But you, Israel my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
offspring of Abraham, whom I love,
9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant;
I chose you and didn’t reject you”:
10 Don’t fear, because I am with you;
don’t be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
I will surely help you;
I will hold you
with my righteous strong hand. Isaiah 41:8-10, CEB
With his people living in chaos, in a state of crisis, God promises his presence. His presence alone is reason not to live in fear even in the face of extremely difficult circumstances.
Last week I saw the movie Arrival. Arrival is a new and different take on age-old story of aliens invading earth. Rather than immediately going to war against the alien ships that have landed in various places on earth, scientists and language experts invest their energy in learning to communicate with them. Throughout the movie, the various governments getting increasingly antsy as they fear the aliens are here to destroy us. Amy Adams, the language specialist, is convinced that they are here on a peaceful mission and begs for more time to try to clarify the aliens’ purposes in being here.
I don’t want to ruin the movie, but I’ll tell you that Arrival is a movie (partially) about not being reactive in the face fear. When we’re afraid, it’s tempting to become reactive and to take aggressive countermeasures to protect ourselves. When we live in a place where we’re constantly attacking because we’re afraid of being hurt then, ironically, we’re causing a great deal of pain for others as we try to avoid our own pain.
Does God’s presence among us mean we will never experience fear? Of course not. But, when we find his presence in community, our community can shape our way of seeing so that we have an alternative to overreacting to our fears.