Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Living Brave in Scary Times

"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them,
for it is the LORD your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you."
Deuteronomy 31:6
We are living in scary times. Just about every day we hear things that provoke anxiety and fear. We hear about terrorists' attacking civilians, bombs blowing planes out of the sky, mass shootings occurring in public places, and civil unrest exploding into violence. We hear about people having cars hijacked, phones stolen at gun point, and purses ripped from arms as we shop. We hear about murders occurring in every neighborhood. We hear about home invasions involving robberies, brutal rapes, or the killing of whole families. We hear about dates that turn into rapes, about relationships that turn into molestations, about spouses forsaking love for porn, and about sons and daughters lured into drugs and sex trafficking. We hear about baby parts being sold for profit, babies being stolen, and babies being abandoned in allies in spite of safe haven laws and parents longing to adopt. We hear about robbers not only snatching  physical possessions, but identities as well. We hear about gang shootings, drug overdoses, and loved ones lives snuffed out by drivers driving drunk. We hear about tragic accidents taking loved ones, wars maiming young soldiers, cancer ravaging the bodies of loved ones, and infections causing human bodies to go septic. We hear about family members carrying out acts of violence on the very ones they should be loving and protecting. We hear about moms or dads walking out on families, not once looking back. We hear about a failing economy, lost jobs, and repossessed homes.

And then there are a mass of other kind of fears with which we struggle--the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of being too much, the fear of being not enough, the fear of being overlooked,  the fear of being known, the fear of being found defective, the fear of being invisible, the fear if being unheard, and the fear of someone stumbling upon the truth of the stories we've lived and denied, the abuses we've born, and the sins we've sinned. And then there are the irrational fears that born out of unresolved pain, grief, and trauma--fears that don't make sense unless we take the time to hear the stories behind them.

Sometimes fear and anxiety creep slowly into our lives. We don't even realize they are there until it is  crazy out of control. Sometimes we're  aware of it, but because we've been told fear and anxiety are sin we put on "brave masks" that bely the fear-filled hearts pounding in our chests and the pain racking our bodies because we've carried the tension of anxiety far too long. Sometimes the fear is even shrouded in shame because we've tried to tell someone about the fear only to be told we, as believers, should not be feeling it.

How differently we might live if we accepted the truth that fear is a God-given emotion designed to help us stay safe. How differently we might live if we understood fear and anxiety can only do their job when we learn to listen to their messages and acknowledge their presence in our lives. So often we take verses like the one above out of context and interpret suffering as proof that God has forgotten us. Too often we forget the verses were penned by a God who has a great big Father's heart and we use them to shame either ourselves or others who are experiencing fear. What if God penned verses on fear not to scold us, but to remind us that He is ever with us? What if He penned them to remind us that everything we experience is filtered through nail-scarred hands, a Spirit acquainted with grief and trauma, and a heart that is beating wildly with compassion? I wonder how different our lives would be if we quit judging each other as deficient because of our experiences with fear and anxiety. What if we gave each other permission to acknowledge and to express these experiences?
What is the worst that could happen?

As a person once driven by fear, I've learned some valuable lessons about it. First, rational fear can keep us safe because it triggers a natural fight, flight, or freeze reaction that enables us to fight battles, flee danger, and disengage from the overwhelming. Second, irrational fear exposes  festering wounds, unresolved grief, and unhealed trauma we have buried. Irrational fear tells us it is time to face our life stories and bring all to the light. Third, fear and anxiety are common human experiences that have the potential to bind hearts together if we are real. Fourth, fear loses its power over us when we bring it to the light. Oh, that we would remember that our silence feeds fear and expression starves it. Fifth, fear can serve as a reminder to reflect on Yahweh--the very name that sounds like a breath in the Hebrew language. It reminds us of the truth of Job 33:4, "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." So, the need for deep cleansing breaths can cause us to focus on Yahweh and His character--He is the sovereign, loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, and radically loving Savior. In this life there will be suffering and the suffering can draw us to the heart of a very big, very loving God. Sixth, we can't be brave if we don't have fear. I don't know where we got the idea that brave is the absence of fear, but it isn't. Brave is the presence of faith that chooses to trust God in the face of the scary.  Seventh, there is a real enemy--an enemy  God has already defeated. The damage the enemy is trying to do now is merely his anger and his resistance to the loss he has suffered and the death he is dying at the hands of a God more powerful than he and that enemy has no power in our lives unless we choose to believe his sick lies.

In closing, when we remember that God's instructions to us are penned from a Father's loving heart, we will be encouraged rather than shamed. His Words remind us that we do not have to be afraid because God is with us, sheltering us, and providing for us. He is more powerful than the enemy, and He has overcome death. Because of His shed blood and His infinite grace, we are truly safe in Him. People, disease, or accidents may kill the body, but we will live because of the cross and the resurrection. Maybe God allows the scary now to draw us closer to Him, to give us sacred opportunities to encourage one another, and to make us a bit homesick for our heavenly homes. As we walk these scary times, let us remind one another that fear melts in the presence of a big big God. 

No comments:

Post a Comment


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!