Thursday evenings my husband and I host a Bible study in our home. We are so amazingly grateful for the people who join us each week, linking their lives to ours in a very intimate way. We share "secrets" (anything said in Lifegroup, stays in Lifegroup) - our concerns, hopes, joys, successes, failures. We pray for one another and are there for one another. We surrounded the bed of one of us who lost his battle with cancer and we held his widow as she sobbed after he died.
They are my brothers and sisters and I love each one of them, even when they're a bit out of sorts and hard to love. After all, I get out of sorts and hard to love but they stick with me. That's what we do. That's how we do life.
This last Thursday, a conversation was started as one of us deals with a very large, overwhelming fear. It's not cancer or some other disease, it's what is happening and rumored to be happening in our country. The talk of civil unrest and the government's preparations for that. Are they true? Well...isn't there always an element of truth to all rumors? So - is there talk of civil unrest? Probably. Isn't there always? Isn't that what catapulted us into the Revolutionary War? The Boston Tea Party... Is the government preparing for it? Probably. Can anyone imagine the American government firing on American citizens? Why not?
What was happening, though and continues to happen, is this friend of mine has thoughts swirling in her head, concerns - ok - terrified thoughts - about such things actually happening. And it goes further - the house being taken away, their children being separated from them, her being separated from her husband. As her husband reads articles and sees pictures and hears what happens in the news (and the reactions to it), the "what if's" get uglier and bigger. And flat out petrifying.
So Thursday night we spent time talking it through. Talking out the reality that these thoughts exist. The fear is real. The concerns are not irrational. The fear, though, is becoming so. Allowing those thoughts to dominate and not taking every thought captive, making it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) we rely on man and what he believes to be true and we do not trust God to be in control (Colossians 2:8). The Bible tells us over and over and over again that we need to steer clear of such thinking. It also tells us over and over what happens when we don't. Think the Israelites. They'd follow God for a while then let themselves be distracted by whoever had the most power or the prettiest daughters or... whatever happened to distract them. They'd get caught up in that, become slaves to it and then cry out to God for Him to save them.
And He did. Every single time. Maybe not in their timing but He always did. He never, never, ever leaves His people alone. He is there. Always. In control, handling the situation. He does not work in time as we do. He does not have a beginning or an end. There is nothing but forever to Him. Our fears are unjustified. Not any less real but unjustified. They begin - and end - in trusting God. They begin because our trust in God isn't as it should be - whether it be weak or it be that we are ignoring it. They end because we realize that we need to trust God. I have to admit - I have absolutely NO desire to suffer pain or discomfort. None. I don't want to lose my house, I don't want anything horrible to happen to my family. Ever. But I hold onto this quote from Jesus:
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." ~Luke 12:4-5
I can be afraid of feeling pain - but I shouldn't be. Pain will be temporary. Yes, it could be excruciating. Suffering could be tremendous. I have no idea what those words actually mean when it comes to pain and suffering, I know this. It doesn't matter. It's temporary. What I have to fear is that which is permanent. That permanency comes from God's ability to send people, me included, to hell if we choose to ignore Him, or disobey Him or make Him out to be someone or something who suits us. When we have idols who distort our view of who He is and what He says, we could end up being one of those who say "Lord, Lord" and He says "I do not know you." (Matthew 7:21-27).
That is what I fear.
Did we assuage every fear my friend has? Absolutely not. But God has heard her cry and our petition for strength for her. He will, in His time, answer her prayer - and it may be He has her struggle through more before seeing and end to her fears. It's not for us to know. It is for Him to decide. Her walk, her lessons, her growth. On the other hand? We are there for her. We are there for her to share her fears, talk through those truths we know from His word. Remind her she knows Him who holds the world in His hands. Remind her of His strength, His faithfulness, His love, His mercy. His sovereignty.
And it WILL send the fears back to where they came - into the dark. It WILL redirect those thoughts to a healthier fear of the Lord. A fear that does not cause condemnation but instead a love and awe unrivaled by anyone or anything. No one has what God has. No one is who God is. God is I AM. He and He alone, through the suffering gift of Jesus Christ, can save this world and no man can offer anything to stand up to Him.
So...we will work on halting those fears of man and focus instead on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
To Him be all the glory. Amen.