Fear and insecurity can be a terribly destructive force in our lives.
This is illustrated by the visit of the Magi with King Herod who told him of their search of the “newborn king of the Jews.” Matthew reports that “When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him.” Herod consulted with the chief priests and scribes who told him that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. When Herod learned that the Magi had ignored his instruction to return and inform him of the location of the Baby Jesus, he was furious and ordered all baby boys two years and younger in Bethlehem to be killed. (Mt. 2:1-18)
This horrific act was precipitated by Herod’s fear and insecurity of losing his position as King of Judea. According to the Jerome Biblical Commentary, the Jewish historian, Josephus, “depicts Herod as being pathologically jealous of his power – a number of his family were murdered by him because he suspected them trying to supplant him.”
The potential list of fears for many of us runs long and deep. We fear for our safety, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or position, the loss of our money and possessions. We fear how we will look or be judged by others. We fear underperforming or not doing our best. We fear illness, disability and loss of independence.
In the workplace, we may be tempted to tell the boss what he or she wants to hear rather than the truth, out of fear of incurring his or her disfavor.
We may even fear getting too close to God and what he may ask of us. When Peter saw the miraculous catch of fish as a result of Jesus’ presence, he said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” He and the others were seized with fear, but Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:8-10)
Jesus does not want us to live our lives in fear. Instead, he wants us to trust in him – in his love and provision. For a long time I have suffered from insomnia at various times that has resulted in my becoming fearful of not going to sleep. Neither sleeping pills nor the proverbial nightcap provided a reliable remedy. In discussing my situation with a priest friend a few months ago, he suggested that my problem may not be insomnia as much as a lack of trust in God. He encouraged me to pray several times a day, “Lord help me to trust more in you.”
I have followed his advice and my sleeping has improved many-fold without resort to the prior presumed aids.
How ironic that out of fear, Herod sought to destroy the one true antidote to fear – Jesus, the Messiah and son of God. For the King of Kings says:
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Mt. 6:25) To Jarius, when told that his daughter had died, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just believe.” (Mark 5:36) On the night of his arrest, he told his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)