Fear Is Normal

47The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Luke 23:47-49 NIV

I have heard it said that a good mark of potential service and leadership is cautious optimism.  In this passage, Christ has just been crucified and breathed his last breath.  The audience could not be more diverse.  On the one hand there are representatives of the authorities.  One of these, the centurion, makes note of the various signs and wonders that accompany the death of Christ.  Among these is the darkness that covers the land for three hours.  This demonstrates to him (the centurion) that Christ’s “righteousness” is indeed authentic.  This recognition, however, is transient and he moves on.  The next group consists of the audience members who are there, ostensibly, for the spectacle.  They are also faced with these various supernatural occurrences and their response is to “beat their breasts”.  The NIV text notes indicate that this was usually a practice associated with indignation or contrition.  In any event, the emotion is short lived and for this group life goes on.  The third group is comprised of “all those who knew him”, who had been with him since his beginnings in Galilee.  They watch from a distance.  The text does not clarify why they are watching from a distance.  The reasons could vary from outright fear and hopelessness to cautious expectation.  What we know is that this is the group that eventually formed the core of the Church’s early beginnings.  By all accounts the apostles had all fled (with the exception of John) and the remaining women were instrumental in Christ’s first post-resurrection sighting.  The first two reactions (the centurion and the onlookers) were immediate and dramatic in their response to their awareness of Christ’s deity, but their commitment to action was lacking.  Whatever the motivation, this third group exercised caution in mapping a response to the events that had just occurred.

And so it is with our Christian walk.  There have been times in my life when I feel Christ’s leading but my caution is activated.  I feel doubts beginning to overwhelm me.  The temptation is to not move in the direction of leading, because of the doubts and cautious positioning.  But this is the nature of faith…moving even when the future seems murky.  I once heard it described as “acting while afraid.”  Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (KJV).  Although Jesus had just been put to death, the words that he spoke motivated a hopeful response that caused the last group to stay engaged.  Their watchful distance gave them a good vantage of things that would materialize.

Where is God leading you?  Are you experiencing doubts that are mixed in with some fear?  Allow yourself to feel these emotions, but do not allow them to define your actions.  We don’t have to project false confidence and certainty to others.  That is a trap that we must avoid.  Our obligation is only to our audience of ONE…to be engaged and authentic with our questions but obedient.  If this is a place of struggle, share it with others.  You will find that you are not alone.

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