Last week I wrapped Christmas presents in my living room while watching the footage unfold from San Bernardino, California where “two people barged into a holiday party and opened fire, killing at least 14 people and injuring 17+ others.”
Wait, what? Shouldn’t I be wrapping while drinking egg nog and listening to my Charlie Brown Christmas cd? Shouldn’t Rudolph or Frosty or The Grinch be on my television to add to the festive spirit while wrapping Christmas gifts?
It certainly wasn’t how I intended to spend my evening. It definitely was not the way I’d normally tag team my Christmas wrapping. But it’s what was happening, and I was glued to the story. At the time it was unfolding, nobody knew the cause, but watching it surely left a sinking, sickening feeling in my heart. Fear was at the door.
For some reason it brought me back to 911. I’ll never forget sitting in my living room the evening everything went down. I was just out of college, my parents were out of town, my brother lived in NYC, my good friends were on their NYSUM internship in NYC, and it was just my younger sister and I at home. We watched 911 footage all night long with the window curtains drawn, as I wondered if my friends and brother in NYC were ok. There was such fear that night, and truly in the days that followed. I even remember feeling like evil was lurking just outside my house and would snag me if I let anyone see inside.
That same fear tried creeping in Wednesday night as what happened in San Bernardino was said to be the “new norm” for us.
That to me was a bit alarming to hear spoken out loud. This is our new normal? Wrapping Christmas gifts to the scene of yet another mass shooting is normal? Attending a work party and getting gunned down for no reason is normal? Wondering if any acts of terrorism will happen when you go to a sold out movie or sporting event is normal?
I immediately thought of the Star Wars movie coming out soon. Will there be an attack then? Or what about when I head to an NHL game this weekend? Will we be safe?
I had to quickly stop myself from going there and pondering on those thoughts.
Where we are at in society is not normal. I don’t accept that statement. Nor will I fall prey to the fear that permeates our media and society. It’s been said we live in a “Culture of Fear” and an “Age of Terror.” Fear has permeated every aspect of our society. It dominates our politics, media and for some, their very human existence. I can see it all around. I hear it; I read it; I watch it unfold. ISIS, terrorism, violence, cyberterrorism, corrupt government officials, immigration and gun control are just a few of the causes bringing fear to this “Age of Terror.”
But that’s not God’s plan for our lives. Fear is not His will for us. Yes, we live in a day and age where bad things happen, but my Bible says “I will fear no evil for You are with me…” Psalm 23:4.
The enemy would love nothing more than for us to be afraid and live in fear. He’s given access, a grip on our lives, when we allow fear to permeate and reside in us. Fear shuts us down; torments; feeds and grows on itself; causes us to doubt; pulls us back from God; distorts our senses and perception; paralyzes us and deactivates our faith.
We need to remember, fear is not our portion in this world, and fear is certainly never from God.
John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
That’s God’s plan and will for us: hearts that are neither troubled or afraid. In fact, 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
In a day and age where fear would love to wreak havoc in our lives, we are reminded that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” Psalms 46:1.
He’s our hope, our shelter, our trust and our security. Therefore, no matter what comes our way, “we will not fear,” Psalms 46:2.
I love how Psalms 118 encourages us:
6 The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?
7 Yes, the Lord is for me; He will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
Despite living in a “Culture of Fear” and “Age of Terror,” our trust and safety is found in Jesus; not man, government or policies. It’s in Jesus, Who is with us and Who is for us. We can rely on Him no matter how perilous the times get.
Fear is not the norm God has intended for our lives. But when it tries to creep in, my trust and reliance is on Jesus as I simply say in my heart and mind, “I will fear no evil for You are with me.”
Laurie serves as the co-pastor of New Testament Christian Church in Rochester, NY and has over a decade of full time youth ministry experience under her belt. She juggles a variety of tasks that extend beyond the local church. Laurie is a director for Camp Shiloh’s summer youth camps; serves on 2 national youth ministry boards; helped start a mentoring program in a local public high school; has taught abstinence courses in several local public schools; coached 3 different sports on the high school level for 10 years; and is called upon regularly to preach at both adult and youth gatherings.
In all she does, Laurie’s life is marked by energy, passion and commitment to the cause of Christ. Her desire is to simply “love people and lead them to Jesus.” Laurie is an EBI grad and ordained minister with EF. She lives in Rochester with her husband James, where they manage to survive despite her lack of cooking skills.