By John O'Leary. This was originally posted on JohnOLearyInspires.com. When John O'Leary was 9 years old, he suffered burns over 100% of his body and was expected to die. He is now an inspirational speaker and bestselling author, teaching more than 50,000 people around the world each year how to live inspired. John's first book, ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life was published March 15, 2016. John is a contributing writer for Huff Post and Parade.com. John is a proud husband and father of four and resides in St. Louis, MO. Order John’s book today anywhere books are sold.
Even as we step away from work, gather with family, celebrate the season and prepare for the new year, it’s easy to feel discouraged. With countless depressing headlines, deepening cultural divides and so many conflicts, we’re susceptible to suffocating in fear.
When we add the chronic societal challenges to our own struggles, layered with the seasonal burdens of getting the right presents for the right people, wearing the right clothes to the right parties, decorating the house just the right way, it should surprise none of us that depression and anxiety are at their highest levels around the holidays.
But a simple Christmas card challenged me – and invites the rest of us – to have a very different perspective as we move into this week.
Beauty in simplicity
Many people send out Christmas cards this time of year, typically featuring pictures of smiling kids, happy couples, cute dogs, new homes. Many include images of beautiful Christmas trees, Santa leaving gifts, Snoopy driving sleighs, or nativity scenes.
But it was a seemingly bland card – with a seemingly odd message – that had the most significant impact. On a plain blue card weren’t pictures, images, families or snowflakes, but four words:
“Do Not Be Afraid.”
It seemed like a strange message for the holiday season. Why lead with a message of fear around the holidays? Why not send pictures of puppy dogs and snowflakes and Santa Clause and kids looking just perfect? Kind of a dark message, right?!
Then I remembered the first words Mary heard from the angel:
Do Not Be Afraid.
And the first words heard by Joseph in a dream:
Do Not Be Afraid.
And the first words a bunch of shepherds heard while tending to their flocks:
Do Not Be Afraid.
Then I thought of the woman who sent this card. She was recently widowed, struggling with intense grief, dealing with loneliness, facing uncertainty. And I understood the grand simplicity and profound truth of her card.
My friends, many of us are carrying a heavier weight of concerns into this week.
Some wrestle with the agony of imagining four more years with this president, others remain furious that the Democrats impeached their president. Some struggle with our $22 trillion in national debt, others with how they’ll pay the December gas bill. Some feel trapped in an unhealthy relationship and others ache to be in a relationship.
We all carry insecurities and anxieties into this week and into the final days of 2019.
And then we are reminded of a fundamental truth too frequently overlooked this time of year:
Do not be afraid. It was a message delivered some 2,000 years ago that transformed the lives of those who listened. Perhaps there’s value in heeding these words in our lives today.
This is your day. Do not be afraid, and Live Inspired.
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