Our dog, Daphne, had a crippling malady: she was terribly afraid of gunshots. There would be times that she would show up at the back deck door just shaking because there were shots being fired in the distance. Our best remedy was to let her just inside the door to lay on her rug. Then she was fine. The fourth of July or New Year's Eve were a nightmare for her and no matter what we tried to break her of this fear it continued to plague her. Hence, she was a runner. When we weren't home to be that calming rescue for her she would take off running wildly trying to get away from the noise. She had run just a couple of months ago and her sister Lucy went with her. They had been found, down the river road almost to town and a kind soul had taken them to the dog shelter. So I had to go and get the both of them out of jail.
We all knew that one day her blinding fear would be her undoing. So the call came on Monday morning that Daphne had been hit by a car on the winding river road and did not survive it. In essence, her fear had killed her. We miss that stinky dog (we often called her "stinky" instead of her name because she really didn't smell good) realizing that even in this dog was a reflection of God's kindness.
I looked up the word "fear" in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Believe me that there are numerous places in the Bible where it talks about fear. There is the good kind of fear which is fearing God and then there is the other. I am sure the enemy of our souls uses this kind of fear to cripple us and render us useless. After all he is the father of lies and counterfeits all things good to make them ugly and distorted. Humanity is saddled with this distortion because of the Fall so it is a constant battle to believe what is true and good. Fear hides in the corners and the shadows being ready at any moment to jump out and bind us. It takes combat-like readiness to stand against it because if we don't it will sneak up from behind and grab us to take us down.
It is no surprise, then, when the angel told Mary "Fear not" that there was the possibility that she was afraid. I have wondered if Mary repeated those words to herself throughout her life. Did she tell herself not to be afraid when it was found out by her village that she was with child before her marriage? Did she tell herself not to be afraid when giving birth to God's son in a cattle stall? How many times in her life would she have been able to tell herself not to be afraid? I don't want to presume to know what went on in the mother of Jesus' mind. But I can tell you the warfare that goes on in my own mind. It is a battlefield of telling myself what is true instead of what I fear. Throughout my day if my mind is wandering, racing and giving me thoughts of panic it is the words "do not be afraid, I bring you tidings of great joy" that will bring me back to a sanity not of myself but given to me by the One who is the tidings of great joy.
Because of God's immense gift I no longer need to fear because perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:13-18 says it like this:
"By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There in no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
Perfect love casts out fear. I know that God's love for me is perfect. Now I just have to remember to believe it and walk in it. Hence the warfare with the enemy who would daily remind me that there are things in this world to fear. Yes, there is ugliness in this world but Jesus came to redeem a world for Himself. This is where I belong ~ this kind of now and not yet. The days or nights might be battlefields of fear but I can go forward in that battle because Christ has gone before me and always, always makes a way. As I look to Him and realize what He has done for me the fear isn't so gripping and crippling. Each day is an opportunity for me to grow in the knowledge of that love.
Even in the dog days of winter the sparkling truth of the gospel shines through. Christ came to earth, humbled Himself for His own glory and for our salvation. Glory be to God in the highest!