Be Not Afraid, Be Not Dismayed

Perhaps you feel it, too, lately: the tightness in your chest when you hear the most recent news, the weight of preemptive grief when you consider your child’s future, or the weariness that comes when trying to “choose joy” in your own strength day after duty-filled day.

I have often heard people remark on how the world is “getting crazier and crazier” and it can be tempting to lean into this mentality, which subtly glorifies the good ole’ days and forgets that the world has been broken since the events that occurred in the garden of Eden. It doesn’t help that we in America tend to be especially ignorant of the goings-on throughout the rest of the world and the rest of history – corruption, war, disease, oppression, poverty – and we are only awakened to the real destruction sin causes when it shows up on our doorstep in even a limited measure.

And it will show up. No amount of money or worldly peacemaking strategies will ever keep evil at bay forever, and that is true both for the evil in “their” hearts as well as in our own (“they” being the opposing political party, the abusers, you name it).

I’ve had this post sitting as a draft for months now because as often as these things cross my mind and touch my life each day, I don’t want the responsibility of giving a satisfactory answer to all the questions of Why and When. Why is God allowing this to continue? When will it end? Why do I have to experience it? When will it all come to the breaking point?

How do we keep living from day to day like everything is good and normal and fine when deep down we sense that we’re just play-acting at prosperity? Like it’s all going to crumble at any moment?

The hard thing is that this haunting realization is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because it involves pain and death and destruction. It’s a blessing because it puts our lives in perspective and keeps us from thinking that the things we so often idolize on earth are indestructible. The truth is that the flowers in the vase on my table will die; the surfaces I clean will become dirtied in a matter of hours; the car we have driven for years will one day sit in a scrap metal yard; the ceramic mugs and planter pots that I treasure will eventually break and end up in the landfill; the money in our bank account will be spent. This unavoidable theme of decay and futility is what the entire book of Ecclesiastes is referencing in its recurring phrase, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (1:2 ESV).

Where is hope to be found, then?

Nowhere, if we do not have Christ. Nowhere, if the only treasure and security we have is of the earthly, temporary kind rather than the eternal kind. Nowhere, if personal fulfillment is the ultimate purpose of life.

But, friends, we are believers we can direct our hearts and minds to truths and realities that transcend what we hear on the news. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mourn what is there. The wickedness and brokenness found in human hearts, in the natural world, and so on is something that grieves us because it grieves God. Even unbelievers made in the image of God can recognize that things on earth aren’t the way they should be (though their worldviews don’t offer a consistent reason for this disparity).

Yet, we remain in this broken world for as long as He wills. Though we plead with Revelation 22:20, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” we must accept His call to continued faithfulness even if we don’t live to witness that event from this side of heaven. Abiding in Christ is the only means by which we will ever have the strength needed to remain steadfast and unmovable, abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:8), even when we face inevitable persecutions and afflictions.

The good news of the gospel is that we can abide in Him because He already abides with us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He knows what it is to be hated, despised, mocked, and abandoned. He knows how it feels to live under corrupt government and social instability. He experienced sickness and physical pain. And His perfect holiness and righteousness in the midst of all the horrors He endured is what God imputes to us when we trust in Christ as Lord. He looks at us and sees Jesus, and the same power He used to raise Jesus from the dead is the same power He uses to resurrect our hearts to life from a state of death wrought by sin (Rom. 8:11).

What greater need do we have than this? What on earth can this not put into proper perspective?

This truth, this gospel, is what we will celebrate in the coming Advent season. Even if we celebrate alone due to government mandates and travel complications . . . even if we celebrate without gifts because of economic instability . . . even if we have to command our hearts ten times a day to hope in Someone whose love and righteousness and power is greater than the weight of all the world’s calamities combined.

He is our light in a dark place. Hope in Him as this year winds all too slowly to an end. We pray there are better things to come in 2021, but if not, He is still good. He is still with us. He is still enough.

Fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

Further reading

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