In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke1:26-30) Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. (Matthew 1:19-20)
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were truck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:8-10)
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” Matthew 17:4-7)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)
Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26-31)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
This is the second in a series of articles on hearing God “speak” to us. In the first article, we discussed the many different ways God can speak to us not “with a loud audible voice, but interiorly with a quiet voice and a strong sense that it is God speaking to us.” God may speak to us through Scriptures; during prayer, meditation, and worship, through another person; through the circumstances of our lives; or especially at Mass. Of course, there are many examples in Scriptures when God the Father spoke directly, or through an angel, or through Jesus Christ.
Sometimes when God speaks, our natural reaction can be fear. We don’t understand or can’t grasp what he’s saying. Or maybe we understand just enough to see potential difficulties or dread possible consequences. Sometimes, so much seems unknown that reason fails and the emotion of fear takes over. We are afraid to do what we think he is asking of us, afraid not to, and afraid of what people will think if we do. In fact, for many of us, fear is how we deal with God. We are afraid he won’t speak to us, afraid when he does, and afraid to be wrong about it.
If this describes you, then you are in good company! Consider Mary (Luke 1:30), Joseph (Matthew 1:20), and the shepherds (Luke 2:10). Think about Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:5-7), and the other disciples (John 14:27). That’s a pretty impressive group of people!
Some fear, of course, is a gift of the Holy Spirit, like the awe and reverence we experience when we see the holiness and majesty of our Triune God. But most of the time, our fear is the ordinary anxiety we feel when we are faced with the unknown or unfamiliar.
Jesus knows that. He knows our imperfections and weaknesses, and he still wants to speak to us! Three times he tells his apostles: “Do not be afraid!” You are beloved and infinitely precious to the Father. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge, and you are worth far more than sparrows. Every hair on your head is numbered (Matthew 10:26-31). If you are afraid when he speaks, he wants to reassure and encourage, not chastise, you.
God loves you with an overflowing love unstained by self-interest and undiminished by your imperfections. Yes, sometimes the words he speaks to us can cause fear. But that’s when to run toward him, not away. That’s when to remind yourself that he loves you, he died for you, and he is preparing a place for you in Heaven. When fear arises, ask the Lord to drive the fear away, for “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). And ask the Lord to assure you that he is with you, and he is always in control.
“Father, I want to hear your voice so I can fulfill your plan for my life, but sometimes I’m afraid. Fill me with the assurance of your love today. Let it drive away every hesitation and concern that holds me back from responding wholeheartedly to you.”
Maurice Blumberg is Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men Center.
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. Take a few minutes to read and meditate on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to say to you through these Scriptures?
- 2. Why do you think fear can arise in our hearts when we think God has spoken to us? Has this ever occurred in your life? How were you able to combat this fear?
- 3. In what ways do you believe that God has “spoken” to you? What was the result?
- 4. Why do you think “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18)? In what ways have you experienced this “perfect love”? What was its impact?
- 5. If you are in a men’s group, pray for one another that the Lord will allow you to hear his voice in a greater way, as you surrender more of your life to him and seek his will. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.