I remember a song I used to sing with my husband’s choir: “Things change, plans fail, and you look for love on a grander scale. Storms rise. Hopes fade, and you place your bets on another day.” *
We have each had those days when the whirlpool seems to be spinning at such speed that we can’t seem to catch our breath. Those are times when we feel as if nothing will be the same again, and we wonder if we will even survive the strain. I suppose the worst part of those days is feeling “out of control.” We want to direct each part of our lives, and just when it is going our way, another wrench gets dropped on our toes, the vertical hold stops holding, and everything becomes fuzzy right before our eyes.
The Apostle Paul knew about those days. After his tremendous conversion on the road to Damascus and the healing of his sight, he went to Jerusalem to meet with the Church leaders. They accepted his testimony, but then he had to be lowered out of a window to escape those who would kill him. One day he was speaking the Word of God to the people in Philippi and setting a young woman free from a spirit that had controlled her, and the next moment he was being dragged into the marketplace, beaten, and thrown in jail.
Things change. Isn’t it true? I suppose life would be quite boring if things didn’t change, but at times a little boredom would be welcome. Plans fail. Plans great and small, they are all just hopeful dreams without God’s perspective on them. In fact, life rarely, if ever, plays out according to our plans, at least not completely.
Wouldn’t it be great to know the future? I’m not talking about everything; maybe just the next few minutes. I might like that, so I could be ready for what comes next. Instead, since I don’t know the future, I think and I think about what might come, and the fear builds within me. I wonder about the future, and sometimes the possibilities become more than I can bear.
In this world we have fear, both healthy and unhealthy, the kind that thinks only of the worst until it becomes so large that it overtakes us and our lives. There is something about that dark alley ahead of us, knowing I have to walk through it, that becomes a breeding ground for fear. There is something about that dark window, knowing I have to walk past it, that tells me I can’t see through to the other side. My imagination fires up and soon an entire scenario has filled my mind, one that excludes God’s loving care and peace. We are so weak. We want to be filled with faith, and yet the dark windows and hallways, the dark nights and clouded, foggy days veil our eyes, teasing us to envisage what is ahead.
My mother was a worrier. She worried she would get cancer from the time she was 36 years old. She even told us she would die from cancer (and of course it would have been our faults for not being good children!) Mom passed at 77 years of age, never having any cancer in her body. If I could have added up all the minutes, hours, and years she spent worrying and planning for the disease to take her, she might have had another few years here on earth with us. I used to tell her that if she worried about getting sick, and still got sick, she wasted all that time when she could have been enjoying her family. And if she worried about getting sick, and didn’t get sick, she still lost all that time.
So why worry? Why live in fear? Why spend the moments you have now planning for something that may never happen? It is imperative that we, who belong to the Kingdom of God, take hold of the fears that beset us and set them aside, opening our hearts instead to the courage and peace that comes from communion with the Holy Spirit.
Paul teaches us, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to [be God’s heir]. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15,16).
John tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
There is an important place in our lives for healthy fear, the kind that keeps us from doing things that are dangerous to life or limb, but unhealthy fear, the kind that causes us to limit our lives, to forget our dreams, to doubt God’s ability to love and care for us, now that is the fear from which God has set us free. Why do we go back to it again and again?
When Job had lost most everything and sat scratching his boils with a piece of pottery, his wife came to him and challenged him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” In other words, God has failed you. The inevitable has come. Just admit that your faith was misplaced and you are alone in this world. Give up! Move on!
I love Job’s response to his wife, because it encapsulates the reason we need not fear: “He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’”(Job 2:10). Therein lies the key to being free from fear, knowing that God is in control and is working out his plan in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Paul told the Romans, “And we know that that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purposes” (8:28). Everything, not just the good things, not just the sunshine, but the rain, and the snow, the ice, and the storms, God causes EVERYTHING to work together for our good.
So why fear what could happen? Enjoy the moments you have now. Praise God and walk in faith knowing that whatever comes your way, nothing can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Things will happen, and worrying won’t prevent them. Being strong in faith in God, knowing God will carry you through it, now that will set you free!
The song I mentioned above continues: “When the going gets tough and the ride’s too rough, and you’re just not sure enough, Jesus will still be there . . . when it looks like you lost it all and you haven’t got a prayer, Jesus will still be there.” And isn’t that what we really want anyway? Someone who will always love us and be with us?
Hold on, my friend. When the fears of life seem to take you over, remember that Jesus will still be there for you. Turn your fears over to God, whose shoulders are broad enough to carry you through, no matter what.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
*“Jesus Will Still Be There ” Point of Grace, ©Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.