Advent in Us: Do Not Fear, He Will Be with UsBlog / Produced by The High Calling
At the beach this past summer I saw people of all ages, from toddlers to seasoned adults, standing and running and laughing, allowing the waves to wash up on their feet and ankles. That’s as deep as I could go.
In front of where I stood at the farthest edge of sand and water, families and teens let the waves crash upon their torsos. I could spot groups of people farther out in the water, each individual seeming small and vulnerable. They permitted the forceful waves to soak their entire bodies, bobbing up and down in the ocean like buoys. If I squinted and stared, I could see five or six young men placing their surfboards on the waves and, to my astonishment, riding a wave until they suddenly disappeared out of sight, only to reappear seconds later unharmed to do it all over again.
I watched my wife, Jessica, and our ten-year-old daughter, Audrey, laughing together as the water splashed against them. I wanted to laugh along with them, but I was frozen in place. Even my lips refused to form a smile. I took notice of where they stood in relation to where I was standing, and a question formed in my mind:
How did I become so afraid?
Audrey gestured with her arms for me to join them. I shook my head “no." After a minute or two of urging me to come farther out, Audrey walked toward me and offered her hand.
“Come on Daddy, it’s fun,” she said. “You’ll be okay. Come on!” I attempted to take a few small steps from the safety of the shore, but despite her assurance, I couldn’t move. She waited a minute, then left me standing there and returned to her mother, bounding through the water in long strides. As she left me I could sense her disappointment.
Later, as we left the beach and walked back to our hotel room, I felt deeply disappointed in myself. We prepared to go enjoy an evening meal, but before we left the room, I heard Audrey talking to her mom.
“I wish Daddy would have come in the ocean,” she said. “I wanted him to have fun with us.” I felt like a scared little boy, not a man. A real man would have been out there with his family, having fun and making memories. I knew it. She felt it. In that moment I feared my daughter no longer perceived me as her prince, her hero. She got a glimpse of that scared little boy.
“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.
At the time, I had been reading Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge. Eldredge wrote, “Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man.” I had a hard time relating; most days I do not feel very dangerous or wild. I don’t typically live or even crave a life of adventure and risk. I prefer the comfortableness of safety.
Do Not Fear
I do believe we need to use discretion and exercise caution at times for certain situations. Yet God repeatedly tells us in his Word to not fear. He assures us that He will be with us in whatever situation we find ourselves. Jesus urged his disciple, Peter, once he stepped out of the boat on that stormy sea, to come to where He was. Soon, Peter saw where he was in relation to where his Rabbi was and began to sink because he became afraid.
I don’t believe Jesus viewed Peter with disappointment in that moment. And I’ve come to believe that my daughter did not view me with disappointment that day at the beach, either. The opportunity to swim in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean—which I declined—represents only a small moment in time and history, but that hard, humiliating lesson of fear haunts me four months later. That’s what I think Jesus is most concerned about—my fear.
Can I Overcome my Fears?
My fear is not just limited to wading into the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, I find myself fearful in other areas, as well. For example, I was recently told I was no longer needed in my job of sixteen years—I am now facing the challenge of finding another place of employment. I really need to hear Jesus say to me, “Do not fear,” because at times fear of the future overwhelms my heart. I want to sense Him assuring me that things will be okay and that I can move from the safety of what I can only see now. I want to know He will be with me in whatever situation I find myself.
Next summer we will probably go back to that same beach. I will stand in the same spot just safe enough to not lose my footing. My daughter will fearlessly wade into the waves and my wife will go with her. I will see them look back at me, nodding and smiling to reassure me, motioning for me to come to the place where they are. I will again be faced with the dilemma to take a step. Will I go deeper into the ocean in that moment?
Jesus will be urging me, reassuring me, and holding my hand. And Jesus will not only do that by the water’s edge next summer, but right now, as He invites me to scary new places. At each opportunity, I’ll have to face the fear, place my trust in Him, and put my faith into action. At each opportunity, I’ll have to take His hand and take that step, despite my fear. He will be with me.
Advent in Us
“But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace” (1 Cor. 15:10).
The grace of God through Christ Jesus is not a passive presence in our lives. The grace of God is at work in us, building us up and moving us to action and growth, to good work and worship. Everything we accomplish and all we become is because of the grace of Christ. In this, the first week of Advent, let’s remember Advent in Us, the gift of grace through our Lord Jesus. Let’s consider ways to discover anew the work of grace in our work, our lives, and our relationship with God.