Some fear Ebola. Some fear nuclear attacks on or our own governments attacking their own people. Some fear disasters like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Some are so afraid, they ignore that in Mathew 24 Jesus said such phenomena are not signs of the end, implying they’re instead the status quo on the way to the end. It seems to be getting worse since we get reports from further away, faster than ever. If these are “birth pangs,” the earth has been already having contractions for millennia, and we haven’t been measuring long enough, widely enough, to really have any idea how far apart the contractions are and how close we actually are to the birth.
In other words, I don’t blink an eye at such worries, though I pray for the victims when prompted to. Likewise, the actual smell of smoke in my nostrils can give my flesh an urge to check which way the animals are running and follow them. Even then, it is well with my soul. My heart remains secure, knowing God is in control and will protect me or bring me through any disaster that does come. The Lord is the God who has brought me up out of spiritual Egypt and is delivering me to the spiritual Promised Land. I trust the Lord to get me there, whatever major disasters threaten along the way.
Why then do comparatively small matters put fear in my heart?
For instance, the Lord has given me dreams, things I feel called to, and the journey to achieving those goals has often felt like wilderness experiences. I’ve heard the call to go and gone, but God’s led me out in ways that don’t always make natural sense. In some cases, my own self-doubts and insecurities have been responsible for it seeming like a huge Red Sea was blocking my path. However, I knew God had directed me, even if it seemed impossible for me to achieve that, so I took what I had in hand and kept testing the waters by faith to see if the God who brought me this way would part the Red Sea.
Then comes the day the Red Sea parts.
Now, the first time this happens, we may be naively excited and rush right in. Only it isn’t easy to cross over an ocean bed, and even once we’re past the Red Sea, there is often wanderings in the wilderness to prepare us for the work we’ll have when we finally arrive. The hardships of the desert can make us question if it was really God who had parted our personal Red Sea. Perhaps we have misinterpreted natural phenomena as signs from God and taken wrong turns, made costly unwise decisions.
Perhaps God has brought us back around full circle, and we find ourselves yet again with a Red Sea in between us and where God’s leading us. Once more, we don’t know where God will part it, so we gather our courage and test the waters. It’s harder this time. Many times, we continue to be blocked, perhaps until we lose all notion of the possibility of getting past this one without divine intervention. We’re in tears now. Egyptians aren’t just at our backs. We’re fighting for the life of our dream.
We refuse to give in to despair and keep plugging on by sheer faith, and one day, the Red Sea parts.
If you’re like me, this time, you stare, stunned and dumbfounded. When it finally sinks in, joy and gratitude still aren’t what you’re feeling, and part of you is upset with yourself about this. The way is open, but dangers still lay ahead. God is faithful, and you trust him, but you don’t know and trust the agency. These waters have free will. These waters might change their minds and crash right on your head. What if you stumble? What if you fall? Any joy you feel in your soul is drowned out by your flesh’s fears screaming at you to declare what your eyes see “too good to be true” and turn and run.
Where’s our faith and our courage gone? Let’s deal gently with our hearts, and remember where we’d been before, how far God’s already brought us. When fear reminds us of all the difficulties, hardships, failures, and mistakes we’ve already seen on this journey, remember also that God’s kept us through them to reach this moment. Let’s decide the dreams God’s given us are worth the risk. Let’s trust God to keep us from drowning if the waters do prove fickle, to help us up and keep us going when we stumble, or give us a time of rest and refreshment in his presence to strengthen us for the journey.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” John Newton, “Amazing Grace.”