Once upon a time I was fearless.
At least that’s how I felt. Let me rephrase that. I wasn’t fearless; I just learned how to operate while afraid. For those who have never lived life as a first responder of some sort, you may never understand the fear that those who rush into danger feel. Most people run from the sound of gunfire or the inferno of an engulfed house. Most people want nothing to do with jumping out of a perfectly good airplane into a barren wasteland of mountains or deserts where there are thousands of people who want to kill you.
But soldiers, firefighters, cops and first responders run toward that sort of danger; they run into the gunfight, they charge into a house on fire, they jump into a combat zone on purpose. They don’t do it because they’re not afraid. In fact, I used to say to rookies that I trained that if you’re not afraid, then you’re dangerous and I don’t want to work with you.
Make no mistake. They are afraid. But what sets us/them apart is that they have learned how to harness that fear and operate in spite of it. In fact, if trained properly, fear can be very powerful.
That was me.
Now, I feel afraid all the time. I fear things that I don’t even know how to define. I don’t even have categories for my fears now. So much pain over the last three years, so much disappointment, so much betrayal and abandonment have left me, on good days, with a mild feeling of unease. On bad days, I feel like I can’t even move well or think straight.
Fear of more pain, more “failures” have, at times, even made me afraid to dream.
I’m reading through the gospel of St. Matthew right now. The other day I read this story:
“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31, NASB)
I’m struck by some things, a lot of things, in this text. Maybe it will speak to your fear as it has to mine. Let me start with this.
It took great courage for Peter to do what he did. Would you have done that?! Not me. I’d have stayed my pasty white tail in the boat and been like, “Nope, you come here. I ain’t going out there.” But let’s think about this for a second. Was it really safer for Peter where Jesus was not? I think Peter was the smartest guy in the bunch. He recognized that the safest place to be was where Jesus was. Sure he took his eyes off Jesus and doubted.
But so have you. And so have I.
But Peter knew something about Jesus that maybe we need to see in our fear. Even in the terrifying moments of our deepest fears and insecurities, the safest place we can be is where Jesus is. Who else commands the waves and seas? Who else walks on the water that he created so many thousands of years before? Who else can do what Jesus does, has done and is doing?
No one! The point of this story isn’t Peter or the “storms of your life” or whatever or even my fear. The point of this story and my story and your story is Jesus.
He is God-in-the-flesh.
He is the living Word of God.
He is the One by whom all things were created and for whom all things were created.
He is the One who went to the cursed tree of Calvary to set you free.
Not free from fear or sickness or problems on this earth. He has set you free from the power of sin and death!! Oh, dear friend, this is our antidote for fear! Jesus has come! Repent and believe on Him and you will be saved! I need to be reminded of this daily.
Jesus has overcome sin and death! In him, you don’t have to fear death, I don’t have to fear failure or weakness or uncertainty. He has overcome!
Hear the words of our Saviour.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Fear not. He is with you, as He is with me. Now go…and be fearless!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Do you ever wonder if Jesus felt a little bit like a fool?
I know that question just ruffled a whole bunch of religious feathers. Some of you reading this just had a very visceral response to that question. And that’s probably a good thing.
But this is a serious question that I’m asking. Do you ever wonder if Jesus felt a little bit like a fool? Ever wonder if he thought that this whole thing of preaching to an unresponsive people, having the crap kicked out of him, suffering and dying wasn’t really worth it for the pay off?
Now, if we’re biblical Christians, we know the spiritual answer to this, right? In his divinity, Jesus knew precisely the reason he had come, he knew what he would suffer, he knew that he would be mocked and scorned and beaten and killed. He knew. And he did it anyway.
But in his humanity, you have to wonder if, at some point, he was like, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this? This isn’t what I signed up for! Am I a fool for doing this?”
Maybe you don’t wonder about those things but I do.
With all that has happened with me and my family over the last few months, I’ve felt this way at times. The anger is gone (well, mostly) by the grace of God and the help of a good and godly counselor. But the questions remain. And I don’t think there are any easy answers.
Most recently, as I’ve been frantically job searching, I’ve been dealing with a lot of these questions and feelings; questions like, “Was I a fool to leave security behind to follow Jesus on this path?”
If I’m being honest, I feel a little bit like a fool. I had a really secure job and was on the down hill slope of what had been a good career. I had served my community and, through that, my country for many faithful years. Sure, there were things about being a police officer that sucked but overall, it is an honorable, courageous and mostly thankless calling. I still have many friends, brothers, sisters and colleagues that lay their lives on the line every day. I miss those friends. There is something about risking your life together that binds you to each other; it is a tie not swiftly broken.
So this is a hard question and place for me. Was I foolish? Have I risked the safety and well being of my wife and family for nothing except heartache and pain?
Maybe you’re in the same boat as me right now. Maybe you’re asking yourself some hard questions. Maybe the enemy is twisting things to deceive you and, even though you know that it’s not true, you feel that there are no easy answers and you don’t know where to go.
May I take this opportunity to tell you something? Despite what these false teachers out there will tell you, life is not always going to go swell for you if you follow Jesus. You may not have health and wealth and prosperity. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the New Testament speaks to the suffering that will come your way if you follow Jesus. Don’t believe me? Let me explain.
I’m reading through the Gospel of Matthew right now. Here’s where I am right now.
“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved…A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!...So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows…He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
This is Matthew 10:22, 24-25, 31, 37-39 (NASB)
This seems pretty clear to me and I hope will be an encouragement to you as well. Jesus made no bones about what life as his disciple would be. If we are his disciples, we will be hated, we will know fear and we will have to give up all that we hold dear, take up our cross and follow after him.
But why, we ask ourselves? Why does it have to be this way?
Because a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.
But it is enough that we become like the Teacher and enough that we become like the Master. Endure, brothers and sisters. Hold fast to Jesus, for he is holding fast to you! Don’t be afraid (I struggle with this) but take up your cross and follow Jesus.
One day we will see Jesus face to face!
On that day, neither you nor I will regret following him for then we shall have our reward; we shall see him as he is!
Soli Deo Gloria!