Last night I was texting with my sister. Her daughter (my niece) is a senior in High School, and class closures have abbreviated the end of her senior year. I conveyed my sympathy that there would be no “victory lap” for the outgoing class . . . no prom . . . no graduation. While these things are not life and death or physical suffering, losing them is still something significant to grieve. Many of you are also mourning these losses as well.
As a part of this conversation, my sister shared with me a perspective that I not yet noticed: her daughter’s senior class was born in the year of 9/11 and are now graduating during a pandemic. What interesting bookends to the childhoods of a generation of American young people.
What does this mean? Well, it means they grew up in an era that was afraid. Afraid of what? Afraid of everything. Afraid of terrorists and viruses . . . but in between MANY OTHER BURDENS. In an era of gigabits of information freely shared on the internet, we can now access knowledge about everything . . . and much of it is not encouraging.
- How many sex offenders live in your neighborhood? – Experian will tell you.
- How many cars are broken into on your street at night? – check the “Next Door” app.
- How trustworthy are our politicians? Red, blue, and purple bloggers are always writing to point out the problems.
- How bad for you is a loaf of bread or fried eggs? Web MD probably has an article for you.
And on and on it goes. We are living in an era that KNOWS about almost everything, and is reminded to be afraid of almost everything. What is the result? Well, there are at least a couple of negative types of responses:
- Some dwell on this fear too much, leading to crippling anxiety . . . a malady that encumbers record numbers today.
- Others have become numb to it. Rather than having a healthy fear of SOME things, they have become numb to it all.
Both of these approaches are insufficient for the world we live in. Somewhere between crippling anxiety and careless adventure is the sweet spot we long for. So how do we navigate this scary world? After all, there is plenty out there to be scared of!
I recently heard Pastor Andy Stanley share a sermon on Mark 4:35-41. In these verses, Jesus and His disciples are on the Sea of Galilee when a mighty storm rolls in. While the disciples strain against the wind and the waves, Jesus is asleep in the boat. The disciples are (rightly) afraid of the wind and the waves – a force they cannot control and had probably claimed the lives of people they knew. The disciples wake Jesus up and exclaim, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?!?!” Jesus stands up, speaks to the waves and the wind, and calms the storm. With the removal of this “fearful situation” we might expect the disciples’ spirits to be as calm as the water. But they are not. Instead, Stanley observed that the disciples were “filled with GREAT FEAR” or “TERRIFIED” when the storm ceased. Why? Because they saw the awesome power and authority of the One in their boat. Though they rightly were afraid of the storm . . . the One who controlled the storm was even more to be feared or respected. Why bow before the storm, when we know the One who controls the storm.
What this tells me is that our ability to conquer the fears of our day (COVID-19, economic collapse, etc.) is not tied to us controlling the virus or the stock market, but in knowing the One who sits Sovereign over it all.
What is sad, though, is that many today do not know the power of the One whose boat we are in. Though we live in a day where knowledge is everywhere, it is amazing how we have edited knowledge of God for a generation. (BTW: I think Wildwood Children, Student, and College Ministries do an amazing job of teaching the full counsel of God to our kids, but sadly our culture and even some churches want to gloss over the true character of God).
- We don’t like what God calls sin, so we minimize the reality of God’s holiness.
- We are afraid of the excesses of the hyper-charismatics, so conservatives downplay the supernatural power of God.
- We believe in individualism above all, so we make our relationship with God into a solo activity, not a team sport.
- We only want to think of God’s love, so we edit out His justice.
- We so focus on the science that describes a phenomena that we forget that there was a God who made it all.
When this happens, we run the risk of reducing God to a “Nice Old Man,” and that version of God seems like little help in the midst of a storm. BUT, God is not just a Nice Old Man. He is the holy, Almighty, Just, Creator of all things, who sits Sovereign over the Universe . . . and He is in our boat! Or better . . . we are in HIS boat. We escape the paralyzing nature of our fears, when we remember the One who we really should fear the most, is on our side! “If God is for us,” Paul says, “Who can be against us?”
So, what do we do with this?
- Well, remember who God really is. This is why it is so important to read the Scriptures. Too often we allow our imaginations to create God for us . . . instead of allowing the Scripture to reveal Him to us. The God who really is, not the God we imagine, is the God who can relieve us from our fears. Get to know Him. See His power and His righteousness and His justice . . . but also see His love. He wants life, not death, for you . . . and is pursuing you to that end.
- Get in the boat with Jesus. Trust in Him for the forgiveness of your sins. If we spend our lives outside the boat in the middle of the storm, we will drown. Hop in with Jesus by faith. Trust in Him for the forgiveness of your sins and your hope for all eternity.
- Identify your fears in other things, but then compare them to the God who loves you. A virus will not hijack God’s plans for your life. Your days are numbered by the One who wore the crown of thorns, not the crowned virus. I may very well die of COVID-19 (though statistically that is highly unlikely, it is possible). But if I do, it will not be because COVID-19 was in control . . . it will be because a Sovereign, loving, wise, and holy God allowed it.
So, in this age bookended by fear, let’s remember to fear, revere, and trust the One who sits above it all. Let’s hop in His boat together to the glory of God.