I am not sure when this blog will show up (as I write them in advance of actual publication dates), but it is being written on the morning after the "big blizzard of 2015." And, as you know, it turned out to be neither "big” nor a "blizzard." It was a nice snowstorm – about eight inches in Central Park (and I don't think that much where we live). It's pretty. It's even kind of invigorating. I'm about to put on my coat and boots and go walking in it. Over the past couple days we did what many others in our city did: we stood in long lines at the grocery store buying enough provisions to feed the Fifth Fleet at least through April, buying those slow burning logs that will last three hours in the fireplace, and bracing ourselves for the storm that was to come. And then, the storm that had been predicted... didn’t come at all. The lion we expected turned out to be a lamb. The blizzard turned out to be a pleasant, refreshing mid-winter scene worthy of Currier and Ives. I write all that with compassion and sympathy for our friends in Buffalo and Boston who did not fare so well. But here in the city, that which we feared was in the final tally nothing to be afraid of.
It's interesting that in the Bible there are 365 occasions when we read the words "Fear not" or "Be not afraid." That phrase does not show up 364 times or 366 times, but exactly 365 times – as if God is reminding us every day that the things we fear are often nothing to be afraid of.
How many times have we known people who literally worried themselves sick (physically ill) as they prepared to take their Bar or Medical exams, only to pass them with flying colors? How many times have we ourselves become overwhelmed with anxiety as we faced an interview, only to experience a pleasant conversation which led to our being hired for the job? A man I know faced open-heart surgery and was terrified. That is understandable. However, following the operation and his subsequent recovery, he told me that he felt better and younger and more fit than he had in twenty years. Fear is a normal and frequently justifiable emotion. And yet, experience teaches that most of the time the things we fear are nothing to be afraid of.
When we read those 365 biblical admonitions to "Fear not," we know that their intent is to encourage us that, whatever we face and however frightening it may seem, God is with us, beside us, and for us. Whatever comes our way in life, we are not called upon to deal with it, let alone to overcome it, alone.” Lo, I will be with you always," said Jesus. And that was not a conditional statement. He did not say, "I will be with you always unless....” He said “always” – anywhere, everywhere, in any situation, at all times. And that really is our source of courage for making it from one day to the next. Whatever "making it" means for you or me, it's not something we have to do solo. Whatever road we travel, God travels it with us step-by-step, moment by moment.
Most of the time our fears are exaggerated and the things we are afraid of, once we experience them, were not as big or as threatening or as overwhelming as we thought they would be. As already noted, most of the time the things we fear are nothing to be afraid of. But even when we do encounter large bumps in the road, we have the knowledge that Someone who loves us and will guide us and protect us is on the road with us. And because of that we can face life with a sense of confidence, knowing that after every snowstorm the sun will shine again.