The Fear of Believing

“’Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.’”                 (Matthew 1:20a NLT)

Fear is a very real and present danger when it comes to understanding and carrying out God’s will. It has many implications and can often be confusing and disturbing. But if we’re patient and open to the truth, God will make it clear what our response should be.

Bob Goff wrote: “Be patient when it gets weird. The angel explained things to Joseph after he talked to Mary, not before.” 

You may have responded a lot differently than me, but I’m afraid if my fiancée had come to me and told me she was pregnant when we hadn’t had sex, then added: “But it’s okay. It’s God’s baby!” I’m thinking I wouldn’t have wanted to “break the engagement quietly” like Joseph. A virgin birth had never happened before or since, yet Joseph believed the angel and his faith and faithfulness still touch our lives for good today.

It’s interesting to me that the first thing the angel said to Joseph, after addressing him by name, is: “do not be afraid…” It seems more likely he’d say: “Now look, Joseph, I know your heart is breaking! I know you’re angry! I know you’re confused, but…” Obviously, the angel knew Joseph better than Joseph knew himself, which, of course, is true of us as well. But what was Joseph afraid of?

Photo by Keira Burton on

Very likely the same things that kept many of us from faith initially – fear of rejection from our friends/family, fear of appearing weak, fear of what changes would come to our lives, and many other reasons. But the other side of that is, what ultimately changed Joseph’s mind, and ours to move forward in faith?

Being visited by an angel would certainly be a big factor, but if you read the surrounding verses, nowhere does the angel command Joseph to do anything. All he did was outline the facts: Mary’s pregnant by the Holy Spirit, she will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. All the angel did was fill in some blanks, he didn’t answer all of Joseph’s questions or address all of his fears. Neither does God answer all of ours.

The Bible says that “Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man…” (vs 19) The word translated “good” in this verse can mean: “one whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God.” It was no accident that God chose Joseph or Mary. God had insight and understanding, not only of Joseph’s good heart, but his strong love for Mary. At the end of the day, I believe Joseph made the decision to protect Mary by guarding their relationship and becoming her husband, not out of obligation or even obedience. I believe he became her husband because of love. Love for God and love for Mary.

Love dispels fear, regardless of its origin. Love heals, restores, fulfills, completes, magnifies joys and helps us deal appropriately with sorrows. Like love, faith is a choice. Our choices are often influenced and shaped by our environment (i.e. our family of origin, life’s experiences, education, etc), but ultimately how we understand and respond to life is a choice we make, the consequences of which we must suffer.

Sometimes “weird” things happen in our lives. Very likely not as dramatic as what Mary and Joseph had to deal with, but nonetheless, things we would not have chosen for ourselves. Yet God, in His love equips us to deal with them and learn things from them that ultimately make us better, if we don’t allow them to make us bitter.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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