking, fear was necessary for our survival. It alerted us to danger, helped us stay prepared, and then helped us to respond accordingly: to fight, flee, or freeze. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2017, 1 in 5 adults were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, 1 in 4 adolescents. In both adults and adolescents, females have a higher incidence of anxiety.[1] These numbers are only those who have reported. My guess, the actual numbers are much higher. 

Instead of just alerting us to danger, our fears are debilitating us.

Instead of a healthy sense of preparedness and watchfulness, our fears are taking up prime real estate in our hearts and minds. 

Fear has become an unhealthy chain around our necks, weighing us down, keeping us angry, irritated, hesitant, and doubtful, keeping us approval-seeking and people-pleasing, and holding us back from living fully present and joy-filled lives. 

Burdened. Holding back. Worried. Paralyzed by a fear of failure or the criticism of others. Overcome with worry. Ashamed of past mistakes. Not what God designed for His precious daughters. 

So what do we do? How can we put fear back in its place and instead arise as confident women, trusting in an authority greater than fear, greater than the world, greater than ourselves, an authority that works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28)?

We can find the answer in the book of Isaiah: “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Isaiah, a prophet of the Old Testament, was speaking on behalf of the Lord to the Israelites who had been exiled, taken out of their homeland, and forced to live in a foreign country amidst pagan cultures in the service of the Babylonians. Isaiah was pleading with the Lord’s people to remember their identity as chosen people of the Lord God. He was imploring them to remember who God is, their God, the God they know who is trustworthy (Isaiah 26:4), steadfast (Lamentations 3:22), and whose love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3).

Can we do the same in the face of our fears, trials, and hardship? Let’s be honest, our fears and anxieties keep us focused on ourselves, not God. When that’s the case, we can struggle to believe that our Lord loves us that unconditionally or is that steadfast or that trustworthy. We may argue: not with what I know about myself, not with what I’ve done. Surely there must be hidden strings attached somewhere. 

My dear friend, with God, there is no cause for any fear or anxiety. Not one fear that you name is more powerful or stronger than God’s love for you. It may feel that way sometimes. But He promises us that He is stronger (Psalm 56:3-4). And He keeps His promises.

If we believe in Him, if we believe that He is who He says He is, then we must believe that He is bigger and stronger than anything we fear, anything we worry about, any sin we have committed, and any mess we are in. Not only that, we must believe that His love for us is greater than our fear. His love casts a radiance of light into any darkness we are facing. He assures us that the darkness cannot, will not overcome the light (John 1:5).

“There is no fear in love, but [His] perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Do yourself a favor and replace that word “fear” with whatever is weighing heavy on your heart: sickness, worry, sin, mistake, doubt, rejection. He casts it out. His love is stronger.

“I came so that you could have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). God only desires for us to “live deeply satisfying, meaningful, joy-filled lives,” not ones in which we are paralyzed by fear, stuck in our doubts, overcome by our sin.[2] 

There are no strings attached to God’s love. When faced with fear, we need only to trust His words for us and follow Isaiah’s instructions: remembering who we are and who God is.

Remembering who we are: precious daughters of the almighty Creator, your God, and mine. 

Remembering who God is: faithful, loving, strong, trustworthy.

And then, we surrender all of our mess to Him and trust that He will strengthen us. He will help us. He will uphold us with His victorious right hand. 

And when we struggle because anxiety and fears don’t just go away overnight? 

We go back to His words to us. We repeat them and declare them over ourselves, our loved ones, and our situations again and again and again. We place these words in places where we will see them and read them throughout the day (on our phone lock screens, in our cars, on our mirrors, taped to our computer screens, on our bookshelves and walls). 

We strengthen our faith by receiving grace, a freely offered gift from God, found in the Eucharist, in Reconciliation, by sitting before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. 

We ask for intercession from our friends, the saints, the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) who have gone before us. These holy men and women who once lived ordinary lives are now seated in heaven, present to the glory of the Lord Himself. They are waiting to come to our aid and intercede for us, namely our Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, and Saint Dymphna.

My friend, it is my prayer that through grace, you will allow God’s sovereignty, power, authority, and peace to rule in your heart and mind instead of your fears. 

With you on the journey,
Jeannine

[1] National Institute of Mental Health, Statistics, Any Anxiety Disorder, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.
[2] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Opening Your Heart: The Starting Point, (USA: Walking with Purpose, Inc., 2019), 158.

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