No longer a slave to fear
Recently as I reflected on my past and childhood, I was reminded of my tendency to be very fearful. There were many examples of how this fear was a part of my life. While waiting for the school bus, I was always on the “lookout for a hearse, as we had been told that people were going around kidnapping little children in a black hearse. I was also constantly checking under my bed for anyone who might be hiding under there to “hurt” me. I remember when our family drove to Guatemala, and the fear as we entered Mexico of not knowing their language, and all the scary stories we had heard of central America. The first word we quickly learned was help in Spanish. My parents have told me that once they left me in the van in Guatemala while they went grocery shopping, and when they returned, I was hiding under a blanket crying. These fears carried into my marriage as I remember having to always check through the entire house at least once, or multiple times to make sure everything was turned off, in place and secure before we left, to avoid fire, damage, and theft. Of course, there were many instances of our children causing great anxiety and fear. As they became older the fear intensified when they would be gone and I couldn’t rest till they returned home, as my mind would imagine endless stressful scenarios. The list could go on and on.
Interestingly I suddenly realized that those fears were gone. I no longer check my house before I leave etc. Why is that? Is it because there are less things to worry about, or that my life has become “safer”? Absolutely not! In fact, the opposite is true, as I have way more circumstances and difficulties than ever before to become worried about and to “handicap” me emotionally and physically. If I would allow myself to dwell on all the complicated situations in my life it could become numbing and honestly without Him taking my fear I would be “toast”. I would crash, burn, and disintegrate. It made me chuckle, and I was somewhat in awe to realize what had been happening through the years from many difficult and seemingly impossible situations. There is a peace, calmness, and trust that is so freeing. Maybe it is somewhat because I have come to realize and honestly believe that the circumstances and results of life are not solely dependent on me. That the final score, record, and game is far from over. Maybe it is sinking in that someone infinitely more powerful, loving, and wise is in charge and calling the “shots”. This person incredibly has me and my family’s best interests in mind, relentlessly working on our behalf 24/7, allowing me to rest and have indescribable peace. I have found that I have a lot less control of situations, circumstances, and people, than I would have liked to give myself credit for. My Heavenly Father on the other hand is never taken by surprise and I can rest because He never does.
The creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:21-23
These verses show us that we are in a time between pain and promise, between broken and perfect. While we impatiently wait for a time when all of creation and God’s children will become perfect and live in a perfect environment there will be a lot of moaning and groaning. This makes a lot of people uncomfortable and nervous. After all Christ has done for us surely, we should always be cheerful, never complain, be thankful, and never question our circumstances. Well, that sounds great, very religious, and like something the Pharisees would say. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of the time we live in or the world we find ourselves occupying. These verses as well as all of scripture tell us that life will be cruel, unfair, and many times make no sense. Nothing is as it should be, or was originally intended, but all is broken and imperfect. If you chose to live in denial, and act like everything is just “Roses”, I feel sorry for you, because that only makes things more difficult and leads to despair. If we can’t voice our feelings and question our circumstances, how do we deal with all the pain and uncertainty? What is our solution?
This world surely has no real or lasting answers for the pain, brokenness, questions, injustice, despair, anxiety, and fear inside all of us. Humanity is enslaved to the idea of “medicating”, attempting to take our mind off our problems through substance abuse, drugs, alcohol, gluttony, vacations, immorality, the pursuit of material possessions , and financial security. Unfortunately, these are simply attempts at “quick fixes” that let us down, leave us longing for more, add to our stress, despair, fear, and feelings of emptiness, and hopelessness. While we desperately cry for help, no one can come to our rescue and give us what we need, leaving us disillusioned, and feeling like there is no hope. We need someone who understands, to listen, to affirm us, and someone who is more powerful to take all our unhealthy emotions, burdens, and the things that are too “heavy”, and beyond our control, and carry them for us. This person needs to be trustworthy, “crazy” in love with us, and have our best interests in mind. That person is Jesus, our only hope, our Rock, fortress, loving Father, and all powerful creator. He is the good news, our true comfort, and has paid the ultimate price for our freedom, allowing Him the authority and power to set us free. No one else is capable and able to do this and give us what we long for and desperately need.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. Isaiah 61:1
This is the Gospel, the good news, and radical extremely costly freedom! Somewhere along this painful, dark, unknown, and exhausting journey I started grasping this reality, and I learned to trust my Father with what I couldn’t understand or control. He brought incredible peace to my nightmares, fears, and allowed me to “let go” of all the situations I couldn’t control and understand. I started experiencing what Abraham Heschel describes as; “Peace that Transends all understanding, an anchor for our soul, love that knows no boundaries, and Joy that is unquenchable”. The most amazing thing is I found myself in the midst of unimaginable pain, bursting forth in song. Where did this come from? This incredible joy and anticipation? Well, my fearful situations hadn’t changed, but I unknowingly had. Instead of wanting to crawl into a deep dark hole, pull the covers over my head, and not get out of bed, to feel sorry for myself and come home from work because the pain was too great, I was filled with a new energy and joy that allowed my feet to “hit the ground running”. There was a song, a reason to live, and a lifetime of exciting adventures to look forward to! It definitely didn’t happen overnight and is a lifelong journey, but slowly with time wrestling with God, and taking my concerns and complaints to Him. I learned as Matthew 6:27 says that no amount of worrying can add a single second to my life, and that God had not forgotten me but knew me before I was born lovingly designing me and planning every second of my life, Psalm 139. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “Cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for you”. Philippians 4 reminds us to not be anxious but bring our concerns and requests to God.
The Bible is full of example and invitations to come to the Father, who longs for us and holds the solutions and answers. My favorite verses are found in Matthew 11:28-30, and are my testimony and experience. This song that flows out of the deepest pain is our highest level of mourning and is called Lament. The old and new Testaments are full of laments as it was the language of God’s people throughout history to deal with pain and difficult situations. David, a man after God’s own heart, the greatest king, and one of the most renowned O T saints, wrote numerous psalms, or Laments. These laments were extremely raw and often make us feel uncomfortable reading them today. David was painfully and brutally honest with his extreme range of emotions. He wrestled with God and complained, but always trusted God. If we were observing him today, we would probably look at him as unstable, a nutcase, and unable to be a leader, definitely not a king. God saw David differently, welcoming his honesty, embracing Him and giving him incredible courage. These laments and the process of dealing with life prepared David to become a fearless warrior who trusted God without question. It also prepared him to deal with future difficulties and care for, understand, and lament with and for others. Similarly, today we use Lament to bring our pain and sorrow to God and it’s how we process life and grieve. I find it rather odd and troubling that we would think it is wrong to voice our displeasure, complaints, and questions to God after all the times He tells us to come to Him. Actually, not coming to Him with our emotions is unbelief. If we keep things to ourselves, we are basically telling God we don’t trust Him or think He is capable of helping us. Lament on the other hand takes Faith and it leads to trust. Lament leads to praise and takes us from heartbreak to Hope. I find that when I share my feelings and emotions with my Father even when I know they are wrong and unhealthy, before long they leave me and are replaced with healthy, accurate, encouraging thoughts and attitudes. It is more than therapy, but God actually does what He promises in lifting and carrying our burdens bringing freedom.
There is much that could be said and learned about Lament, but I encourage you to turn to Jesus instead of unhealthy temporal solutions with your struggles and pain. He desires our honesty, authenticity, desires to walk with us and bring freedom and healing. Turn toward God, bring your complaints, struggles and what you don’t understand to Him, Ask Him to act on your behalf, trust in His Faithfulness and promises, and receive a beautiful song of Hope.