“You know,” my wife said, her brown eyes were serious and calm, “if Elon Musk told you to do something, you’d work super hard at doing it, right?” It wasn’t a question. We were sitting on our creaky bed and we were talking to each other before we went to sleep. I had just confessed that I had been incredibly distracted as I had been trying earlier that day. I had made only a little progress on the book that I was writing, but that wasn’t what was upsetting me. The thing that saddened my heart and caused me to ask for prayer was that I didn’t work hard unto Christ.
We all have “meh” days. I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life, and believe me, I get that. I know very well the thick cloudy drain of heavy sadness, and I’ve seen many colorless sunsets because of that cloud. But, this was something different. I cannot let myself confuse laziness with depression. Though I did work, I disobeyed my King when he reminded us through his servant Paul to work hard unto him.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23&24
I missed that mark.
And why? I got too consumed with little things. My earthly father is fond of saying that one can get “Mired in the minutia,” which is a fancy smart person way of saying, “Bogged down and stuck in insignificantly small things,” though to be fair, his sentence sounds way cooler.
Are you getting “mired” down in the worries and cares of this world, dear reader? Is fear disguising itself as information and are you devouring it hungrily?
Ben, what does that even mean?
Well, let me try to unpack that sentence a bit. Do you routinely wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat fearing that the world might end in a nuclear holocaust?
Maybe if I lived in the 1950s, I would. Now, however, there are much greater things to fear.
Are there? Every generation has feared something… or many things.
1950-80s nuclear extinction of the human race, communism, another war.
1980s artificial intelligence, oil disappearing, El Nino.
1990s Bill Clinton.
I’m totally kidding.
1990s cyber security, identity theft, school shootings, Y2K, neon.
2000s terrorism, war in the middle east, big brother.
2010s pretty much that whole list plus a zombie outbreak, and the uncertainty of our new leader’s agenda.
Do you remember buying a generator and grabbing a few extra cans of green beans in December of 1999? Did you fear the uncertainty that the millennium could bring? Did you lose sleep over it?
And now, 17 years later, I feel foolish that I spent so much of my time filling my head full of articles, interviews with experts on the validity of the Y2K computer meltdowns, and listening to my peers as they painted bleak pictures of the future. I bit down into every word like one would tear into a fresh loaf of bread, except instead of energy giving calories, I got a heart full of fear.
Oh, my dear reader, I have feared a great many things.
That my parents would never be proud of me.
That I would fail high school.
That I would fail college.
That I would never be loved for who I truly was.
That I would get married.
That I would never get married.
That I wasn’t cool.
That the plane would crash.
That my car wouldn’t make it to the gas station.
That my arm would never heal.
That I wouldn’t have money for lunch.
That people would actually like the movie Transformers.
That God didn’t really love me.
That I hadn’t truly been forgiven for everything.
That the robots would take over.
And recently: That the book I’ve written won’t get funded and won’t get published, and that its precious message will be lost.
But here I am, and I have not gained a single hour of my life by worrying about all of those things (Matthew 6:27). I haven’t slept more soundly because I feared those things, nor did I grow in dependence and learn to trust in my God because I focused on those “scary” things.
So, I ask you, dear reader, what are you afraid of?
Afraid? I’m not really afraid of too much. My life is pretty much in control.
Okay, well my other earthly father, my stepdad, told me one time, “Ben, at the root of 99.9% of anger, is fear.” After almost 20 years of testing that sentence, I think that it holds pretty true, and maybe that’s an easier question for you to answer: Dear reader, what are you currently angry about?
Are you angry about Trump getting elected? Could the root of that anger be a fear that the people in this country aren’t as much like you as you wanted to believe?
Are you angry about people being angry that Trump got elected? It’s the same root of fear.
Here is the point, I know that we are living in a very exciting and unprecedented era of history, but the same could be said for every single era that has come before this one. Are our threats more real than theirs were? Ask your grandpa about the day that Kennedy’s U-2 plane got shot down over Cuba. Ask him how “fake” that tension felt as the world held its’ breath and glued its’ eyes to the television. In retrospect, we know that the world didn’t end, but in the minds of everyone at the time, the world could have easily ended.
20 years from now, regardless of where we are as a country, or if we are even still a country, will you will look back at the way you acted in the face of today’s fears and worries and shake your head shamefully, or will you praise God for the peace that he gave you in the midst of this storm? Will you remember woefully the shouting matches that you got into with your spouse, coworkers, friends, or family members who supported or opposed our current political party?
I’m not saying, “Don’t do anything!” I’m saying, “Don’t do the easy thing, which is falling into fear and anger. Do the hard thing, which is looking at Jesus, trusting him completely, and loving everyone around you, regardless if they agree with you or not.” That’s what I’m saying.
It starts in my heart. It starts in yours.
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you so afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:24-27
What sort of man is Jesus, the one we all claim to have faith in? He calms the seas, that’s what sort of man Jesus is! What sea of trouble, doubt, and fear is battering you? Is wave after wave of bad news hitting you so strongly that you are fearing for your very life? But, what does Jesus say? Does he respond in a panicked and timid voice, “Yeah, those are super serious fears! Oh my, I’m not sure that I can fix that. Really, they want to repeal Obamacare? Whoah, that’s not good. We better all start learning how to swim.”
Or does he say,
“I am a warrior, and the LORD is my name!” Exodus 15:3
“My right hand has become glorious in power, and I have dashed to pieces all of my enemies!” Exodus 15:6
“I am strong and mighty in battle and I am the King of glory!” Psalm 24:8
Remember who you have faith in. Remember that and tremble. There is only one thing to fear and that is our great God. Look to him. Cling to him. You will never look back on your life and laugh at your foolishness because you feared God too much. You will praise him for growing that fear in you, but you won’t regret it. Ever.
“You’re right,” I said to my wife. I shifted in bed and angry springs complained under me as I did, “If Elon Musk said, ‘Finish this book,’ I wouldn’t stop until it was done.”
Except, Mr. Musk didn’t say that. Rather, the king of the universe said, “Be strong and courageous!”
Until next time, let’s lose our lives!