Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fear vs. Theology

I fancy myself my family’s peace keeper. Whenever there is an argument or complaint or any amount of grumbling from one about another, I step in and do whatever I can to quench the flames and diffuse a blow up. I would like to think that my intention is always to help whomever it is think the best of the other (and often simultaneously, put selfish thinking aside). I have to admit, though, that mostly, my motivation is fear.

I live most of the week away from my family. Monday – Thursday, I am about an hour away from home, staying with family and working in another city while our home office, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, is being repaired. Every time my phone rings, and I see it is a call from home, my heart leaps into my throat and I imagine any number of disputes and controversies the caller is waiting to relate to me. I fear division, separation.

At this point in my life, that is one of my biggest fears and something I battle often. I worry about being denied the joy of not just having most of my immediate family around and watching the kids grow up, but having an active role in their lives. I think both fears are rooted in improper thinking and can only be effectively dealt with by applying my theology to my emotions and responding accordingly.

Last night after work I went to the grocery. As I was loading the bags into the car, I heard my cell phone ring. After I’d finished, I checked to see whose call I’d missed…it was my brother (the father of my nieces and nephew). As per usual, my heart was in my throat as I contemplated returning the call. I threw up a quick prayer, saying “Lord, give me grace.” And as I set to hit redial, I heard “to fear the worst is to believe God isn’t good.”

The application that came from that word was this: my fears about contentious phone calls (calls which have yet to come, mind you) and all of the other fears says that *I* am the most important factor in these equations. It is saying that *I* am responsible for keeping my family together. It is arrogant. It is saying that God isn’t who He says He is…that He isn’t equally sovereign over their lives and mine…that He isn’t in control – or worse, that His control, plan and purpose are not good…that He isn’t good…that He isn’t capable of working all things for the good (especially if those things are my worst fears).

I do not really believe those things, obviously.

In those moments when I let fear take hold and brace for the worst, or (worse) dwell on the worst case scenarios or become overcome by my emotions, I am believing a lie and saying “Lord, you aren’t really good.”

That was quite a “slap me upside the head” reality check.

This morning in my quiet time, I read in “Edges of His Ways” - a devotional book of writings from Amy Carmichael. The writings are taken, primarily, from the things she wrote to the Dohnavur Family during the last several years of her life…years spent separated from the family due to illness and injuries sustained in a fall. The final years of Amy’s life were spent in her Room of Peace, in bed, unable to take part in the daily life of the family as she had before. From the writings, it is evident that her burden for them only increased. I wouldn’t doubt that she too had to occasionally be reminded that God’s involvement was necessary – her “hands on” involvement was determined by His good pleasure and, therefore, optional. One thing she did know, it would seem, is that her involvement in prayer was not optional.

Knowing this about Amma (this is what her family called her), made what I read this morning take on a more intense meaning.

But are we to go on striving to the end?

No, here is a point to which we come, when utterly trusting the promise of our Father, we rest our hearts upon Him. It is then we are given what Paul calls “access with confidence.” But do not forget that this access is by faith, not by feeling; faith in Him our living Lord. He who says “come unto me” does not push us away when we come. As we go on, led by the Holy Spirit who so kindly heals our infirmities, we find ourselves in 1 John 5:14-15 and lastly in Phil 4:6-7 “and this is the confidence that we have in him, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us and if we know that He hear us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is good to remember that immediate answer to prayer is not always something seen, but it is always inward peace. And if the day end otherwise, and we feel discouraged then tell him so “nothing ashamed of our tears upon Thy feet Lord…thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” But do not settle down in into an attitude of “it will never be different.” It will be different if only in earnest we follow on to know the Lord.

This was followed up, and reinforced, by my reading in Daily Light…

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful… That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

With these thoughts swirling in my head and floating near the top of my heart, I went to work, plugged in my MP3 player and heard: “Even when I’m unfaithful (or, in this case, fearful), you are faithful!”

Thinking on this some more, I can recall specific instances where my concerns or fears cast a large, ominous shadow over the future, but turned out to be a much smaller version of the devouring monster I’d envisioned. Often times, the mountainous obstacle turned out to be a speed bump…the long, scraggly fingers reaching out for me or a loved one were, in reality, nothing more than dried twigs to be pushed aside.

God is indeed good, and well acquainted not just with our general griefs but with the tendencies and leanings of our individual hearts…with my individual, changeable, easily wearied heart. And I am so grateful!

Lord, help me to rightly apply my theology to my thoughts and feelings. May they say you are good…may my actions also agree with my theology and reflect the truth of who you are.

1 comment:

  1. I see so much of me...of most people in this post. I think most of us, if we dig deep, will find that our motive behind most things we do or don't do is fear. Which happens to be the extreme opposite of faith and trust in God. I guess we are just wired that way (because of the fall)...and that's the real journey to kingdom living...experiencing heaven while still on earth...renewing our mind...transforming our thoughts with the Word...changing from glory to glory.

    Diligence. That's what the Lord has been speaking to me. Be diligient, guard my heart, and slow down to enjoy the journey. There is much to take in...but it becomes a blur...like a fast-moving train...and in all of that hurry, we are unable to pay attention to God's generous details. And isn't it His details that makes the trip first-class?

    You are on the right track. Thanks for being so real. :)