It is hard to believe that just eight months ago most of us were preparing to enter a new year and decade filled with exciting goals and ambitions. Social media posts announced that 2020 held promise and hope for everyone who aspired to greatness.
And if you were fortunate enough to maintain momentum in achieving your goals, then by March a global pandemic likely placed a giant obstructive wall before all of your plans. And just as we were starting to see some light at the end of this COVID tunnel (at least, in my state), the racial unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd was enough to send those of us starting to feel some sense of comfort, back into a state of uncertainty, anxiety and heartbreak.
I must admit that during much of this season my faith was weak and my fear was strong. I battled anxiety, depression, loneliness and a host of other difficult feelings that the normal busyness of life tends to overshadow. But by the grace of God, I learned through His Word that although our circumstances may cause us to worry and retreat, our faith in Him will lead us into His presence with confident assurance.
During this stressful time, I began working on a study of the gospel of Luke for my church’s monthly women’s gathering and Bible study. As part of my preparation, I read the gospel repeatedly and with each reading the Holy Spirit revealed greater and deeper truths tucked inside Luke’s account of the life of Jesus.
One insight I gained is in chapter 8, where Luke tells us of three encounters during which Jesus addresses faith and fear. Starting in verse 22, we read about Jesus getting on a boat with His disciples. During the sail, Jesus fell asleep and some time later a fierce storm came upon them. Luke tells us that the boat was filling up with water and that they all were in great danger.
At some point, the disciples woke Jesus up saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” When Jesus awoke “He rebuked the wind and the seas and they ceased, and there was a calm.”
After this Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith?”
In this situation, the disciples focused on their circumstances and allowed them to dictate their feelings and override everything they knew about Jesus. Instead of remembering who Jesus was and His displays of power up to that point, they panicked and succumbed to faulty beliefs, such as they were in danger, as they focused on the environment rather than Jesus’ goodness. Instead of waking Jesus and asking Him for help, assured that He would save them, they became afraid and woke Him in a panic proclaiming a lie. In that moment, their behavior demonstrated little faith and abundant fear.
Next we read about Jesus and His disciples sailing to the country of the Gersenes where Jesus cast out a demon from a man who lived in the area. Luke paints a picture of a man who had been possessed for many years by multiple demons and tells us that he wore no clothes and lived among the tombs.
After Jesus exorcised the demons, He commanded them into a herd of pigs which subsequently fell off a cliff and perished. Once freed from the demonic spirits, Luke informs us that the man desired to follow Jesus but the people of the town were afraid and asked Him to leave.
Here we see faith and fear contrasted as Luke recounts the reactions to Jesus’ authority over demons. The man who was freed from demonic possession was found sitting at Jesus’ feet while the people of the town “were afraid” and rejected Him. One desired to follow Jesus while the others sent him away. The man who was liberated by Jesus was willing to leave his life behind and devote himself to the Lord but the people who did not understand and perhaps were skeptical allowed their fear to drive Him away and they remained blind to His power to save. In this story, the man demonstrated faith and the crowd displayed fear.
In the following scene, Luke tells us about Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue who approached Jesus and pleaded with Him to heal his daughter who was home dying. As Jesus was on His way, He was stopped by the awareness that He had been touched by someone in the crowd. Then Luke tells us about a woman who had been battling a discharge of blood for twelve years and no treatment or doctor was able to help her.
As a woman in the first century, she would have been considered a second class citizen, but with a constant flow of blood she was also considered unclean in her Jewish community. This woman knew her unworthiness of Christ’s mercy but she also knew He was the only person who could help her, so she secretly touched the hem of His garment- in faith- knowing that would be enough to heal her. And because nothing is done in secret in the eyes of the Lord, He suddenly stopped and asked the crowd who had touched Him. Luke writes in verse 47,
“And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before Him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him, and how she had immediately been healed.”
Unlike the two previous encounters where Luke shows us faith or fear, this woman demonstrates faith and fear. She was bold enough to get so close to Jesus that she was able to touch Him, and yet when He called her forward she did so “trembling.” She had no idea how the crowd or Jesus would react to her bold yet secret attempt to receive healing.
So desperate was she, that she risked societal backlash, rebuke and shame in order to experience the healing power of Jesus. But instead of being harsh, Jesus showed her tender mercy when He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” In this encounter, the unnamed woman demonstrates faith despite fear.
In each of these stories, Luke teaches us much about how we can respond to Jesus. We can respond like the disciples by focusing on our circumstances and live a life filled with anxiety over everything that is beyond our control.
We can also react like the crowd who didn’t appreciate the impact Jesus had on their community and livelihood and reject him without taking any time to get to know him. Or we can see, desire and welcome Jesus’ power in our lives and respond in gratitude with willingness to abandon everything we know in order to follow him, even if doing so is scary.
Christians today don’t need to fear their circumstances, or a global pandemic, or the future of their nation, or the disapproval of others.
Perhaps Jesus summed it up best when someone from Jairus’ house approached them and told them that his daughter had died. Jesus reassuringly answered by saying,
“Do not fear; only believe.”
And why should we believe, especially when our eyes tell us everything is definitely NOT okay? Because Jesus shows us He has authority over storms, demons and death. Quite frankly, there is nothing that can truly harm His followers. That doesn’t mean life will always be easy and enjoyable but it does mean that He has overcome our worst enemies and when we place our faith in Him there is no place for fear. As followers of Christ, then, may our lives demonstrate faith instead of fear.
Maria Goodwin is a native New Yorker and has lived in various parts of NYC during her life. Presently, she resides in Staten Island, NY where she was born and raised. Maria works full-time as a Social Worker and has a Master’s degree from Columbia University. She has been married to Phillip for eight years and has two grown stepdaughters, one niece, three nephews, and one nephew in heaven. Currently, Maria is enrolled at the New York Institute for Biblical Studies which is located on the grounds of Calvary Chapel in Mariners Harbor, Staten Island.