2020: The Year of Fear
It isn’t hard to become overwhelmed by our struggles each day. Easier still, to be overwhelmed by the struggles that we can see coming in the days or years to come. Sometimes, moments of exhaustion turn into moments of anxiety. Sometimes moments of anxiety turn into seasons of fear.
And if there was ever a time where humanity seemed to be trapped in a season of fear, I think 2020 would count.
V. Raymond Edman, the fourth President of Wheaton, has helped many through their seasons of anxious doubt and crippling fear with his memorable quote: “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”
Looking back at what we know is certain can be so liberating at those moments when there is so little certainty.
In truth, it is this very principle that is at work in God’s so often repeated command to those who followed him. It was to build monuments or observe holidays as a way to remember what He had done for them during a season of distress. The festival of Passover, the monument on the west side of the Jordan river, these dates on a calendar, or piles of stone gave an excuse to remember what God had shown clearly “in the light” as Edman put it.
That same practice can help us. By taking the time to look back on our life history and see the times and ways where God provided, protected, or strengthened us for the hardships that build our faith in him.
Learning to see God present in hardships causes us to worship more and worry less.
That is beautiful. Yet more, it was Pastor Jon Morales of Woodside’s Royal Oak campus that recently reminded me that we worship even more and worry even less when we learn to see God in what never did happen in the first place.
We worship even more and worry even less when we learn to see God in what never did happen in the first place.
Let me show you what I mean! If we look at Psalms 124, the author takes a look back at his personal and cultural history and sees not just what God did, but what God didn’t allow to happen.
If it had not been the LORD who was on our side — let Israel now say — if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us, then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
The Psalmist, ascribed to be David, a guy who had plenty of stories of hardship and sorrow, instead looks to what God didn’t allow to happen as a reason to trust God and praise Him. And this isn’t just your average dose of positivity: “well, it could always be worse!” No, the author looks back on many moments and knows for sure that God has shown unbelievable favor because of how much worse their lives had not become.
We could use a dose of this way of thinking right now: If it was not the Lord who was on our side when ____________ , then ____________!
Did we ever stop to consider how good we had it?
To be sure, we can’t co-opt the history of God’s favor according to our permanently defective perspective. This Psalmist had God’s direct revelation of God’s promises, presence, and actions from which to work. He could KNOW that it was God’s favor because God literally revealed, commanded, or intervened.
For us, the work should be more cautious as we look at our garden variety of moments in life. What we may be tempted to see as God’s favor in a promotion can admittedly be a ruinous idol that has gripped our hearts!
We can stay centered, however, on God’s direct revelation through Jesus.
If it was not the Lord who was on our side when we WERE dead in our sins, we were slaves to our lusts; we were hopeless. Humanity. Here. Rebels towards our maker. If it was not the Lord, who was ON OUR SIDE, in our place, for our sins, crucified…If it was not the Lord, who was on our side, THEN…?
Scripture makes it clear that we have gained everything in Christ. The Lord has been on our side. Though what we have lived, THROUGH has been difficult. Though what we see COMING may seem impossible. What our God has DONE and saved us FROM is our antidote to the fears that threaten to consume us.
May we join with the Psalmist to declare that our help is indeed in the name of the Lord. With Christ Jesus on our side, we have nothing to fear.