Fears seem worse at night.
You’re lying in bed at night, and sleep won’t come. In the absence of sleep, your imagination – the same kind of imagination that is so powerful it gave us worlds like Narnia and Middle Earth – runs wild, and not in a good way. You don’t spend time in a snowy wonderland with incredible talking animals on a quest to save the kingdom. No, in the night, things get much darker in your mind. Fears you thought were banished come rushing back. Scenarios that are ridiculous in the light of day seem all too real.
You forget what you know is true, and your feelings take over, the panic rising.
Joseph and Mary must have had nights like this. When you find out your fiancee is pregnant, and you know the child isn’t yours, your mind must conjure up all sorts of scenarios. When you’re told you’re going to conceive while you’re still a virgin, well, that information is its own special kind of mysterious.
Neither end of the situation is normal, and the reasons they are given – by an angel of the Lord, no less – are not exactly small potatoes either. They are told the child will save his people from their sins, that he is the son of the Most High, that he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, that there will be no end of his kingdom.
How do you sleep when you’re given this kind of news? It seems exciting, but it’s also overwhelming and fearful. Joseph and Mary must have wondered why God chose them, what Jesus was going to be like, how they were going to parent the one who created the universe. They probably felt unequal to the task, unworthy and scared.
Their fears must have been very real. We know Mary was “greatly troubled.”
But you know what else they were told by the angel of the Lord?
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife.”
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
Do not fear. Don’t be afraid. God knew their fears, knew where their minds would go, knew the tendency of their hearts, and he spoke directly to them, reassuring them that he was in control, that they just needed to trust him.
It was a big ask, but he is a big God, so they trusted him with their hearts and their lives. They did as he said, and the Savior of the world was born to human parents.
We can trust him too. One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is God telling us: “Do not fear.” So the next time you’re lying awake at night, with fears that want to take over your heart and mind, remind yourself what God tells you:
“Do not fear … I will strengthen you and help you.” (Is. 41:10)
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Is. 43:1)
And if the fears still seem insurmountable, remember one last thing the angel told Mary:
“Nothing will be impossible with God.”