And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke 22: 44

 

Our world is overrunning with fearful things and people. There is terror in the most tame of our streets, and sudden agony and grief fills our innocent halls of pleasure. These are terrible times with evil running loose and wild in our midst. As I was thinking about fear and what it means to be afraid, my thoughts went to that night in the early part of the first century when Jesus was at the place of awaiting the terror that would come down His street. Now, Judas, the Romans, and the rest of the angry crowd were no surprise to Him, but the events of that day were still terrible to contemplate.

 

The Roman army was one of the most powerful that our world has known, and they used fear and dominance as tools to gain and to hold control over the people who were unwillingly under their governance. Their ultimate punishment for crimes against their law was the cross with its torturous death-bringing process. Certainly Jesus was facing this. Yet, His anguish during this time of prayer was not caused by fear of facing His torture and death. Rather, it was caused by the impending reality of what it would mean to take on the sins of all of humanity. His agony was seated deep in His heart and was centered on the coming time of separation from the Father as the Christ fulfilled the purpose of His human life.

 

This is where the experience of our world and Jesus’ of His often diverge. I am not saying that fear isn’t real or that evil is not terrible, but that was also true for Christ. In the face of it all, He turned to the Father for comfort, strength, and guidance. Jesus moved away from the noise of the street and into the quiet of His garden of prayer. Christ faced into the most trying of situations with the grace of God on His lips and the confidence of a person who knows who He serves and why He is doing it. That terrible cross of Christ is the place where we can, too, hang our fears and our reactionary words. The sacrifice of Christ is the source of our courage and the reason for peace in our hearts and in our actions.

 

 

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid;

for the Lord God is my strength and my song,

and He has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12: 2

 

There is a well known song lyric from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical play The King and I that goes like this;

“Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune,

so no one will suspect I’m afraid.”

The idea here is very similar to the old expression, “Whistling through the grave yard.” It is all about putting on a brave face when encountering terrifying circumstances so that those around us will not know how frightened we are and also so that we might even convince ourselves that everything is really alright.

 

This is the exact opposite of what Isaiah is telling us about his life and how God informs it. Isaiah gives us no brave fronts and no facades. God is his salvation. God has pursued him and has entered into his life. As we can see from our vantage point many years in the future, God has not stopped coming after people. Jesus came into our world and walked with us. Now the Holy Spirit is with us always. We are saved from the small, the great, and the daily concerns of life, and we are saved for all of eternity through Christ. Although life may not go as we would like, and we will not always enjoy the outcomes we experience in this world; we can live with the assurance of God’s good favor and His protection for what truly matters.

 

With God as my salvation, I no longer need the false front of self-generated courage to get me through the day. When I embrace the total scope of this idea, I come to realize that the sort of salvation that God brings into my life is much bigger even than the crucial one of eternity. Christ enters into every day and every moment of my life. I may be battered and I will surly be bruised, but I will not be destroyed. Although my heart will be heavy at times, Christ brings comfort to my spirit. As my Lord surrounds me with the love, grace, truth, and righteousness of His Word; fear is removed, and my throat is filled with songs of joy and worship.

 

Praise Him with tambourine and dance;

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150: 4a, 6

There are times when sitting still is just not possible. As children we all experience those times when we were expected to be quiet, calm, and attentive while every cell in our body wanted to get up and run about as we shouted and shrieked out of the simple need to be expressive. In our more advanced years, the need for activity and expression is frequently caused by the stresses and the concerns that weigh heavily upon us. Life has a way of loading us up with burdens so that it feels like we are walking about wearing iron shoes while walking on the surface of a powerful magnet. No amount of energy that we expend seems to gain us any traction or move us one inch forward.

Yet, there is something false about that earth-bound reality. It is the product of a world that is filled with the pain of brokenness. It is a state of heart and of mind that evil desires for each of us to surrender to. We do live in a harsh and a hard environment, and God is more than fully aware of this fact. God knew from the start that our own rebellion would cause this state of existence to become our unrelenting state of being. In response to this God entered into living in it with us. Christ brings about a freedom that infuses the center of our being with the presence of God. He sets us free from the need to be bound down by powerful forces that are outside of our control. In Christ we can count all of life as victory, and we can know that we are living every moment of life in the presence of the Most High King.

Turning a dark hour into a time of worship and praise is not easy. Yet, Christ will lift even the most heavily burdened of spirits. He desires to hold our head up and to fill our hearts with the hope of His love, grace, and mercy. He doesn’t ask us to do the work; for, Christ knows and accepts our weakness, our shame, and our lack of capacity. He asks only that we trust Him enough to allow His Spirit access to our hearts. The Lord will lift us up and remove the weight of life’s burdens from us. As we rest in the presence of the Lord, He will provide clarity of thought and the wisdom of eternity for us to use in response to our concerns. Christ does provide the strength that we need to face life with confident peace. He releases us from all that ties us down, and He sets us free so that our whole being wants to shout and to dance in order to express the joy that is found only in knowing Christ.