And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God (Luke 1:28-30).
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (Matt. 2:3); When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him (Matt. 2:10-11).
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).
Fear can be paralyzing. We feel threatened and vulnerable and fear is the signal of an impending danger. Regardless if something is only a perceived or real when we feel or sense danger, our reaction is instantaneous and does not really matter. If we sense that something is wrong, someone or something threatens our safety, we react. Our heart instantly begins to race, our senses jump into high gear and our breathing accelerates. We start to panic, fail to think clearly, make rash decisions and often do foolish things because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Joy seems impossible when there is fear. The two experiences do not go together. It is emotionally incompatible to experience them both. But we can experience joy instead of fear if we have our life anchored to the right things.
In each of the texts above, we have three scenarios where people were afraid, troubled or fearful. Fear and joy were not all the experience of the same person. Mary was confronted by the angel with wonderful news but she was afraid. The angel calmed her fears by saying that she had found favor with God. Herod was troubled or fearful. He is one of these people who was probably afraid most of his life. The threat of a new king would have exacerbated that anxiety to epic proportions. It certainly did for the all who lived under his jurisdiction because his fear birthed fear in all the people of the land. The angel spoke good news of great joy to the fearful shepherds when they suddenly appeared bring good news to the world.
In each case the messenger(s) communicated a message of joy but it was done in such a way that created fear. Sometimes that fear was self-induced; sometimes it was extraordinarily out of the ordinary; for other times it brought change (and most hate change). Good news was one of joy yet the initial response was fear. The very message of joy was birthed in the midst of fear. But people experienced joy in the face of great fear and danger. The thrill of joy quickly supplanted fear.
God or His message was the catalyst for the fear. The angel appeared to Mary, the news of the Magi troubled Herod and the angels surprised the shepherds. God’s messengers and message brought fear of something unexpected, an interruption into normal life and change. All of these things often bring fear. But this fear was quickly followed by the comfort of joyous news… at least for those who had the faith to accept it.
Will you allow fear or joy to govern your life? It is one thing to face fear when there is a real threat. It is another to experience fear because we don’t have the faith to accept it.