There are a lot of things in this world we don’t understand. Many things are happening all around us, almost daily, that just don’t make sense. Where is the logic? How could the scientific method answer questions like why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people? How could reason and intellect answer why an 18-year-old, recent high school graduate died in a tragic car crash?
The problem is, we are finite. We are incomplete. We are not all-knowing, all-powerful, or really in control. When things happen that we don’t understand, it seems natural to rebel against these facts. We can rebel against the notion that we are finite and are not invincible. “What do you mean I won’t live forever? I mean, I know at some point I will pass away, but I have so many years left! I don’t have to worry about facing death!”
Or maybe we rebel against not being all-knowing. When something happens we don’t understand, we seek an explanation, because there has to be one, right? If we can’t figure it out, then we don’t rest until we have an answer. If we don’t find an answer, we use clever verbiage to develop an answer that delivers us an escape from the reality that there is no answer.
Maybe we rebel against not being really in control. Everything in our lives is neat and orderly. We have all our i’s dotted and t’s crossed and we know what to expect, how to handle it, and we always know what to do. But then something unexpected happens that places us in the backseat because it is something beyond our control. Someone does something to us or to someone we love, and we weren’t able to stop it. So we spend the rest of our lives devoted to never letting this sort of thing happen again.
What if our negative impulse to being out of control, to being incomplete, not all-knowing or powerful or invincible, is really just a fear-focused reaction? It really does seem like when we are out of the drivers seat, not in control, that decisions come from the fear instead of the faith inside of us.
Matthew 1:20 comes in the middle of the proclamation that Jesus is going to be born from the virgin Mary. Joseph, Mary’s husband, who has not had sex with her, finds out that Mary is pregnant and is going to react in a way full of integrity and grace. He decides to divorce her quietly. The situation is beyond his control. But, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, as recorded in Matthew 1:20, and says,
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
The angel tells him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Taking Mary as his wife must have brought the fear of shame and fear of rejection and fear of bad reputation and fear of a difficult life because of marrying a woman who was already pregnant.
The angel gives advice to Joseph that I think is very applicable to our lives when we feel out of control, afraid, and uncertain: “Do not fear…” Even though we may not understand what is going on right now, “that which is conceived…is from the Holy Spirit.” Trust in Him. Believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Follow God’s Word. We may not get it, we may not know why, we may have no answers, no solutions, no clue… but what we can know is Jesus Christ as our Savior (1 Timothy 1:15), God as our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1-3), and Jesus as our burden bearer. We can lay our burdens down at His feet (Psalm 55:22), and He will walk with us through it all (Psalm 23).