The last year has been a tough year for me emotionally, as it has been for you. The hardest thing for me has been the comments in social media and the news that is written to evoke fear in the hearts of those reading them. I even hear similar remarks when I speak to people in person. It even occurs in Christian circles when someone says something like, "If we don't repent we are going to be in big trouble and God is not going to bless us during this election." As events unfolded January 6th, the comments in the media took on an even more hyperbolic and fatalistic tone which increased my anxiety. On Sunday I listened to a sermon/chat given by Ben Stewart and Louis Giglio of Passion City Church and passion and hope began to replace the gnawing anxiety that had been rising over this last year. As I process the fatalistic comments in light of Louis and Ben's chat the words "even if the worst comes" keep ruminating through my head.
If things continue to radically change and our voices are silenced and policies that God-fearing people have been calling for get reversed, I want to live in a way that honors my God. As I think about the people whose stories were told in the Scriptures, I realize I want to be like the brave and faithful ones.
If the worst comes, I want to be a Nehemiah. When he heard the people who had survived Israel's exile were struggling and shame-filled because the wall of Jerusalem had been breached and its gates had been destroyed, he wept and mourned and fasted, continually praying before his God. His prayer was powerful as it acknowledged God's greatness and faithfulness of God and it confessed the sins of His people. It was powerful as he beseeched His God to be attentive to the words of those who feared His name and to give them successes and mercy in the sight of their enemies for His name's sake.
If the worst comes, I want to be a Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and later cast into prison because of a false accusation. He probably felt like the worst had come into his life. Yet, he remained faithful to his God and lived a life marked with such integrity and diplomacy that those who enslaved him raised him to a high position, enabling him to prepare Egypt for a great famine. This brought him face to face with those who had sold him out and allowed God to weave forgiveness in his heart as well as a deep abiding trust in His plans. This hard that he had faced put him in the place to provide for Israel during the famine, ultimately saving the blood line of Christ. If the worst comes, I want to be a Joseph to save lives--the lives of the unborn, the abused, the marginalized, and those in need. I want to live in such a way that integrity marks my life and makes God's light shine through me so that those in power take notice and begin to want those things as well.
If the worst comes, I want to be an Esther. She was a young Jewish woman who lived during the time that the Medes and Persians took over Israel and through some crazy circumstances she become a queen. Her uncle notified her that Haman was planning to destroy all the Jews in the land, which meant even her life was at risk. Esther didn't react out of the fear she must have felt. She acted wisely, instructing her uncle to gather all the Jews in the region to fast and pray for her for three days and nights. Then she courageously went to the king uninvited. During a feast she had requested in her meeting, she exposed Haman's plot to kill her people. Because of her courage in the face of danger and uncertainty, Haman ended up being hung from the gallows that he had prepared for Esther's uncle and the lives of her people were preserved. I want to live in such a way that the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ would be deemed valuable and precious enough to be preserved.
If the worst comes, I want to be a Daniel. He was a young man when Babylon besieged Jerusalem. He was taken into captivity because he was good looking, wise, educated, and competent to stand in the Babylonian palace. They were given Babylonian names and forced into what we would call a reeducation camp. But Daniel resolved to not defile himself with Babylonian foods and took a stand for him and his friends and God filled them with more strength and wisdom than the Babylonians. Daniel later shared the Lord with the king when he interpreted the king's dreams. Because he earned favor with the king, his friends became rulers over provinces and Daniel remained in the palace. Daniel and his friends refused to bow down to the king's stature. Three were rescued from a fiery furnace and Daniel from a lion's den. The thing for which I admire Daniel the most is his faithfulness. He received visions from God and became a prayer warrior like no other. His prayers like Nehemiah's proclaimed the truth of who God is and the truth of their nation's sins and rebellion. He also acknowledged their failure to not listen to the prophets. He then implored the Lord to turn His anger away from Jerusalem and to show them His mercy. I want to be a Daniel who was known as someone who spent enormous amounts of time on their knees and pleads God's mercy over my people.
If the worst comes, I want to be a Steven who in the face of great persecution continued to share the gospel. In the face of martyrdom, he came face to face with people who were so enraged and hate-filled that they gnashed their teeth at him. He turned his eyes towards heaven and saw the glory of God and was filled with the Holy Spirit and said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." And as the stones began to pelt him, he said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them." I want to be a Stephen who can pray for my enemies in life and in death.
If the worst comes, I want to be a Paul. He was a faithful servant who suffered much for the cause of Christ. Even though he was shipwrecked, beaten, and put in prison, he remained faithful and penned some of the most powerful epistles we have. He loved well, prayed continually, evangelized, discipled, and courageously confronted abusers who infiltrated the church. I want to be a Paul who was a shepherd and teach others how to live out their faith in a world that isn't paradise. I want to do as he instructed the Colossians. I want to be found laboring with other believers near and far, faithfully lifting them before the Lord. I want to guard my heart and mind that I might not be deceived by the enemy. I want to quench immorality, impurity, evil desire, and covetousness, malice, slander, and obscene talk. I want to speak truth from a compassionate heart, a kind spirit bathed in humility, meekness, and patience. While I want to be a warrior for the Lord, I also want to be known as someone who forgives and prays for her enemies.
In closing, when I was in college, my dormitory was overrun by male students demanding the right to be in the women's dorms. (I know that tells my age!) The national guard was called in and tear gas was shot at students and into dorm rooms and there were guns everywhere. I was terrified. So, as much as I am puzzled, frustrated, and even angry about some of the things going on in our country I understand our people have been traumatized and many are reacting out of that trauma. Let's agree to peacefully disagree about all sorts of things and let's agree to pray faithfully for our families, churches, communities, and country every single day. Let pray that we can continue to be a beacon of hope for the world even if the worst comes.