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Don't Be Afraid; Just Believe

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

Can you believe that these are the words of Jesus to a father who has just been told his daughter has died?  The father has been following Jesus around asking that his daughter be healed, but Jesus stopped to heal someone else along the way.  Then the father's friends report that the child is already dead and there is no need to keep pursuing Jesus.  Of course, Jesus overhears the conversation and advises the father: "Don't be afraid; just believe."

The encounter is included in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, which tells of three people healed by Jesus.  Each time there is a person in hope of healing, one or more people who doubt or discourage the healing, and Jesus who pushes through the doubt and discouragement to heal.  I have read these passages too many times to count, but in this season of COVID, I am looking again at what I can learn about how to have faith in the face of illness and fear.

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." 24 So Jesus went with him...
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher anymore?"
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, "Don't be afraid; just believe."
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

I think we all know that fear is an important part of survival.  Fear alerts us to danger and it can remind us to take the proper precautions, but then it has done its job and we are meant to move on rather than remain in fear.  We acknowledge the emotion, wash our hands and wear our masks, but then let the fear go.  "Don't be afraid," is a caution to not let fear dig in, to linger and become part of who you are.  In context, it is also about not letting others stir up fear in your life.

As Jesus enters the home of the sick child, he dismisses the unwanted guests and selects just a few people to come in with him.  Jesus chose Peter, James and John, his inner circle.  At some of our most critical moments in life, it is OK to just keep just our most trusted friends and family close.  In our modern world, close does not always mean in person, but it will mean that those are the voices we trust and allow to influence our decisions and mood.  Often, they are not the loudest in our lives, so it can take some effort to quiet the others in order to hear from our trusted circle and to hear Jesus himself.

When Jesus says "just believe," he is calling us to block out the nay-sayers, put fear in its place, and focus on him.  I know, it is easier said than done!  As we eliminate the negative influences in our lives, we also need to add positive influences: people, books, music, scripture, prayer, time in nature, creative time, etc.  These are ways we can feed our faith instead of fear.

Fear can help us be mindful of the precautions we can take to stay safe and healthy, but our lives are ultimately in the hands of God.  If you are like me, you have grown weary with news of the virus and it is hard to learn of a new rise of cases just as I am trying to plan for the holidays.  With our hope and focus on Jesus, however, we do not need to live in fear and can take the words of Jesus to heart: "Don't be afraid; just believe."

BONUS: We have put together a video and printable notes for families to help talk about fear and COVID in your home.  Check out COVID Fears and all of our Parenting in 5 videos and resources for parents here.

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