We live in a scary world, full of unknowns. Yesterday, a boy opened fire on his classmates at a school two hours from where I live. I have friends watching the marriages of those they love fall apart. Other friends are supporting their loved ones as they deal with life-threatening diseases. Job losses, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks are a staple of the evening news.
Events like these leave a mark on our lives. They change and challenge us. They can leave us unsettled. There isn’t an answer out there that makes sense when a child, barely old enough for school, is fighting cancer. The idea that we live in a fallen, sinful world doesn’t make it easier to accept it when the relationship we’ve invested our energy in dissolves into lawyers, judges, and divorce.
These things happen, and we can’t make sense of why. The lack of control and understanding couple with the questions of what is going to happen next to create a perfect storm of fear swirling around us and, at times, in us. Fear is powerful. Fear has been the catalyst in many poor decisions. Fear has provided the bricks that have built walls between loved ones. Fear has dared hurting people to fire arrows of hate at the ones they’re supposed to love and protect in a warped attempt at protecting self. What causes one to fear may not faze another. It doesn’t make it less potent. And reactions to fear are as varied as the things we fear.
Some of these reactions are depicted in the fictional lives of Melody Mason and James Montgomery in A Melody for James, by Hallee Bridgeman. Melody faces betrayal and a near death experience before coming out on the other side in stubborn rebellion against her fears. Even facing a potentially dangerous stalker, Melody pushes through refusing to give in to fear. It’s not logical, but it’s what she feels she has to do to keep fear from controlling her life.
James, on the other hand, has known his share of loss. Without answers to questions of who or why, James learns there is only One he can lean on to get through. But faith doesn’t keep James from struggling when the past and present collide. The depth of loss he suffered paralyzes him as his path gets tangled up with Melody’s. The threat of losing all he’s worked for and cares about becomes a challenge to his faith. His desire to freeze and Melody’s desire to rebel against the fear pit the two against each other until their relationship comes to its breaking point. And it’s all because of fear.
Their fictional story rings true to our own struggles with fear, and I wish I had better answers for those times. So often, we fall back on scriptural reminders that God will work good out of any bad situation we face if we let Him. We remind ourselves that with His help we can do all things, and that includes going through whatever we are facing. We look at ourselves in the mirror are try to encourage ourselves with a pep talk that includes us not being given a spirit of fear.
All of these things are true. Each one of them has power to help us through the fear-filled times. But sometimes, we’ve heard them enough that we don’t really hear them anymore. We cling to the idea that we will get through this and be better than we were when we started. One way or another, that is true. But we tend to see it in very physical terms, that the situation will pass and all will be well.
A scripture I have been thinking about recently reminds me it doesn’t have to happen the way I want it to in order to believe God is still in complete control. “And they lived happily ever after” doesn’t need to take place for God to be worthy of my devotion and unwavering trust. It’s a story we’re all familiar with, and we focus on the good ending every time we tell it to a group of children in Sunday school. We recount the story of three brave young men who stood up to a king for their God, and they were rewarded with a trip to the fiery furnace. With gusto, we act out the declaration that there are not three but four walking around in the fire and one is like the Son of God! We revel in the calling of the men from the fire and the king’s change of heart. But that’s not the part of the story that has struck a chord with me.
I need you to back up a little. Go back to Daniel 3:17-18. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” The three Israelites believed God would deliver them, but they didn’t have that promise. What they had was an angry king and a furnace hot enough to kill men who simply approached it. They had an unknown outcome, and a situation that would strike fear into the heart of the strongest of people. But they also had hope.
This hope wasn’t in God resolving the situation the way they wanted or even the way they believed He would. “But even if he does not”, that is a powerful statement. These young men knew they had no control over what the king would do to them, just as we can’t control what men are going to do in our lives. They knew they had no control over the outcome any more than we have control over the events in our lives. Like is so often the case, they didn’t have the answers to what was going to happen. What they did have was a deeply ingrained belief that whatever happened, God was in control and would not abandon them in their time of need. Even if God chose to let them die, they knew He was still being faithful to deliver them from this evil king into His presence. Their hope wasn’t in what man would do. Their hope was in who God was. And who God was, He still is. I pray when fear inspiring situations come into my life, I am able to stand as they did. I pray I can remain strong, with my hope anchored in who God is despite the storm raging in my life.
By the Book: To have hope in who God is, we have to know Him. Spend time searching out scriptures that remind you of who God is and what He is like.