I wrote my meditation on fear-conquering love almost two years ago, and yet it seems much more applicable today than it did when I wrote it. Fear is gripping the world in full force right now, as everything we thought was certain and sure is being torn away or turned upside down.
James 4:13-15 tells us, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (NIV).
These times are a reminder that nothing in this world is certain. As James points out, making plans is in vain, because life can change drastically in just a moment. Anything in this world that we put our faith in will ultimately fail us, and this causes us to be afraid. We are afraid of losing our loved ones, our health, our job, our way of life—the things we hold dear. These are real and valid fears. We live in a world undone and broken. And ultimately fear reveals to us that our own hearts are undone. Not only that, our trust in God is often feeble, and times like these can break it. In our fear and brokenness, we crave stability, something we can count on.
This world is not forever, but God is, and God is the only thing we can count on. In the book of Job, Job lost everything and blamed God out of anger and fear. But then God came to Job in his suffering and said in Job 40:1-2, “And the Lord said to Job, ‘Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Anyone who argues with God must respond.’”
Job’s reply was one of utter humility: “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5, NRSV). And Job repented in dust and ashes. Job’s problems and suffering were healed by God, but not right that instant. And Job’s suffering revealed a greater problem. His heart was undone, his trust in God broken. Yet, in the end, Job was content with God’s answer to his cry. God’s answer was himself. God’s presence resolved all of Job’s questions and fears—it could mend Job’s broken heart and heal his broken trust.
During a time of uncertainty, loss, and fear, God’s presence is our answer. If we rest in God’s love and permanence, fear cannot consume us. The reality is that we do not understand, we are suffering, and we want God to fix it. But this is also revealing a far bigger problem. We live in a world undone. Our hearts are undone. Our trust in God is broken. And the only thing that can fix that is God’s presence in our lives.
Joining friends at The Upper Room in morning prayer on Facebook Live has been an anchor in the storm during recent weeks. In the chaos of trying to figure out how to do ministry in strange and uncertain times, it was a compelling call to stop, breathe, listen, and be in community with those who gather "where the world meets to pray." Join us each day for morning prayer.