This Week's Article
“Where to Go When Afraid”
By Colly Caldwell
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
In times like these when we are faced with threats to our well-being, stories from the past remind us of how we should approach our present circumstances. You may remember from not so long ago news reports of a doctor named Keith Brantly. Dr. Brantly served as a medical missionary in Liberia, West Africa, during the outbreak of Ebola in 2014. The Ebola virus was deadly and highly contagious. In fact, Dr. Brantly contracted the disease while treating the sick and dying. His wife, two children, and other family were back in the United States and he had to face probable death all alone.
Keith Brantly had graduated from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Bible and gone on to obtain his medical degree from the University of Indiana School of Medicine. When the tests confirmed a positive diagnosis for Ebola, Keith called Amber and gave her the news. She reported that her fear and sadness were so great that she had trouble finding the words to pray. Instead, she sang hymns of truth, praising God and going to him through the words of the songs. Keith took up his Bible and soon remembered this verse (Heb. 4:16) which became the basis of his prayers. The Brantlys came to the Lord in different ways when they were fearful, but they both knew where to go “in time of need.”
There are two instances in Jesus’ experience that remind us that even though we are less than all we would like to be, we should always come to Jesus. That includes when we are afraid.
The Bible says that Jesus on one occasion withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Those were two Gentile cities on the Mediterranean coast outside Israel’s borders. They were about fifty miles north of Galilee where Jesus was doing much of His preaching. We might wonder why Jesus would make a hundred-mile round trip into Gentile territory. Was there something else he needed to do there? If so, we are not told. What we are told is that a desperate woman came to Him begging for her daughter to be healed. She was a Canaanite Gentile yet she came boldly to Jesus, a Jew, because she was desperate.
Bible students puzzle over Jesus’ initial response to this woman. At first He did not answer her. Then Jesus said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And then he said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” His response seems to be what some consider “un-Christlike” until realizing that Jesus may be drawing out the extent of her faith. It must have been a test of her faith in who He is and whether He could really heal her daughter. So when she responded by assenting to what He said but countering, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table,” Jesus surprisingly commended her by saying, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire” (Matt. 15:28). He did not say that to everyone.
The other we take note of who came to Jesus in desperate circumstances was a Roman officer who came to the Lord begging for Jesus to heal his servant. His humble spirit so impressed Jesus that “He marveled, and said to them that followed, ‘Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel’” (Matt. 8:10 and Luke 7:9).
These two were Gentiles. Neither had the “right” by Jewish law or tradition to approach Jesus with an appeal for help. They were separated from Him by a huge wall of cultural and religious norms. But Jesus wants all men and women to come to Him, even in times of desperation...perhaps especially in times of great need. We equate “great faith” with courage, self-discipline, and sacrifice. We should work toward those qualities. But come to Jesus also when afraid!
Keith Brantly’s colleagues had heard of an experimental treatment being considered by doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. They arranged to have him flown there and evaluated for this new procedure. He was accepted and after several days in the program began to show improvement. Blessed by God, he walked out of the hospital a survivor. Of course, not everyone who trusts Jesus while suffering a serious disease walks away from it cured; however, that does not mean that our prayers are in vain. If one does not walk out of the hospital cured, they may still walk into the arms of Jesus and they will be given a new body made whole for eternity if saved by Him.