He cries out in the quiet of the night when he stirs awake and thinks himself alone. Our three-year-old is sixth in the lineup of man cubs at the Simons house, but he’s just like the other boys were at his age — he wants the assurance of his mom’s and dad’s presence when he’s afraid.
And what is it that I say when I tiptoe into the room to settle him down? “Shhh. Shhh. I’m right here. Go back to sleep. I’m right here.”
My son doesn’t need to fear because I’m with him.
God spoke these very words to the Israelites, repeatedly: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
“Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west” (Isa. 43:5).
A Sure Promise
God assures His people, promising, “I am with you.” He doesn’t promise victory on their terms, safety according to their ideas of comfort, or a timeline that always makes sense. But the Lord is faithful to tell His children that He is near, ever-present, and carrying them through the wilderness. When we’re tempted to think such assurance means the way will be easy, sensible, and low risk for us, our Savior reminds us that His presence is all the help we need.
Have you ever noticed that fear and faith are inextricably connected? Our greatest opportunities for faith are found at the point of our greatest fears. I always hope for unwavering faith without the pressing temptation to fear, but it just doesn’t work that way. Instead, it’s God’s delight to show His power over my anxieties, to display His sovereignty over my disbelief, and to bolster me in the face of my paralyzing fears.
From Fear To Faith
In this season, I can’t help but think about how this played out for Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was called to something she didn’t prepare for or plan for herself and was given no other assurance or security except the provision and promise of God:
“Then the angel told her: ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.’ Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?’ The angel replied to her: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ said Mary. ‘May it be done to me according to your word’” (Luke 1:30-38).
Mary was afraid. Mary thought it impossible. And yet, Mary responded with surrender. Some verses later, we read the beautiful praise she offers to the Lord in response to what is the greatest fear-turned-faith event of her life:
And Mary said: My soul praises the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, because he has looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is holy. His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him. He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he spoke to our ancestors (Luke 1:46-55).
What caused the change in her response? How did she overcome her fear? Her response gives us insight as she proclaims trust in God’s faithfulness, not her own fearlessness.
Her focus isn’t on the difficulty, the worldly pressures, the inconveniences, or her fears. Her focus is on the presence of a holy and faithful God who has called her. She recognizes that she has been chosen to play a part in God’s unfolding story of His glory, and that is enough to move her from fear to faith.
The reality is that our worst fears and seemingly impossible circumstances today are nothing compared to the separation we would know if Jesus didn’t come as Immanuel: God with us. God overcame our fearful separation from our Creator and bridged the impossible divide caused by sin. We can hope in God to overcome our everyday challenges because we have ultimate hope in how He overcame all that stood in the way of us knowing His presence.
Immanuel — God with us — delivers hope when we have none and provides life when we haven’t been living. At Christmas, we’re not celebrating the birth of a self-help guru, a symbol of world peace, a poet of wise words, or a symbol of hope. Rather, we attempt to acknowledge through Christmas our gratitude and praise for the One who is help, is peace, is wisdom, is hope.
Fear is defeated with faith and that faith is anchored to God’s character. God’s character is His glory on display in and through our lives — in the sometimes unbelievable circumstances or challenges, He graciously prescribes.
Hope For Today
Jesus walked the dusty roads, ate among the lowly, fed the hungry, healed the sick. It’s no coincidence that the very assurance given to the Israelites by God is the one He gives in our Savior, who promises: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17).
The same God who promised to be with His people came to live among His children and now dwells within us: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
The Spirit, sent by the Father, one with Christ, is with us continually — our eternal Immanuel.
May we be quick to praise Him and to proclaim His faithfulness. Fear has no match in the face of His greatness. Fear not, He is with us, friend. Our fears will forever and always find their remedy in His presence, first and foremost. We need not fear when He is near.
On a night, 2,000 years ago in a stable in Bethlehem, Mary shushed and rocked a baby born to a very ordinary couple in the most unlikely of places and circumstances. They hadn’t yet seen the full outcome of God’s purposes and they couldn’t see the ultimate fruit of their faithfulness. But they knew to trust God. He had sent His Son to bear His presence, to love and serve through flesh and bone.
They were full of faith — not because the road ahead was easy, not because they were capable, and not because they were fearless. They trusted God and had faith in His words and His promises.
God with us — our Immanuel — conquers, comforts, and answers our fear with the presence of our Savior. And He meets us right where we are in this season, assuring us: “Shhh. Shhh. I’m right here. I’m the Light of the world. I’m right here. I am with you.”
This article is adapted from HomeLife Magazine.
We become what we behold when we set our hearts and minds on Christ and His redemption story here in the details of our daily lives. Not just on Sunday, not just on holidays, not just when extraordinarily hard or wonderful things happen…but today.
Bestselling author and artist Ruth Chou Simons invites you on a new journey to Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship. With more than 850 pieces of intricate, original artwork, Ruth encourages you to elevate your gaze to the One who created all things.