In Hawaii, where I spent ten years as a pastor, it was common to see bumper stickers, car decals, and T-shirts, encouraging, “No Fear!”
“No Fear” to the Hawaiian means summoning one’s internal “mana” (spiritual energy, strength) to face his foe. To other locals, it simply means to be brave in the face of any danger or challenge.
There is so much that is beautiful about Hawaii and its people. But worry and fear has to be faced too–from many causes.
History. The native Hawaiian people have faced many fears. They easily recall the Inter-Island wars in which many brave warriors died, and final unification under Kamehameha I (1758-1819).
They remember how their Islands were taken by American business and political powers on January 17, 1893 (1), and how the “Price of Paradise” has driven the cost of living higher for “kanaka” (natives) and “Kama’aina” (long time residents) (2). For some there is resentment toward the “haole” (people from outside).
Beyond this, people who live in Hawaii face the power of natural elements regularly.
Hurricanes. I still remember Hurricane Lane in 2018. It was headed directly for us on Oahu packing 160 MPH winds and torrential, flooding rains. Honolulu was facing catastrophic damage. Our youth pastor Kraig and I hurriedly brought in everything that could become a projectile, secured windows, covered pews with plastic, and prayed, with many, that God would avert the storm.
Almost the last minute, Lane disintegrated into a tropical depression, still causing $250 million in damage, pouring down 58″ of rain in one place. One year, fifteen hurricanes encircled the islands over a few months, but none struck. Locals remember Hurricane Iniki (1992), which caused $1.8 billion in damage and claimed several lives, Iwa (’82), Dot (’59) and Nina (57).
Supplies and Distance. The Islands are the furthest from a continent (1,860 miles) of any islands in the world, making supply an issue in crises. In the current Pandemic, medical and food supplies are a concern. People who live there are worrying about their family on the “Mainland” and those of us who live on the mainland worry about them. Fear.
Defense. Because the Hawaiian Island chain is an outlier, it is defended heavily, but still feels vulnerable in a crisis. I vividly remember Hawaii’s “False Missile Alert” in 2018. This was during the heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Each were threatening to attack the other with nuclear weapons, leading to the most serious defense preparations in Hawaii since World War 2. My wife and I were vacationing in Maui when the text alert came that incoming missiles were headed toward us, followed by the words, “THIS IS NOT A DRILL!”
I thought of my two children and their families, our dear grandchildren, who lived near Honolulu–and prayed for their safety. In the end, it was a false alert. But fear? Yes. We felt it.
So people in Hawaii get to face their fears on a regular basis.
And now we all are facing our fears in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Fear of the illness. Fear of job loss. Fear of national trouble. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown.
Most of the time in life, we are brave, or complacent. It is when we face things that are clearly beyond our control and threatening to undo our lives that fear appears. What can we do?
“DON’T BE AFRAID”
Jesus had a lot to say about fear. He doesn’t want us to be paralyzed by it. Overcome with it. He is the Lord of “No Fear.” Here are a few that have helped me:
“Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”Matthew 10:30-31
Jesus was speaking about how to react when people mistreat us. He reassures us that He knows everything about us–even the number of hairs on our head–and that we are of great worth in His eyes. We mean the world to Him. We don’t need to fear. He invites us to believe this about Him.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”1 John 4:18
God loves us more than we can ever imagine. The measure of His love is that He agreed for Jesus to come live here and then die a terrible death for sin. When we truly believe that our powerful Savior knows us and loves us deeply, it melts our fear. But how powerful is He?
“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'”Matthew 14:25-27
Jesus’ disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee when a storm came up that was rough even for these experienced fisherman. They were struggling the keep the boat afloat when they saw what they thought was an omen of their destruction–a ghost. But it was Jesus walking toward them on the waves. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Jesus is watching over us in our storms. He can come to us when we need Him. You can pray for Him to come to you. “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” (Psalm 86:7) “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)
“So 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 with my righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10
I have read this text at many hospital beds, before many surgeries. I have prayed it myself because it is a sure promise from a God who is willing and able to be with us in our most challenging moments.
Right now, in the middle of whatever storm or overwhelming situation you’re facing, Jesus invites you to trust His promises, to turn to Him, and to tell Him what you need most. He is strong. He is aware. He is present. And He can help.
(1) Dougherty, Michael. To Steal a Kingdom. Waimanalo: Island Style Press, 1992.
(2) Rother, Randall W., (Ed.) The Price of Paradise, (Vol. II). Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1993.