During her Advent message on the topic of peace, our pastor displayed a beautiful painting of a raging waterfall. The sky is dark and stormy, the lightning flashing. The title of the image seems out of place: Peace in the Midst of the Storm.
You might miss it, unless you look closely. But there it is, nestled in a little nook just out of reach of the frothing water. A tiny white dove sits on her nest, unperturbed as chaos descends around her.
If you’re like me, perhaps you feel a bit jealous of that little bird. Our world is crazy, upended by all manner of challenges and disasters and divisions. How do we find peace in the midst of this storm?
The days leading up to Jesus’ birth didn’t seem very peaceful, either.
A storm of unrest swirled as Mary and Joseph trudged mile upon mile to get to Bethlehem for a census no one wanted, ordered by a government no one trusted. No room at the inn, a baby making an imminent appearance…the picture of idyllic serenity painted on Christmas cards seems far removed from the scene.
Just a few months before, an angel had visited the young couple, appearing first to Mary, and then to Joseph. His first words to each? Do not be afraid!
The phrase “do not fear” (or similar words like “fear not” or “do not be afraid”) appears in the Bible hundreds of times. According to some counts, there are 365 references, enough “fear nots” for each day of the year.
Why is that little phrase repeated so often? Most likely because the folks in Bible times had to learn and re-learn that command just as often as we do now!
We can find peace, even in the midst of a storm. Consider these five important truths.
God knows you personally.
“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
Put your name, or your kids’ names, into that verse where it says “Jacob” and “Israel.” Now read it again. God knows you on an intimate level. He cares about you—and your kids—more than you can possibly imagine. When you face difficult times, you can rest in the knowledge that you are known, you are redeemed. You are His.
God is right here in the thick of it with us.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
We can move forward with courage, knowing that God is at work. Jesus conquered death and fear a long time ago. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Right now, right here.
Prayer unlocks the chains of fear.
“I prayed to the Lord and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
When the threat of sickness or impending disaster hangs over our head and there are decisions to be made for which there are no ready answers, fear is the default. But when we take those fears to Jesus, He promises freedom. Rest in the knowledge that He is in control and will help you make the big decisions. We don’t want to face difficulties. But if and when the storm comes (and it will), Jesus is right there with you.
Focus your heart.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
As Jesus-followers, we can rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to help us overcome the spirit of fear. Remember…the same power that rose Jesus from the dead, lives in us! (Romans 8:11).
Some Bible translations use “self-control” in place of “a sound mind.” Do you have self-control when it comes to following the news and social media, even if you’re not sure about the truth behind the claims? Is it easy to criticize the latest developments or blame certain groups for what they’re doing or not doing? Finding ways to express our love and care for others goes a long way in overcoming fear as we focus our heart on the truth.
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” (Proverbs 12:25).
Fear is a demanding master and everyone deals with it differently. If you see others struggling, take a moment to encourage them, in person or with a phone call, email or text. If conversations tend toward the negative, make an effort to bring something positive into the discussion. As the storm rages around us; practice kindness, patience and joy. Share the good news!
As we move forward with care, we put fear back where it belongs and face the future with confidence. It doesn’t mean there won’t be hard decisions to make or that we will always know what to do, but we can rest in Jesus’ promise:
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Seems like the little white dove has the right idea, after all.