Spiritual Perspectives In Unnerving Times
Let us begin with confession: I’ll start.
I have felt some anxiety this week. You know anxiety don’t you? It’s an edginess, unnerved, subtle fear. Anxiety is trepidation, suspicion and apprehension.
Max Lucado suggests that anxiety and fear are cousins but not twins. Because fear sees a threat while anxiety imagines one.
Fear screams, Get out! Anxiety ponders, What if?
And what if's bounce around in our mind and soul like rubber balls!
Here’s some “what if’s” that came to me in the last few days: What if I get sick? What if the economy recedes? What if the church shrinks? What if I lose my job? What if I touch a doorknob or a shopping cart with COVID-19? What if I just walked through that person’s exhale, cough or sneeze? What if we run out of toilet paper? And on, and on, and on.
I’m not advocating against prudence. I’m not suggesting we don’t validate credible sources of medical direction as well as instruction from governing officials. Nothing of the sort.
We are in unprecedented times.
Since that is true, perhaps we should match it with unprecedented strength of character!
But that’s hard isn’t it! So much easier said than done!
Because of the anxiety…because anxiety tries to control THE WAITING!
Let me tell you a story. It’s a story from the Bible. The book of Joshua in chapter 3 specifically. READ Joshua 3 here
After God’s people escaped the slavery of Egypt, they wandered in the desert for decades.
Finally they made it to the land promised to them (known as the Promise Land) but there was one more obstacle. The Jordan River. They literally had "one more river to cross".
Verse 15 tells us the river was at the peak of flood stage due to the season: dark, swirling, churning waters, filled with sediment and debris.
You may know how the story ends: The priests carried the ark of the covenant to the river. When their feet touched the torrential river, the water stopped and everyone crossed over on dry land.
When we read and tell this story, we often miss the anxiety that comes from waiting: It says in verse 2: “After three days”.
Ten’s of thousands of people sat for three days staring at a reality! WHAT IF we don’t make it?
They wondered how they could they get their infant children and elderly parents to live through this? They are the high-risk population. WHAT IF my loved ones can’t survive?
They looked at their prize possessions that they had been obsessively carrying since they left Egypt for 40 years! Their retirement was in jeopardy! WHAT IF all my efforts and savings have been a waste of effort?
They saw their herds of sheep, goats and donkeys and assumed they would lose it all. WHAT IF our economy collapses? There will be no food in a matter of days or hours!
They thought about how they have been taught that God will be there for them, protect them and take them to where they needed to go. But the science is in and the river has a fatal power. If you go into it, you will die. WHAT IF I just go back the way I came? WHAT IF I just give up?
The parallels between Joshua 3 and the dramatic events of our present times are palpable. The WHAT IF’S are almost exactly the same.
I believe God knows that something good can happen in us if we learn to wait well.
Not waiting well hurts. It hurts us, our family, our friends, our church and those we God plans for us to interact with soon.
Waiting well is so important.
I don’t know what is really happening with the pandemic.
I don’t know how long it will last.
I don’t know if I’ll lose everything I’ve worked for to this time in my life.
I don’t know if my loved ones will be affected? If some of you will be affected?
But I do know this: God often calls his people to wait and we're not the first ones in history that He's told to wait well.
Because God knows something good can happen in me and you in the waiting.
So now, consider one more scripture: 1 Peter 5:7.
Before you read it, here is the context in which it was written by the apostle Peter to believers in Rome.
It was a time called the Great Persecution.
The legendary tyrant-emperor Nero instigated a type of pandemic for 14 years. He brought forth destruction, murder, grotesque executions, slaughter of innocent people while he was enamoured with his own power.
He murdered his advisors, his aunt, his brother, his wife, then his pregnant mistress which he killed his wife for, and his mother.
He took a particular interest in hating those called Christians. He would cover them in oil and light them on fire and use them as Tiki torches at his garden parties. He burned down part of Rome and said the Christians did it.
This the time the followers of God lived in.
Fourteen years of staring at “the river”…not knowing if they will live or die or if their loved ones will be affected or not or if their life’s work and efforts will have been for naught?
Eventually history tells us, Peter the author of the letter was executed himself by Nero.
Now let’s read what he wrote:
1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.”
(Repeat it at least 3 times)
“Cast” is a word that contains effort in its meaning. It takes focus to cast something that is heavy. It’s the shot-putt in the Olympics, it’s the hammer throw, it’s the Scottish Caber-toss.
Anxiety is usually the heaviest thing you are carrying. With all your spiritual and emotional strength “cast” it onto the Lord.
Why? Because He cares for you.
That's the most important part of this scripture! Casting is what you should do, but understanding He cares for you is what you must know:
You don’t know what will happen…but you know He cares for you!
He cares for you enough:
to send Jesus to remove our biggest problem sin and the anxiety of “unfixable” separation from God.
to shower you with unending grace, even when you fail and sin.
to give you His Spirit
to give you His church
to give you His love
to gladly take every bit of anxiety that is burdening you right now.
Kevin Robbins MDiv ~ March 2020