Today’s Reading: Moroni 8: 16-30
16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.
This February, our daughter Esther was born. While many parents anticipate their children’s births with excitement and perhaps a bit of nervousness, one of the major emotions I experienced leading up to her birth was fear.
For one, it would be my first time giving birth to a full-term baby (many friends that I have talked to experience similar worries with their first labor and delivery).
Secondly, I was just pregnant with another baby last year. When I was 21 weeks along, we experienced complications and I went into preterm labor. Ultimately, we lost our perfect daughter; our first baby.
My subsequent pregnancy with Esther was full of anxiety, which was only abetted when, at 20 weeks, we found out that she, too, was having complications. I was in constant anxiety and fear that I would lose this baby. I didn’t know how much my heart could take.
During this time, I sometimes wondered how I could go through the difficult experience of dealing with the grief of losing one child while trying to have hope for another. This all came to a climax as Esther’s birth drew nearer, and I was terrified that something would happen to this baby, too. In short, I felt paralyzed with fear, but the only way through was through.
Through this, I tried to remember the phrase that “perfect love casteth out all fear.” As Lloyd D. Newell pointed out, the Christmas story is a great example of this theme. In the scriptures, an angel delivered the message four different times to “Fear not.” Brother Newell says,
Life presents endless opportunities to fear. We may fear what people think of us. We may fear failure or rejection. We may be afraid of changes we know we must make in our lives….We may experience failure or rejection and wonder if we have what it takes. We may have financial fears, educational and career fears, or fears of public speaking, snakes, or spiders. Yes, we live in a beautiful world—but it can be scary out there!
The Lord’s message to you today is the same message He sent through His angels so long ago: “Fear not.” He can say that because He knows more than we do. He sees what we cannot see. He knows what is coming, and, in the eternal scheme of things, it is not as bad as we may think. He knows that we can handle it with His help because He knows how to strengthen and succor us.10
Most of all, He tells us not to fear because He knows that fear will paralyze us. It will keep us from knowing and doing His will; accepting His blessings, His love, and His light; and fulfilling His purposes.
So as time brought us closer to Esther’s birth, I sought to remember God’s love for me. I sought to increase my love for Him. I had to remember that God is in charge, that He knows what is coming, that He has a plan for me and my babies. Ultimately, it is up to God’s grace whether or not my Esther would make it full-term and be a healthy baby. And I sought to accept God’s will for our family, whatever that meant. As I was able to seek greater love for God, my fear and anxiety decreased.
In the days immediately before Esther’s birth, I was significantly calmer than I had been in months. This time, we ended up having a beautiful experience in the hospital, and Esther was born perfectly healthy.
I know from experience that our fears may, at times, feel overwhelming. Our fears may feel paralyzing. I also know from experience that as we draw closer to God and His love–and trust in His love for us–that those fears will diminish. God knows us perfectly. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows what He needs us to become, and He does not want us to fear:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
Life doesn’t always turn out how we want; sometimes, Heavenly Father has plans for ourselves that we would not choose. Even if life has challenges in store for me that I would not wish to endure, I can have faith in His perfect love for me. As we draw near to Him, we can come to trust Him and His perfect love and understanding. Ultimately, we don’t need to fear. Perfect love casteth out all fear.
“Fear not” was the message that the angel delivered to Zacharias, to Mary, to Joseph, and to the shepherds. As we re-read the Christmas story tomorrow and reflect on the birth of our Savior, my hope is that we can receive the same message to “fear not” in our own hearts and minds.