“What If?” to “Even if!”

Even if I don’t get well…  Even if I fail…  Even if someone hurts me… Even if…

Recognition of all the hard things life brings can be enveloped in the realization that we’ll never face any of those things without the surrounding love of our Lord. My fear of what might happen has been overcome by the assurance that, while most of the things my imagination drums up will never occur, even those that do will be managed by my King.

Last week I wrote to encourage you to trust in the face of tragedy. Today, I want to back those words up with the Bible.

  • Daniel 3:16-18 tells us, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”
  • Esther 4:15-16 says, “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
  • And in Matthew 26: 39-42, you can read this about Jesus: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’…He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

We’ve all been plagued by imaginary horrors, by the “What if?” that marches across the brain, pushing out peace. Fearlessness is not a matter of mental determination. It’s a matter of prayer first and obedience second. First, we make every worry a topic of our prayers because Philippians 4 tells us to. Then we begin to change the thought patterns that cultivate fear. I hope you’ll take up the weapon of “Even if!” to join Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and our Lord in defeating the enemy in his fearful ploys, finding the peace that passes understanding once again.

Photo credit: Adam Wilson @fourcolourblack via Unsplash.com

So, What’s the Secret?

For years, every time I heard a siren, I wondered if someone I loved had just died. “Wondered” doesn’t really cover it, either. Often, regardless of what was right in front of me—a laughing child, perhaps, or a beautiful view, or a friend who needed my attention—I dove unwittingly into an imaginary tragedy, my consciousness hijacked and sent on a wild mental goose chase. What if my husband was injured or dead? How would I ever be happy without him? Could our children cope with such a loss?

A new spot on my face distracted me for long moments as I pictured battling the same cancer that nearly took my father’s life. What if I had to face radiation, or chemo, or a surgery that left me disfigured? And as for things that go bump in the night, I couldn’t climb into bed alone without wondering if an intruder might creep into my room.

What if? What if? Those questions dropped into my mind and planted themselves there, growing into long, sad stories. They pulled me into a false world filled with heartache and trouble. Fear of the unknown and the unreal robbed me of joy in the present moment. I began to pray that God would make me fearless—and now, for the most part, I am.

What happened?

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Darth Vader

Renee is two. She and I were enjoying a few quiet moments, rocking and reading Curious George in my guest room, when her eyes fell on an old photo of Steve dressed as Darth Vader. Her reaction surprised me.

  • “Nana, why is he so loud?”
  • Covering her eyes, “I have to do like this.”
  • “I’m going to pretend to fast forward him.”

So loud? Renee uses the word “loud” in place of “scary.” She was fascinated by the photo, yet knew it was troubling her and that she needed to turn away. While she was comforted by my explanation that it was simply Pop dressed up in a costume, I still moved the photo out of sight before going back to Curious George. Later, as I replayed Renee’s reaction in my mind, I began to think more about her very healthy response to fear.

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Don’t Listen

While this post is nearly two years old, it still speaks to my heart and, I’m hoping, to yours as well…

Be afraid! Be depressed! Give up! Those messages are coming at us from all sorts of directions. Hezekiah, king of Judah, knew what to do with that kind of chatter—refuse to listen. Here’s the backstory.

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, planned to destroy Hezekiah’s city and wanted all its inhabitants to know it. His message went like this: “Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us’…Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?… Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:29, 30, 33-35).

Hezekiah told his people to ignore the messenger. Isaiah encouraged him, saying, “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword’” (2 Kings 19:6, 7).

Hezekiah chose to trust the Lord, praying, “Listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God…Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God” (2 Kings 19: 16, 19).

God did indeed deliver Hezekiah’s people in a miraculous way. “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword.” (2 Kings 19: 35-37).

It doesn’t really matter how things look to our eyes. When you and I feel overwhelmed by the fearful chatter all around us, Hezekiah has a word of advice for us: Just don’t listen!

God is always in control. He always has the means to rescue and restore.

photo credit: @mohammadmetri via unsplash.com

A Brief History of Fear

The corona virus is taking lives. Is it also taking your peace? It’s so easy to forget that God is in control, and that, no matter how hard life might get, He will carry us through.

I want to share the edited version of a list someone shared with me. I’m posting it here, not to make light of the virus, not to suggest we abandon caution or cease to prepare, and certainly not to diminish our prayers. I offer it to make this point:

There is no such thing as a “safe world.” Or, seen in another way, though the eyes of Christ, we are always safe. There will, until the end of time, be disease and injury and hardship. But there need not ever be despair.

These are some of the threats that have come into our lives in the last 20 years:

  • 2001 Anthrax
  • 2002 West Nile Virus
  • 2003 SARS
  • 2005 Bird Flu
  • 2006 E. Coli
  • 2009 Swine Flu
  • 2014 Ebola
  • 2019 Measles

I’ve left out war and political woes, mass shootings, terrorist threats and economic declines. Each of us could add our own personal traumas to the list as well. But we are here. We are under our Lord’s umbrella. We don’t need to fear illness or even death. And most, if not all, of you reading this will weather the latest storm with little harm.

So, please pray. Prepare, and be prudent. But be at peace and do your best to share that peace with those around you who might be prone to panic. Never forget how much He loves us!

Death Scenes

franz-winterhalter-tpsdaveSteve and I have been watching the Amazon series Victoria. I’m a bit incensed at the moment, so I’m about to vent to you.

For a while, the show was light and interesting. It made us feel that we were learning a little history while indulging in a bit of couch potatoism. Then came season three, with its ever increasing darkness. And then, much to my dismay, came death. (Stop here if spoilers are a big deal to you.)

First we saw a wedding, followed soon thereafter by the joyous announcement of a pregnancy. Okay, that was nice. But, moments later we were treated to the mother-to-be’s horrible death and her husband’s great despair.

  • Fact: A little historical research reavealed that the woman in question did exist, but never married and died at a ripe old age.
  • Fact: I was not in my usually cheery mood after that episode. Ugh!
  • Fact: When we’re faced with tragedy, the Lord promises to be with us and to carry us through.

Opinion: When we step into imaginary duress (picture my sweet husband watching as the new widower convulsed in tears next to his just-dead wife) we can find ourselves fearing something that

  • Has not come.
  • May well never come.
  • Will never come without the hope and comfort promised by Christ.

Yes, history has proven that life brings hardship, and the Victorian era was certainly no exception. I’m not saying all our entertainment must be completely happy and saccharine sweet (although that might not be such a bad rule of thumb for many of us.) We cannot pretend to think all of life is easy. We do, though, need to be careful about what we parade past our eyes, to take the time to evaluate the effect it has on us. Once planted in our brains, many images will last forever. I wish I’d skipped the death scene Victoria had to offer.

My pastors have been preaching about thought life and mental habits lately. I intend to share some of their wisdom soon. So, more to come. In the meantime, when it comes to entertainment, I hope you’ll choose, but choose wisely!

 

*portrait by Franz Winterhalter, photo by tpsdave via pixabay.com