“David said further to his son Solomon, ‘Be strong and of good courage, and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.'” (I Chronicles 28:20)
As I write this, I am preparing for my mother’s funeral. We have a family tradition of using the hymn, Be Not Afraid, as a part of the service. The song was written by a Jesuit priest, Father Bob Dufford, over several years while he was in seminary, reflecting on his own fears. He never expected it to resonate so deeply with so many people. It is included in nearly every hymnal, both Protestant and Catholic.
The song was published in 1975 and the letters started arriving. One woman wrote that it had helped her through her husband’s alcoholic journey as she prayed and sang the song each night for comfort. Another woman heard the song at her husband’s funeral, and it comforted her throughout her grief. Father Bob Dufford said: “For me, it was a song of transition,” he said. “There was a fear, but it was a fear of going from one place to another, ending one thing and starting another. I didn’t know what was going to come, and I had this sense of the promise of God: ‘I go before you always.’”
You shall cross the barren desert,
But you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety,
Though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands,
And all will understand,
You shall see the face of God and live.
Be not afraid, I go before you always,
Come follow me, and I will give you rest.
The words resonate with me, not only during this time of family grief, but also in all the pain we are collectively experiencing. Whether you are worrying about this election or its aftermath, your own precarious health or that of someone you love, whether you are wondering what you can do to make a positive impact or feeling helpless in the face of your challenges, this song reminds us that no matter what our circumstances may be, we are never alone. These are days of fear and trials, yet… I will not be afraid. I will be of good courage because we are never alone.
Prayer Focus: For those facing trials
Prayer: Merciful God, in prayer we gather up our concerns, our stumbling blocks, our worries over our loved ones, our burdens over this world in these challenging days. Gather up our fears as we consciously release them into your hands. Grant us the bold courage to risk changing what we can change around us by taking one step of faith through our fears. Through it all, remind us that we are never alone – you are with us always as we travel in the ways of Jesus. Amen.