Do you have a specific fear that, if it were to become reality, you know you couldn’t deal with it? It might take some thought, but you may discover that you have one. Give it a minute. Have you thought of it? Does it affect you directly? Maybe it’s the thought of losing a family member. Is it financial trouble? Physical harm? Humiliation? Academic failure? Do you have a contingency plan to deal with this scenario, or do you feel that you would just give up?
We all have our own path to follow. Some of us most certainly have it harder than others. My life up to this point has been much easier than many peoples’. But I also believe that we all have our own battles to fight. And these battles are just as real as anybody else’s. They’re the defining times in our lives that burn and temper us, the make-or-break moments that force us to grow. These experiences hurt at the time, but they’re important to our personal development.
For a child, one of these battles might simply be learning to sleep alone in a dark room; while his young mother’s battle is learning to deal with the constant stress of a child who cries all night long. The child’s fears, no matter how small they may seem compared to our adult problems, are still an important part of their growth.
Childhood fear is very real; it was a gauntlet we all had to overcome. Our problems just grew alongside us as we matured into the people we are today. It is this context, that we are all grown-up children, that we so easily forget.
The past few weeks have been very trying for me. A combination of health issues, reduced work hours, and the loss of a vehicle in a short period of time seems to have brought my life to a grinding halt. And for me, one of my biggest fears is being physically unable to work. I judge my own self-worth far too heavily on how productive I am and how much I work. So in the moment, life felt pretty tough.
Now compared to some people, I see my fears and problems as those of the child who’s afraid of the dark. Since I’ve had an incredibly blessed life, I often tend to just stow my feelings, which compounds the problem. I feel that I don’t deserve help, because others have it much harder than I do. But in that kind of isolation I couldn’t grow or benefit from my trials.
I believe one of the keys lies in James 1:2: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” That passage used to feel like a burden to me. I saw it as having to force myself to be joyful. I suppose if you look at it that way, it really does seem impossible. Who has complete control over their emotions? But the key is in the wording: “Count it all joy.” Basically, choose to be joyful. We don’t have to fix everything or force ourselves to be happy by sheer will power. Jesus simply asks that we obey Him, and once we do, He takes that willing attitude and works through it.
So in order to see our problems in the proper context, we must first admit that we’re all children before God. We’ve all sinned, all have fallen, and all are, in our own right, infinitely inadequate. Once we realize we’re all equals before God, we can shift our focus away from others, or away from our own isolation, and towards Him.
James 1:2 isn’t just some cool advice: it’s the solution to all our problems, to every fear or hardship we could ever experience, there in black and white. These words are living and active, not because words have power in and of themselves, but because of who they’re from and the power He holds. And the beauty of this tool is that we don’t have to feel like it, we just have to use it. It’s a tool that is equally applicable on just a bad day and when you’re facing your greatest fear.
So, as we enter this Sabbath, be reminded of some of the simplest truths. No matter what life throws your way, it’s not all up to you to come up with a contingency plan. You’re part of a bigger plan, the longest-running plan in history, the greatest plan. You don’t have to be the orchestrator, you simply have to say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”