Jack is like all dogs, wanting to go along whenever I leave the house. He accompanies me to church, the dentist, Bible study, and on errands, content to nap in the back seat. Today, though, I decided to leave him at home and patted his head on my way out.
But I just couldn’t turn away from his pleading eyes. “Alright. I guess you can go.”
So off we went to make 5 stops. First up was Walgreens, and I pulled into a parking spot 8 cars away from the entrance. While reaching for my purse and list, another car pulled in on my left. The driver went into the store while his burly passenger stepped out and stood next to my door.
This man was agitated about something, shaking his head and shouting. He stood outside my window facing me, his stomach no more than inches away. He didn’t move but kept shouting at no one in particular while lighting a cigarette.
Fear washed over me, and I looked at my door lock button: open. If I locked the doors in front of him, would it offend him? Would he follow me when I left Walgreens?
A minute passed and he didn’t move. Neither did I, and my gut told me I was in danger… until I remembered who was napping in the back seat. In a raspy whisper tinged with fear I said, “Jack!” and like a shot he was up on all fours facing the window. And the man.
Immediately the intimidating stranger became the intimidated, stepping away from my door and onto the sidewalk, eyes locked on Jack. I started the car, backed away, and headed for errand #2.
While driving, I thought about God’s promise. “Fear not, I am with you.”
“But Lord, a stranger just threatened me! And I was afraid!”
What does God mean by asking us not to fear? He isn’t into feel-good platitudes that have no bite to them in an emergency. His promises are practical, and he personally stands behind them, so I don’t think he means we shouldn’t feel afraid. To the contrary, I think my in-the-moment fear was his gift to help me assess the danger and decide to leave.
So what about God’s statement not to fear?
I think he’s saying, “Because I’m with you, this situation will ultimately end in victory. I’ll settle the score, have no fear about that.”
While that might not be as comforting as we’d like, in the same passage where he says not to fear, he also says, I’ve chosen you… I’ve called you… I’ll help you… I’ll uphold you… I’ll strengthen you…
No matter what might have happened in the parking lot today (even an attack), God would have kept those promises to help, to strengthen, whether before, during or after. I’m thankful it turned out as it did and am also thankful for Jack, who will now be my permanent errand-running buddy.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you.” (Isaiah 41:10)