hope and fear pt.3

August 15, 2011

See parts 1 & 2 here.

So it’s one thing when it has to do with the fears of a two-year old but what about us seasoned veterans of life?  We’ve been able to deal with childhood fears in healthy ways and vanquish the thought of the boogeyman in the dark closet…right?  Is it possible to live a “fearless” life?  If not, what do we do with those fears as adults that life reveals to us along our journey?

This weekend I had a very honest conversation with a good friend whom I’ve known for many years about these and other questions.  Our stories parallel in many respects as we think very similarly and would fall pretty much in the same theological fight clubs.  We both have young children and wives that still put up with us.  But the conversation was about how do we hope and trust in this God when it seems the most intimate and personal prayers and petitions we bring are met with silence?  When your marriage doesn’t seem “fixable” or your physical and/or mental health is deteriorating?  All illusions of control begin to slip away and that sinking feeling of despair and impending doom take root.  What then?

We covered all the “right” Christian responses:  “He causes all things to work together for good” etc.  Then you recognize that you can give verbal homage to these and other lofty verses while your heart is far removed from feeling their beauty.  The thing I really love about the Bible is how brutally honest it is and one thing that frustrates me about some churches is how little attention is given to said honesty.

Do a quick study of the book of Lamentations.  Not exactly “Your Best Life Now” kind of material but authentic human response and deep soul wrestling with historical events (for the historical narrative see the last few chapters of 2 Kings).  The poems of Lamentations suggests to me that God is not delighted in our Christian platitudes about sufferings but rather our honest and raw feelings towards them and towards Him.  Something tells me He’s big enough to handle them.

The other glaring point in our conversation was that…we were having a conversation!  The gift of a trusted friend with whom you can open up and bring your struggles into the light is a gift of eternal significance.  More on that later…

hope and fear pt 2

August 14, 2011

See part 1 here.  What is fear?  “A true fear of God is a beautiful thing.  It is worship, love and veneration.” –  A.W. Tozer

A few weeks ago Vanessa and I took our boys to Virginia Beach for some sand and surf.  While my two oldest boys took to the ocean like newly hatched sea turtles when they were old enough to crawl our youngest was not so enthusiastic.  Josiah (now 2) loves to swim so we thought that he would be in high gear the whole time – which is pretty much how he lives every day.  We knew it would be a full-time effort to simply keep him close to us while in the  water but instead he was petrified of getting near the ocean.  I think the waves freaked him out a bit…er, a lot.  So after a few hours of baking in the sun and digging in the sand I decided it was time to scoop him up and carry him into the water to cool and clean.  He didn’t really appreciate it as I had hoped.

While the people around us surely thought I was some heartless parent bent on pushing the boundaries of what is and is not child abuse I assure you he was never anywhere close to physical harm.  Psychological maybe, but physical no way.  But man can that kid scream!  He managed to crawl himself up to wrap one of his legs around my neck while screaming and pointing to the shore.  Meanwhile I’m trying to get out deep enough so the waves aren’t crashing right on top of us which was perpetuating the problem.

I wish I could say he calmed down and enjoyed the safety and security of resting in his dad’s arms, but at least the water was cool and it did clean him up.

Psalm 147: 7-11 reads: “His (God’s) delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

 

hope and fear pt 1

August 13, 2011

Hope and fear seem an odd pair.  Yet in God’s story of redemption they are parallel threads woven together.  In the sleepy, unassuming song O Little Town of Bethlehem we sing “Above the deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.  Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”  Wait.  Why hopes, AND fears?  What are they anyway?  Why the connection?  And who cares?!  These are the questions I’m hoping to explore over the next several posts.  For those that heard them, some of these posts will be based on sermons I gave at SGCC.

So let’s begin with fear.  Seems like a logical place to start since it is probably the most primitive emotion we experience.  Other than it being a lot less warm I imagine babies cry when they’re born because they’re scared out of their minds.   That and they’ve yet to develop our highly-evolved capacity to mask our fears with golden calfs (more on that later).

Fear is hard to nail down as an emotion.  When we step back and think (a skill many of us neglect all too often) we often conclude that our fears are either misplaced or altogether illogical.   My two oldest sons are 7 and 6 at the time of this post and we were talking the other day about death – something our broader culture grossly neglects out of… hmmm, fear?   I’m glad that my boys feel the freedom to speak with me about this and it’s something I plan on encouraging as they grow older.  During the discussion Caleb says “well we don’t need to be afraid of death because then we get to be with God forever.”  Ah!  Proud moment as a dad.  To have the faith of a child…