I’m not much of a risk-taker. Not too adventurous. Not too compelled to living life outside of what is comfortable and known. Like comedian Jim Gaffigan says, “I’m what you’d call...‘in-doorsy’.”
Although this is part of my personality, if I’m honest, there’s also something else below the surface—fear. Being comfortable and in control feels safe. Venturing into the unknown feels scary. Can you relate?
As I read through Genesis, I wonder what Abram was feeling as God called him to leave everything he knew, move to an unknown land, and trust God to give him descendants through his barren wife. So many unknowns! So many question marks! Was he afraid? While we’re not told explicitly what Abram was feeling, Genesis 15 gives us an inside look at an encounter between him and God.
“After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’”
–Genesis 15:1 (NIV)
I did a quick Bible search for the phrase “do not be afraid” or “fear not”, and here is a cursory overview of what I found (hover over each link to read the verses): Genesis 26:24, Exodus 14:13, Isaiah 35:4, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 41:13–14, Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 44:8, Jeremiah 30:10, 46:27,28, Joel 2:21, Haggai 2:5, Luke 2:10, 12:32, John 12:15, Revelation 1:17–18.
A couple of observations:
First, I love that God tells us so often not to be afraid. This tells me that no matter how well I think I can cover up my fearfulness, God sees through it all and knows what’s at the core of me. And he tells me I don’t have to be afraid.
Second, I noticed that God gives us reasons not to be afraid! When this command appears in scripture, it’s almost always followed by a declaration of God’s presence (“I am with you”), a reminder of who God is (“I am your God”), and/or a promise from God (“I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”). (Parenthetical examples from Isaiah 41:10).
In Genesis 15, Abram has a lot of questions for God. He is concerned about his circumstances. From what he can see, things don’t seem to be lining up with what God has promised him, and he seems nervous. To be honest, a lot of times my prayers sound an awful lot like Abram’s words in Genesis 15.
As I read about Abram and think about my own desire for a comfortable, predictable life, I have to wonder how Abram’s life would have turned out differently if he would have insisted on reassurance based on what he could clearly see; If he would have demanded of God, “Prove to me that you will come through!” before taking any of his many steps of faith.
We can’t know for sure, but we can know that this isn’t the way God works. He asks us to trust Him, and we don’t get the guarantees our fearful flesh often wants.
God knows our hearts and isn’t put off by our fears. But at the same time, He calls us to take steps beyond what feels safe. He calls us to a life of faith.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
–Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
Fear can be an obstacle to living a life of faith, but as we can see from Abram’s life, it doesn’t have to be. Abram became Abraham, the father of many nations, hailed in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith”:
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
–Hebrews 11:8–10 (NASB)
Is there a step of faith God is calling you to take? Are you afraid? Take a look at Hebrews 11 and take heart in knowing you are in good company. God is with you! Take some time today to reflect on how God’s promises and His good character are all the reason you need to choose faith over fear.