Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” How does that work? How does God deliver us from all our fears? Have you been delivered from all your fears?
Fear is an inevitable part of being human. We fear the loss of what is good. We fear the loss of what we love. We are afraid of losing our money, our health, our happiness, our home, and our youth. We are afraid of losing our loved ones and we are afraid of losing our own lives. And we fear all of that for a very good and logical reason. We fear such loss because there is a 100% chance that we will lose everything someday. We could lose it all today, or we could gradually lose everything over the next forty years. But eventually we will indeed lose it all. The percentages are the same for everyone. Everyone loses everything they have. We don’t want that and so we fear such loss. We may not be conscious of this fear every minute, but an awareness of our insecure place in this world is always with us. We keep busy and we keep our minds on other things. We have to. That is how we cope with such fear and insecurity. But that ‘busy-ness’ does not keep us any safer.
I once knew a lady who was not able to cope in that way and her fears dominated her life. She thought only about the dangers all around her and all the things that could happen to her at any time, and her fears paralyzed her. Sometimes she even had to be hospitalized. She was afraid of everything; illness, car accidents, bad weather, burglars, murderers, her children’s future, and her parent’s approaching death. She feared everything, all the time. It was all she ever thought about. And she was right, of course, about all those fears. I could not logically talk her out of any of them, because she knew and I knew that everything she feared could happen. It was all possible. And even though on most days nothing bad happened to her, she was also right about the fact that she was one day going to be losing everything to one or more of the things that she was afraid of. And her fears made her so ill that she often pondered committing suicide, an act which would mean the immediate loss of everything she was so afraid of losing. Such is the thinking of one who cannot cope with fear.
Most of us cope with our fears far more effectively than that. But how is it that we cope? None of us can deal with our fears by eliminating all the things that threaten us. We can’t do that, but we can keep busy and keep our minds on other things. Yet, in the back of our minds we do know that one day, one of those things that we fear will indeed get us; cancer, a car accident, heart failure, old age and gradual decline, Alzheimer’s disease, or whatever; and then we will lose everything. Being a Christian does not eliminate this danger or even decrease the chances. Those who believe in Jesus and those who do not believe in anything are alike in that all will end up losing everything.
But from Jesus we receive a promise that tells us that even after we must let go of everything, God will still have a hold of us and will one day restore us to life in his home. There we will receive an abundance of blessings unimaginable here. Nothing worth having will be lost forever. All will be restored. God promises that our story will go on even after the loss of everything in death.
I enjoy reading novels. I have read several of my favorite novels more than once. Even though I know how the book will end, I can enjoy reading again and again a good story that is well told. But knowing how the story ends does affect my reading of it. From the beginning I know all of the characters and I know how it will go for them throughout the story. I know the tragedy and joy that awaits each one. If I know that the story ends happily for the main characters, I remain hopeful, even when terrible things are happening to them. I can be happy for them even as they struggle, because I know they will be all right in the end. But if I know the story ends in tragedy, then even the happy parts of the story are tainted and saddened by the knowledge of what is to come. I will be sad for the people I am reading about even as they are enjoying themselves and are full of hope, knowing that tragedy or death is just around the corner.
In the Bible we are able to read the end of our story, and we find out there that we can look forward to a good ending. The unfolding of our story will bring resurrection and healing and restoration. It will usher in a time and a place of peace and comfort and harmony. All pain, sadness, death, and loss will be gone forever. We cannot know the details of what joys or tragedies are ahead for us in our earthly lives. We don’t know when or how we will die. But God does promise us a resurrection from the dead. He has assured us of that turning point in our story. And knowing ahead of time that there will be such a resurrection gives us the perspective we need to face all of our problems without fear. Just like when I read a novel for the second time, I can, in my own life, be hopeful and happy, knowing that all will turn out well for me in the end. I can live my life fully aware that in the future I will lose everything, but still I need not have any anxiety about that future. Any losses that I face are only temporary losses, and in the end I will be safe and secure.
Martin Luther wrote of this hope in these words in the last verse of his great hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God:”
Were they to take our house,
Goods, honor, child, or spouse,
Though life be wrenched away,
They cannot win the day,
The Kingdom is ours forever.
Psalm 34:4 — I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Matthew 24:13-14 — (Jesus said), “…He who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Romans 8:18, 24-25 — I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us… For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
O most loving Father, you want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing you, and to lay all our cares on you, knowing that you care for us. Protect us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds in this mortal life may hide from us the light of your
immortal love shown to us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen —Book of Common Prayer