I’m so sad this morning. I’m writing through tears. I feel helpless, weak, frustrated, anxious—even angry. I miss our kids and our grandbabies. I’m struggling with worry for my elderly mother, and for my father-in-law who is terminally ill, and for my mother-in-law who is watching her husband of almost 63 years grow weaker day by day. I’m so sad to see this virus causing such devastating loss, separation, and financial ruin. I’m frustrated by those who are careless and thoughtless with their words and actions. It hurts to see conflict, disrespect, and harsh words between brethren. News from around the world is gloomy. Confusion abounds as some of us deny what is happening and others swallow every bit of bad news.
Do you also feel like the world has tilted on its axis? Like the rug has been pulled out from under our feet? What happened to my normal, comfortable, easy routine? My mind is churning out so many “what if” questions: what if one of my children is one of the minority who gets really sick? What if our economy completely collapses? What if John or I unknowingly expose our fragile parents to the virus? And—oh, this hurts my heart—what if the two little people that I love so desperately never remember a world before “social distancing” and “sheltering at home”? Who knew that a submicroscopic infectious agent would bring the entire world to its knees in just a matter of weeks?
Wow. As my son advised me today, I really need to chill, don’t I? When I look at these words in black and white, it’s easy to see the root of my emotion: fear. And while I do think that fear is an understandable emotion in the wake of a worldwide pandemic, I also know what God has said about fear. I know He said I should be anxious for nothing. I know He promises to supply our needs. I know that there is nothing—nothing! that can separate me from His love. I know He has overcome the world (and that includes this cruel virus!) I know, I know, I know. But sometimes the feelings in my heart conflict with the knowledge in my mind.
There is a tiny, power-packed scripture that has particularly resonated with me for the last couple of years, and I am working to re-saturate my heart with its truth: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted,” (Prov. 29:25, NASB). Fear—the anxious, trembling kind—has laid too many snares across my path. Like one of those old, rusty, jagged-toothed hunting traps, fear has often lured me into the weeds of my life, where the devil waited to trap me. Many times, the powerful jaws of that painful snare have clamped down on me, preventing me from taking advantage of good things from God. And I know that I’m not the only one. Fear is a vise on our feet, our hands, and our mouths, holding us back from going where we need to go, serving when we need to serve and saying what we ought to say. Fear even ambushes our minds, like it has mine, trapping us in a miserable tumbleweed of doubt, while it distracts and distances us from the never-failing, unchanging nature of our Father who loves us and sees us! How often have you been caught in fear’s trap, only to look from afar with regret at God’s opportunities you were too anxious to accept?
The second part of that verse seems little confusing. If God values humility, why should I seek to be “exalted”? My English understanding of the word leads me to think of superiority, or maybe even being put on a pedestal, where I know I do not belong. But looking at the original Hebrew word revealed surprising comfort. One Hebrew/English lexicon says that “exalted” means to be inaccessibly high. Another says it is to be protected, and one more says that it means to be set up on high. Then, when I saw how it is translated in other passages, like this one, “…He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety,” (Job 5:11, emphasis mine) I see this passage so beautifully. It gives me a mental picture of my God, when I trust Him, reaching down to rescue and lift me high over the devil’s ugly trap and setting me down, protected from my fear where it cannot reach me any longer. I need that mental image to remind me what happens when I give in to fear rather than savoring the sweet protection that God provides when I trust Him.
But trusting is hard, isn’t it? I think it’s because so many of the earthly things we’ve placed our trust in have failed us, especially lately. We’ve trusted in our money, our jobs, our education, our relationships, our status—we are like those who “go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Isa. 31:1). But, now that so much control has been removed from us, the door is wide open for us to fully see that “God is our refuge and strength…therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change…” (Ps. 46:1-2).
Learning to trust in the Lord is hard, because sacrificing our wants and our will is necessary. But it is also easy, when we begin to see the blessings He pours out. Trust comes when you set aside your fear to do something hard, or painful, or even humbling that you really don’t want to do, but you do it anyway because doing it is the right thing. Then, He will bless you with peace and joy. Trust comes when you cheerfully give more than you think you can afford to give. Then, you may be surprised by how the Lord blesses you. Trust comes when you are at your wits end, challenged by someone who is harsh, difficult, sarcastic, or even just different than you. When you take a deep breath, ask God to help you with wisdom and patience, and when you respond to that person with kindness and compassion…then, not only will you see the blessings of God, but you will see the humanity of that person. Trust comes when you tell the truth, even when you are terrified. Trust comes when you say no to fear, and follow the Lord to do His work on the other side of the world. Trust comes when you walk through the valley of of the shadow of death with someone you love, but you know He is there too, holding your hands.
In so many ways, it feels like we are at a spiritual crossroad with this crisis. Which road will you choose? Satan loves chaos and confusion, and fear is his powerful tool. There is no truth in him, “he is a liar and the father of lies,” (John 8:44). He wants us to live in anxiety and to be filled with doubt. He loves when brethren are in conflict. He wants to distract us from truth and light. But our God is a God of peace, a peace that defies understanding (Phil. 4:7). When all around us changes, we can be sure that He is the same. He is our refuge and salvation. “The Lord is for me, I will not fear,” (Ps. 118:6). Our God “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think,” (Eph. 3:20). I don’t know about you, but when I see these truths from His word, my fear dissolves. I know that I am not weak or helpless. I know He is working things for our good. He is such a good Father – He has lifted me above my fear. Are you afraid? Let me hold your hand and walk with you until you see that He will lift you high, too.