Day 4. Trust in times of fear

[above: Snowy Path—Jim Lukach [CC BY 2.0] / Wikimedia]

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28, NIV)

If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?

—Joy Davidman Lewis, “On Fear”

Do not fear.” It is one of the first things the angel Gabriel says to Mary as she is told that she will carry the Son of God. These three words are repeated over and over in the Bible, and yet how many times do we make decisions based on fear? How often do we plunge into those deep and dark waters? One might argue that Mary didn’t truly have a choice (how could a devout young Jewish woman say “no” to a request from the living God?), but she did have the choice whether to surrender in faith or to grow in fear. And she chose trusting surrender, as did her husband, Joseph. They chose to believe the angel, to trust God, to become part of a larger redemptive story of humanity through the Divine. 

This is, to say the least, an unexpected turn of events. Gabriel says, “Mary, you have found favor with God.” We might, in her position, respond, “Favor? I found favor? I am pregnant out of wedlock, and I have to explain this to my betrothed and my family?” But instead Mary quickly responds, “May it happen to me according to your word.”

How difficult that last line is when we dwell in fear instead of surrender. When the unexpected enters our lives, when our tight grip of control is torn from us, what remains? Do we enter into fear or into trust? This question is built into the quote from Joy Davidman, C. S. Lewis’s wife, as she wrestled with her new-found faith: “If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?” She asked, “If Jesus told us, ‘Do not fear’ why don’t we believe him?” Mary believed the angel. Do we believe the Son of God? 

During this season of Advent, let us remember that when the unexpected arrives in our lives, possibly shattering all we have built or held dear, we, like Mary, must ask ourselves, “Do we fear or do we trust?” This is not a question that can be answered with simple platitudes; it is answered in the way in which we live our lives with Christ. 

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, when the unexpected enters my life, please come alongside and help me to trust instead of fear, to surrender in spite of my tendency to cling, and to love you with the courage of Mary. Amen.

By Patti Callahan Henry

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #133+ in 2019]

Patti Callahan Henry is the New York Times best-selling author of 15 novels, including Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis.
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