Of Fear and Focus

I won’t lie.  I join a lot of Americans (one out of every two if the data is correct) in worrying for our country’s future.  I spent the last three years living in a place where the government is largely corrupt, where paying bribes and knowing the right people is the way to get things done, where the indigent stay that way, though there are plenty of natural resources to be utilized.  And all those years I kept telling myself that it’s OK because there is a place where things are different.  Oh sure, it isn’t perfect, this place.  In fact, it’s getting worse.  But I reminded myself that there is still hope.  That it’s still the place people want to be because there they can be free.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

I’m back in the US and I’m worried.  I try not to be because, most of all, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, who overcame the world when he did not stay dead.  But I’m an earthen vessel, you know?  And I catch myself fearing for my children’s future even as I exhort them to live without fear.  Early this morning, in fact, ugly national scenarios worked their way into my dreams and I awoke, heart racing, breath shallow.

If living in Asia has taught me one thing, if He has taught me one thing, it is to run to Him when I am afraid.  Today I sat in my bed, still warm from this morning.  I pulled the covers up around me, cracked open my mammoth ESV study Bible, and began to read.  All of the books I’m reading emphasize different aspects of God’s character, or highlight different periods in history, but today a bigger picture began to form in my mind.  Some thoughts…

Exodus 32:  God’s people miss Moses.  He has gone away to be with God for several days and they can’t wait for him to return and lead them.  As a result, even though God has done so much for them, they decide to create a golden calf to replace Him–an image before whom they can fall down and offer up praise in return for protection.  After all, they reason, Moses is gone, and how can they be expected to wait?  It’s just not reasonable.  But this thinking ends in tragedy.

Lesson:  People need to worship–someone or something.  If they reject God, for one reason or another, they will find a replacement for Him.  It has always been this way and it always will be, until the Lord returns and makes all things new.  Question for me:  Who or what am I worshiping today?

Psalm 49:  Every person will die.  The most powerful, the weakest, and everyone in-between, will see the grave one day.  No one can hold on to his life forever.  We kid ourselves when we feel invincible.  But also, we give other people too much power over our thoughts and emotions when we see them as bigger and more consequential than they actually are.  The Lord knows those who belong to Him.  He watches over them and will preserve them–even after death.

Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me…?

Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life…                          Man in his pomp will not remain;  he is like the beasts that perish.

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me...      (emphasis mine)

Lesson:  Hope, placed in an idea, institution, or person, is no hope at all.  Hope in God.  He is the One who can ransom your life, and mine, from the grave.  Question for me:  Am I hoping in the only One who can rescue me, or in someone else?

2 Kings 22:  The Israelites have abandoned God.  They have disobeyed him time and time again.  One day, they rediscover the Book of the Law.  When the priests read it, they tear their clothes in horror.  They realize how far they’ve slipped from obeying the Holy One and now the wrath of the Lord will surely come upon them as a result.  King Josiah begs, on behalf of the people, for God to turn away his wrath.  God answers that He will respond mercifully to a humble and penitent heart.  He desires to redeem.  So, while He will visit punishment on the nation as a whole, He will spare Josiah the agony of seeing it because Josiah longs to follow the Lord.

Lesson:  Nations rise and nations fall.  God will not be mocked and his Word will stand.  He is merciful and loving, however, and has made a way for those who desire Him to come to Him and to be made right.  The Way’s name is Jesus.  We do not know what is in store for our particular country (obviously, we are not ancient Israel).  God has not made a special covenant with our country.  He has not promised us undying peace and prosperity as a nation.  But He is slow to anger and rich in love.  Today is the day to call upon Him.  There will be a day when it is too late.  Wrath is coming, not only to the US, but to the whole world.  If you haven’t already, humble yourself before the Lord and put your faith in Jesus Christ while it is still today.  Question for me:  Whose kingdom, God’s or the world’s, is the most real for me today?

Psalm 149:  The psalmist encourages the people of the Lord to sing to Him.  They have a reason to be glad.

For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.           Let the godly exult in glory;                                                                                                 let them sing for joy on their beds. (emphasis mine)

Lesson:  The Lord’s people are exhorted to praise Him.  Those who are humble before Him will receive salvation.  (It is our pride, our trust in ourselves, or our government, or our institutions, or our families that keeps us from kneeling before Him in humility).  He saves those who recognize that they cannot save themselves, that they need a Savior.  The Lord does not begrudgingly reach out a hand to humble sinners.  He takes pleasure in doing good to those who love Him.  Question for me:  Will I sing, even in my bed, because of what He has done for me?

This is not the last time I’ll battle fear and a vague sense of doom.  But I will not succumb to it.  Not because I’m strong, not because I have everything figured out, but because I know Who holds my future.

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