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Fear Not

A while back, I wrote about “when bad things happen” after a friend had been held at gunpoint in her own home. Bad things do happen, and they happen to God’s children and those who do not believe in Him alike. Yet, the most repeated command in Scripture is not to fear and it is always coupled with “because I am with you.”

Last night I had a gruesome and blood chilling message left on my phone describing promised violence to me and to my children. I have no reason to suspect it was actually personal, but nonetheless, hearing that creepy voice in my ear through my personal phone effectively paralyzed me with fear. My theology on the matter did not match what was happening in my heart. I suddenly felt vulnerable and helpless and terrified. I asked God to please apply the person and work of Jesus to my heart…and He did.

The first thing that came to mind was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who must have felt shortness of breath as they walked to that fire pit into which they were to be thrown, in the same way that Jesus Himself was sweating blood on the way to the cross. But their words were not, “If you love us God, you will not let this happen!” nor were they “If you exist and are powerful, put this fire out!” Instead, what they said was, “Our God will save us, and even if He does not, we will not bow (to any other god).”

Fear itself is the most powerful other god to which my heart is inclined to bow. I was on the floor bowing to it without a second thought last night. My first instinct wasn’t to trust God’s goodness, love and bigger story of redemption, but instead to quote The Fantastic Mr. Fox and ask, “What the cuss?” (Hee hee, it at least provided a wonderful comic relief.) My heart felt abandoned by God in that moment, disregarded and left to fight for itself. Yet the only one of God’s children ever to experience genuine separation from Him was His own son, Jesus, who endured it so that we will never have to know that coldness.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56: 3-4

Well, quite honestly, mortal man can do a lot. Wicked men put Jesus on the tree and wicked brothers sold Joseph into slavery where he endured years of tormenting work, loneliness, imprisonment and misunderstanding. There are countless stories in the Bible of rape, murder and violent assault that are more than I’d ever be able to watch in a movie, and yet they are part of God’s story of redemption. They demonstrate that wickedness isn’t a light matter and godlessness isn’t an equally viable life choice. It is because it is real and powerful and the natural inclination of my heart to submit to the rule and reign of terror and wickedness that Jesus was promised in Genesis 3 and had to come to complete what Adam had failed to do. And it was to end this rule and reign once and for all that He died, rose and was seated in authority over the whole world. It is His bigger plan for all of history and His proven heart for His people that invites me to trust in Him even in the face of lions, whale bellies and stonings.

“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 the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:4-6

Do I trust that God is not writing a story with gratuitous violence, senseless suffering or unforeseen catastrophe? Is His sovereignty limited to my self-protective abilities or is He in control even when I am not? Oh that my heart would be committed not to a faith that rests on a trouble and trauma free life, but to a faith placed in the One who has redeemed me, who has called me by name and reminds me that I am not my own, but sings sweetly to my heart, “You are mine!”

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:23-25

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