Fear and Faith


What does fear look like to you?


Hiding under the covers. Turning all the lights on in the house to avoid the dark. Running quickly up the basement steps. Writing your worries and fears on paper. Turning to prayer when all other words fail. Singing songs of joy to force a smile on your face. Googling an assortment of symptoms when you first feel sick. Telling a friend your deepest fears so someone else hears them.


What does fear look like to you?


This Thanksgiving I saw fear in my children during a fireworks display. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition in a nearby city – Thanksgiving fireworks and a holiday tree lighting. We’ve gone for years now, a wonderful way to end the day of thanks after feasting and fellowship. With a 4 and 1 year old we weren’t sure how the fireworks would be received. Both kids were excited and delighted to be outside at night surrounded by people on the street. We took pictures by a decorated Christmas tree. We greeted friends. We pointed to the sky showing them where the lights would be. We waited.


With the boom of the first firework both kids looked up. Immediately, you saw the fear on both of their faces. My daughter lifted her arms to be picked up by her father. She cried and laughed as she kept looking to the sky. She’d look up and then bury her face in her dad’s neck. As more and more lights and loud sounds filled the sky she wanted to go to the car. “Home, home, home!” She pointed towards the car and kept burying her head.


Her younger brother heard the first crack and started to cry. He looked up to see the lights as I held him. More and more fireworks went off as I held him close. His crying stopped. He continued to look towards the sky. His thumb went to his mouth. He placed his head in the crook of my neck and watched the sky light up.


My daughter continued to cry and wanted to go to the car. Carried by her father the two of them walked away. They watched the remainder of the fireworks from inside the car.


What does fear look like to you?

For my children fear came from loud fireworks lighting up the night. Yet, their fear was met by our loving embrace. My husband and I held tight to our children. We reassured them that they were safe. We whispered to them that everything would be okay. We never let go.


Could this be how God answers our fears?


I wonder if I could turn to God with my fears like my daughter and son turned to me? What would it look like for me to cry and feel frightened yet lift my arms to the One who holds me tight? Can I trust that God’s embrace surrounds me with hope and strength for facing the very fears that bring me to tears? So often my fears cause me to stand still and fail to see what’s in front of me. My fear immobilizes me from experiencing life. All too often I’d rather keep to myself and steer clear of any chance of danger. Yet if I take a cue from my children I can learn to let my fears bring me closer to others and God.


I can remember that in my fears I’m surrounded in God’s embrace.


When the world seems spiraling out of control and I fear for the future, God’s arms embrace me.


When the latest diagnosis hits too close to home, God’s arms embrace me.


When the darkness doesn’t end, God’s arms embrace me.


Every one of our fears is met by God’s loving embrace. And God’s words of comfort and peace: You are safe. You are loved. I’ll never let you go.     


Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/

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