“Be Not Afraid”
Written by Jennifer Browning
What do you think of when you hear the word “fear”? Most of us would think of something like the fear of spiders, or fear of heights or maybe even the fear of being alone for the rest of your life. I know I have thought about that last one more than once in my short lifetime. Throughout the course of our lives, we are constantly reminded of our fears. It’s part of human nature to have various fears. We all understand this. What a lot of people don’t understand is that they shouldn’t let their fears control their everyday lives. Now, some of you may be asking why in the world is she talking about fear? Fear is a demon many of us face every day. It is one of the hardest things to overcome. But in the Bible, God tells us over 300 times “be ye not afraid”.
Today, I would like to share a story about a woman who had every valid reason in the book to be fearful. Fearful for her life and her people. Who is this woman? Her name is Hadassah, more commonly known as Esther. She had been taken captive along with her cousin Mordecai and hundreds of others by King Ahasuerus of Babylon. Esther was a Benjamite living in Jerusalem. Her parents had died so she was now an orphan being raised by her cousin. Most of us know the story of Esther. We have either studied it on our own, heard it in sermons, or studied it in class. We’ve studied how she had to have immense faith and courage, in order to save her people from an evil plan hatched by Haman, who hated all Jews. We know she had to hide her true identity from everyone in the palace, including the King. But have you ever thought about the fact that not once in Esther does it connect the word “fear” or “afraid” with Esther’s name? Why is this?
In the next few minutes, I want to present you with a possible answer to this question. I’m not saying it’s the only answer, or that you have to believe it. But I have come to the conclusion that it is a very valid reason.
Esther lived in a place where most women were treated like dogs. As captives, they were treated even worse. The Babylonians were not ones to be nice to their women or any of their captives if I remember my history correctly. Imagine living in a place and time like that. She probably lived in a certain part of the city that was designated for captives. The Bible doesn’t give us all of the details of their living situation or the way they were treated. What it does tell us, is that among however many women the King had to pick from, Esther was chosen to be Queen. Can you imagine what that would have felt like for her? Some unimportant orphan girl from Jerusalem was raised from poverty to riches in just a few months. Wouldn’t you feel afraid? Like if you made one wrong move or said one thing out of place, your life would either end dramatically or you would be demoted to the harem and never see the light of day again?
King Ahasuerus saw something in her that he didn’t see in all of the other hundreds of women at his palace. I believe what he saw in her was a woman of conviction and honesty. She had so much faith in God that it led her to be full of courage. I’m sure on the inside she was very afraid. Those times she spent praying and fasting before telling the King about Haman’s plan may have been the times she cried out to God in fear of her and her people’s lives. We ask ourselves when reading her story, how in the world did she make it through this difficult time? Being a Jewish girl, I think she may have possibly known the scriptures that said “Do not be afraid…the Lord is with you…” (Deu 7:21). She may not have known the complete reason why she was chosen as Queen. Her cousin Mordecai wrote to her after he had found out Haman’s plan and said “…maybe it was for a time like this that you were made Queen!” (Est 4:14). It was at that moment that she realized he may be right. Just put yourself in her position. She was the Queen, however she could not go before the King uninvited or else she could be killed. But she had an important job to do that God had given her. The fate of her race was on her shoulders. It was up to her to save the day. I know if I was in her position I would definitely be stressed and afraid.
The point of all of this is to get you to understand that Esther had a huge task and yet fear of failure or fear of her life did not get in the way of her doing the right thing. How many times have we let the fear of failure prevent us from taking that next promotion? Or the fear of being rejected from asking someone that you really like on a date? Or the fear of being branded “weirdo” from being who you truly are?
I have dealt with many a situation in my lifetime where I let fear get in the way of doing something that I really wanted to do or being who I truly am. The fears inside me are constant. But through the example of Esther and through many Bible studies and discussions, I have learned that fear should not control us. Fear is something that Satan wants us to have so we cannot become who we are truly meant to be and we live in misery our whole lives. The only fear we should have is fear of God, as Paul says in Acts 10:35 “Those who fear Him and do what is right are acceptable to Him…”. This is a different kind of fear here as it is referring to being in awe of God. But it makes the point clearly enough I think. In Esther’s situation, her lack of fear and showing of courage not only prevented a major disaster from happening, and raised her cousin Mordecai to being the King’s right hand man, but it gave her people the strength and courage they needed to stand up and fight for themselves.
The late president of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela once said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” I truly believe the words that he said. If we allow ourselves to be consumed by fear, we cannot be that light that God wants us to be. There are truly benefits to having your fear under control. The story of Esther makes this so obvious. She was truly a woman under a lot of pressure but she didn’t let fear prevent her from doing the right thing and we shouldn’t either. Who knows? Maybe one day we too can save the lives of millions of people.