I received a word from the Lord the week before last. It came in the snail mail – specifically, in a Christmas card. One of the benefits of my work with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is that I regularly get cards from groups of people I’ve never met. In this case, it was from a children’s class at a church in North Carolina. Most of the time the cards contain lists of signatures. Sometimes there’s a brief note added. This time there was more. One child clearly wrote, “Do not Be AfrAiD or DiscouRAGD.” I knew this was a word from the Lord for two reasons. First, because I was at that moment teetering on the edge of a pool of fear and insecurity and had already dipped my toes in a couple of times. A new job opportunity had presented itself without warning. I’d had to make a very quick decision and was beginning to be alarmed with the thought that I might have made a mistake.
The second reason I knew this was a word from the Lord is that it wasn’t just a word for me. It was Faith 101, one of the underlying themes of scripture from Genesis on. In the Christmas story alone, Zachariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds are all given this word of comfort and instruction. (And they all had much more reason to fear than I do.)
I might have missed this message completely except that it reminded me of what I have long known to be true, but somehow often forget to apply. The spiritual stories, poems, and letters I’ve heard and read since childhood provide not the disjointed directions of spiritual fortune cookies, but a context for seeing my story against the backdrop of the Greatest Story. In that Story the smallest acts of faithfulness upstage fear and illuminate the darkness. “Do not Be AfrAiD or DiscouRAGD.” This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.