A verse a day keeps the fear away
I have heard for years that there are 365 occurrences in the Bible of the phrase “Fear not.” I think it is fair to say that in some ways I have been relying on this because, on top of all the normal fears in life, 2020 has given us all a lot of trepidation in our hearts and minds. So, knowing that God gives us a verse a day to quell the fear is a good feeling. But then I got to wondering, how many times does the Bible actually say “Fear not”? The answer surprised me, for a couple of reasons.
First off, in the New American Bible, “Fear not” occurs a total of 133 times and in the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition) it occurs a total of 196 times. Now, lest this cause you anxiety over the lack of a daily dose of a fear elixir, keep reading. The second reason I was surprised is that when I searched for “Fear not” along with the phrases “Do not be afraid,” “Have no fear,” “Be not afraid,” “Do not worry,” and “Do not fear,” the New American Bible has these phrases 404 times and the RSVCE has them 436 times.
So, suffice it to say that God gives us more than a verse-a-day to keep the fear away. Yet, I think we all know that just because there are verses tucked neatly in between the covers of the Bible doesn’t mean they are penetrating into our daily lives and washing away the layers of fear that may have built up over time.
I suppose God knows this truth too and that is why He speaks not only with words, but with The Word made flesh. The Gospel of John begins with these words:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
And a few verses later he continues with:
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us…
The incarnation may have happened over 2,000 years ago, but Jesus still dwells among us. I once heard someone say that the farthest God can get from us is an arm’s length, because that is as far away as we can push Him. God sent Jesus, not just to be near us for 33 years, but to be in us, forever. St. Paul puts it this way, “It is Christ in you, the hope for glory” (Colossians 1:27).
There are many, many reasons the Father’s love sent His Son to earth and of course, the forgiveness of our sins and opening the gates of heaven are chief among the reasons. But I think another of these reasons is to give us someone to hold on to when the going gets tough.
Jesus was born into a time that was, in its own way, riddled with chaos and fear. Yet, right into that time comes the Prince of Peace. That little baby born in humble conditions to simple people became a man other people have put their faith and trust in for thousands of years. Christmas time is not just a time of twinkling lights, wrapped gifts, and celebratory foods. It is also a time to remember that no matter what turmoil engulfs us, we have an unshakable rock on which to cling. From the manger to modern day, Jesus is still the Prince of Peace
St. Padre Pio puts it succinctly, “Fear not because God is with you.” Or to put it in the words of the season: Fear not because Emmanuel!