Chrysler has now come through bankruptcy and GM is going through the same. Who knows what this means for the future? We have a lot of friends who work for GM and Chrysler, and although Hubby doesn't, without Chrysler's business, the owners of his company might do well to close their doors. These owners have made all the money they will ever need for themselves and have no heirs who would be interested in taking the business over. Even last quarter, the company lost $700,000. Why not wrap things up before they lose everything? We're hoping they keep their doors open for the sake of their employees. Time will tell, but it does bring to the forefront the issue of FEAR.
It isn't just the auto companies and joblessness – we have the swine flu, the ruptured banking system, corrupt Wall Street executives and the politicians in bed with them, impending socialism, global warming (or rather, the looming threat of militaristic governmental intrusion into our lives in the name of environmental protection), nationalized health care, and as always, taxes, taxes, taxes. Everything conspires to instill fear.
Last week in our Bible study we were discussing John 14 where Jesus tells His disciples not to be afraid. "Do not let your heart be troubled." (v. 1) and again (v. 27), "Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." Did He mean it like one might say it to a child who is afraid of his first day of school? "Oh honey, it's okay…don't be afraid." Was it gentle encouragement for timorous hearts? Maybe a little. But I prefer to see it as a command: Do not be afraid.
Really? – I say back to Him. Really? Can I not be afraid? Do I dare to not be afraid?
I wrestled this out with the Lord a few nights ago in the wee hours of the morning. I've been a stay-at-home mom for most of 19 years now, and in the process I have rendered myself virtually unemployable. I have a highly regarded degree in Computer Science from a well respected university, but come on – my skills are 20 years out-of-date.
So what's a girl to do? Do I enroll myself in an expensive school to reinvent myself as a database administrator? I could do that, in only a few months apparently. I could study to pass a Microsoft certification test and thereby prove my right to reenter the work force. Then I could pound the proverbial pavement along with the other millions of unemployed, including thousands of database folks with scads of experience, hoping to be hired by someone, my only advantage being that I'd be willing to work for almost nothing.
I could do this, but at what cost? It would turn the dynamic of my family on its head. Am I overblowing my own importance when I say I believe that the emotional and spiritual stability of my children has depended largely on my constant (even sometimes annoying!) presence in the home? Hubby has had to be gone a lot over the years – weeks at a time when business was booming, once for a solid month. And even when he wasn't traveling, he still spent many evenings entertaining clients in order to build relationships. So obviously, things have slowed down. He's still gone a fair amount at night, but the kids are older now and his business is slow. Is it time to throw in the towel and put me back to work? Am I putting my head in the sand to think that we can go on as we've been, that we can face college expenses on his income alone, in a state that is being slowly strangled by inept government? And yet, Lord, the cost, the cost, the cost to my family to lose me as the full-time nurturer and taxi service.
And so I turn to Him in the wee hours of the morning when I can find quiet, and I say, "Lord, what do I do? What do we do?"
We have a friend – bless her heart – who is in an immoral relationship with a man of questionable character, and we are afraid for her. Ironically though, it's her fear that has created the problem. Being 34, she is afraid of never finding a man to marry or marrying too late to have children. So she has taken matters into her own hands; she has set out to solve this problem on her own. We see the minefield she is walking into, but she refuses to see it. She is afraid of what will be if she doesn't walk into the minefield. Although she claims Christ is her Lord, she will not believe that her future in God's hands, even if that means never being married, is brighter and happier than her future outside of His will.
And yet, what did "Do not be afraid" mean for the disciples? It certainly didn't mean nothing bad would happen. Jesus could have said, "Do not be afraid, but most of you will be brutally executed because of Me, and relatively soon." Good thing that didn't make it into Scripture! How convincing would that have been?
So it's not, "Do not be afraid because everything will work out just the way that pleases you most" – although sometimes it means that. God is amazingly good and generous and gracious, and He does love to give His children good things. It really comes down to, whose life am I living? Am I living to please myself, to carry out my own will, to craft my future in a way that gives me all of life's pleasures here on earth? Do I ask for God's involvement in my life in order to facilitate my own earthly happiness?
Not having thought the situation through carefully, I think this is what our friend wants from God – she wants God involved, and she invokes His name when it suits her, but her purpose in calling on Him is to help her accomplish her will for her life, not His. (Am I being too hard on her?) In this country, which has enjoyed such prosperity and material blessing, it's easy for Christians to forget that this is not our home, and discipleship is costly. "Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.'" (Matt. 16:24) And "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
So, is God my own personal genie in a bottle? Is it that I do not need to be afraid because I have a powerful God who will give me what I want? Or is it that have I given my life to Christ to do with as He sees fit? If I have, then the hope I have for the future is an eternal one, the hope of pleasing my Savior through obedience and trust, and the confidence that when this life is through, He will receive me to Himself in glory. Giving my life to Christ may mean earthly joys – so far I've had plenty. It may mean forsaking earthly comforts and diversions. Or it may mean being content as the way of life we've always known completely collapses.
Not being afraid goes hand in hand with submission to God. His promises are meaningless if we refuse to obey Him, to fully submit our lives to His control. I'm no theologian, and I'm too lazy to pound out my case with Scriptural evidence, but I know this is true. The earthly joys I have experienced so far on my journey have been in the context of obedience. I feel a little sick and depressed when I talk to folks who like to pick and chose the aspects of Christianity with which they want to adorn themselves, as well as pick and choose when God suits their purposes – a thorny issue, because we all sin, I know. But I think we can agree that some who call on Christ are more egregious in this than others – certain local politicians caught in corruption come to mind.
But back to me in the wee hours of the morning. I'm asking God, What do I do? How is it I must not be afraid? Things are looking pretty darn scary out there. Terrifying even. Should I put my youngest in school, go back to school myself, and enter the work force? Am I living in a fantasy world to think that no action needs to be taken to overcome the Goliaths we face? I open the Bible to Psalms, and as always, I'm overwhelmed with passages about God's power, His faithfulness to His own, His promises of blessing, and again, more reminders to not be afraid.
So I resolve to not be afraid. I will trust in God's provision and faithfulness. But I understand that it's not about claiming those promises and then pursuing my own course. It's not about making choices out of fear in order to insure my own security; neither is it about doggedly pursuing the status quo because it's what I want, demanding that God find some way to provide. It's about taking the time to quiet my heart before the Lord, to remind myself that I am His, that I am His servant and will go the direction of His choosing, whether it coincides with my desires or not. With my heart laid at His feet, I ask Him what I should do; then I listen, listen, listen, for the still small voice, like the gentle blowing that contained God's voice for Elijah on Mt. Horeb. (1 Kings 19)
And when I am confident that I have His heart in the matter, when there are no checks in my spirit over the course He would have me pursue, and when I have determined in my heart to pursue that course no matter the cost – then, I will not be afraid.