I don't even know how to begin this entry. There is a lot going on in this world we live in and most of what I've been hearing lately has been tragic, grim, and very upsetting. I think all of our hearts have been broken over and over again over the course of the past several months and I know I've had moments where I feel completely tempted to give-in to the panic and fear that is washing over the world right now. It's there, ripe for the taking, ready to consume our hearts, our minds, our behavior, and our motives and the enemy would really love it if we dove in and let it wash over us.
I recently read a quote from Thomas Aquinas that I really love. He says "Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that, when we allow it to take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts.” The only reason I love it is because it's true (not because it's sad... which it is). Right now, we have a very important decision to make. We have this extremely powerful opportunity to choose compassion and love over selfishness and fear... and, God, I hope the church seizes that opportunity.
Where there is compassion, there is love and where there is love, there is no fear. I know this is true because the Bible tells me it is. In 1 John 4:18, it says "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."
To be clear, God is not using this scripture to say that it is a sin to be afraid (if it is, I'm in real trouble). It is reminding us what, or rather who, perfect love is. If God is love and there is no fear in love, this means that fear is absent in the presence of God. If fear is absent in His Presence and the Bible instructs us not to fear over and over again (365 times, actually), and this particular verse goes so far to say "the one who fears is not made perfect in love," I believe the only logical conclusion is that He is challenging us to invite the Holy Spirit into our fear by stepping into His Presence and allowing Him to drive it out - whatever that may look like and however long that may take - just as any good parent would do for their child when they are scared. Does that mean we won't be afraid? Maybe, but not necessarily. What it means is that we're making a very intentional decision to partner with God instead of our fear and, when we do that, He is able to transform us from the inside out.
Growing up, I struggled with a very real fear of the dark and of sleep because I had a very good imagination and very bad dreams. This issue slightly followed me into my adolescence and, for a season, into my adulthood. There were nights, as a little girl, where I would softly cry myself to sleep, literally scared stiff, because I didn't want to bug my mom and dad or seem like a crybaby. So, instead, I let my mind get completely caught up in my fear and worry and would end up getting just a few hours of sleep, be exhausted, and even more afraid for bed the next night. But, on the nights I called on my mom and dad for comfort (which was most nights), I slept. I still felt a little afraid and I still had worrisome thoughts, but when those feelings and thoughts crept in, I was able to cling to my mom or dad and know that they were going to fight for me if one of my fears came true or, at the very least, make it so I didn't have to go through it alone.
When we engage our fear and allow it to dictate our thoughts and behaviors, we are deciding to not partner with God. And, if we are not intentionally partnering with God, then we are opening our hearts up to outside influences that thrive on our fear (and we can see all over the news the kinds of things that people do when they have let those influences in and fear guide their actions). But, when we partner with God, we are inviting the Holy Spirit into our fear and allowing Him to drive it out of our hearts and minds - just as the presence of my mom or dad did for me when I was little.
The point is this: in times like these, it is very easy to partner with fear if we let our guard down or are too prideful to call out for guidance. In every moment you feel even an inkling of fear, turn to God - call on His Name, cry out, sing a song of praise, open your Bibles instead of the newspaper or Facebook, say a quick prayer for every article passing through your news feeds on social media, and be intentional about being mindful of the condition of your heart when you are learning about current events - don't give-in to the temptation to partner with the fear you will feel - because you will feel it. Call it out and call on Him. And, if that's still feeling too difficult, call a friend that you trust to guide your heart back to love and compassion.
These are scary times, yes. But, as children of God, we are no longer slaves to fear and we must stop living like we are. The people who are slaves to fear are the people who are out there, right now, hurting others. God gave us all the tools we need to be successful on this earth and represent Him well. Let's not just have the tools or know about them - let's use them. Let's choose love, compassion, community, and forgiveness and walk hand-in-hand with the Holy Spirit through this moment. We were made for this.
Fear not, brothers and sisters. Love won yesterday, Love wins today, and Love wins tomorrow.