“A perfect peaceableness.” Matthew 8:26

This verse didn’t show up in my “fear not” and “do not be afraid” search. I was sure it would be in the list because this story provides a classic example of human fear. Matthew 8:24 says, “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'” (NIV) Some of the disciples were fishermen and had probably dealt with windy conditions before. But God’s Word says this was a “furious” storm, so they must have felt entirely helpless and unable to control the boat. They had no warning; they didn’t see it coming. And they were frantic.

The reason the next verse didn’t show up in my searched list is because Jesus doesn’t actually say, “Do not be afraid.” Instead, He asks the question, “Why are you timid and afraid, o you of little faith?” (Amplified Bible)  They’ve recently heard His sermon on the mount and have witnessed many of His miracles. Matthew 8:16, “He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.”  It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t you get it yet? Don’t you know who I am – who you’re dealing with here?” 

Something in me wants to give the disciples a little credit, since they did go to Jesus and say, “Save us!” Who wouldn’t be afraid? Still, Jesus asks, “Why? You have such little faith!” Is he asking them to believe in something they haven’t yet seen?  Perhaps they hadn’t seen Jesus wield such power over the forces of nature. He’s shown authority over demons and diseases, and now, over the destructive force of a storm?!

I love the way the Amplified Bible describes it. After Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, “there was a great and wonderful calm (a perfect peaceableness).”  Imagine the silence. Roaring, pulsing, wild waves had threatened to overturn their boat. And then – perfectly complete calm. I wish we knew exactly what Jesus said to the winds and the waves. What was His “rebuke” like?  The only rebuke that’s recorded is what He said to His disciples. Did He use a soft, gentle, consoling tone with them, I wonder, and a harsher, more reprimanding tone for the wild winds? So much to imagine.

The result was amazement for the disciples too, an open-mouthed awe. “The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:27)  Even though (unlike the disciples) we have the rest of the story, do we really know who Jesus is? What kind of man, of God…. 

Jesus says these same words to me, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  I hear Him say it in the gentlest way, with a fatherly, inviting tone. Perhaps He says, “Just stand back and watch. Watch what I will do with this storm.” 

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“Peace! Be strong now.” Daniel 10:19

I just discovered a khaki green seabag outside our front door.  Our son Daniel Justin told us to be on the lookout for it.  He had packed it with stuff he won’t need in Afghanistan any more, which means one thing – he’s coming home soon! We will be able to see him on April 21!  Of course, my fear default setting goes to “but he’ll still be there for over a month.”  So keep on praying. And then I realized that it was silly to think that I would stop praying when he comes back.  The enemy is everywhere – our spiritual enemy, that is.

For the second time in the same chapter in Daniel, he is told, “Do not be afraid.”  Here is a man who faced hungry lions unafraid.  This is what Daniel says now, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I am helpless. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.” Again, the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. “Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” (10:17-19a)

Peace and strength – two antidotes for fear. These qualities should replace anxiety and worry. When the anguish and helpless feelings come, as they did for Daniel (and probably rightly so, given the destruction that was foretold), there is someone who can give strength. Do we ever really find it in ourselves? I could never understand the logic of pulling myself up by my bootstraps.  “Believe in yourself” is a nice sentiment, but Jesus is the one who says, “Peace, be still.”  When “my strength is gone and I can hardly breathe,” I will bow with my face toward the ground as Daniel did and let “the one who looked like a man”  – Jesus – touch my lips.

We are now in the season of Lent and I have once again renewed my commitment to carry on. It is a constant struggle to fight distractions, excuses, etc. – “the sin that so easily besets us.”  But reflection is a good thing, and as difficult as it may be, acknowledging the disobedience and failings is the first step in the renewal and purifying process. The best thing about Lent is the the goal at the end of this 40-day journey ~ EASTER! Renewed life!  Because of this season and my focus on Jesus’ journey to the cross, I decided to flip forward to the New Testament and all the passages where Jesus Himself said “Be not afraid.”  Beginning tomorrow….