Message: “Being Afraid”
When I was a kid, I was always skittish. My sister who was 16 months older than me always loved to jump out from unseen places and scare me half to death. She would tell me that they, meaning the monsters, were going to get me in the middle of the night. Needless to say, my sister did a good job of traumatizing me as a kid. For I was always afraid, thinking that the monsters were coming to get me, I just did not know which night it was gonna be. And even though I said my prayers at night, I wondered if God really heard me, or was he hiding too, just like the monsters were.
Deacon, our grandson, has followed in my footsteps. When he was younger and I would put him to bed at night, one of his favorite bedtime stories was “There Was An Old Monster”. Now after reading this story came his bedtime prayer. His final request to me, his Granny, is to leave the lights on in the bathroom and down the hallway. He even asked me to please try not to fall asleep in the chair. I cannot tell you the number of times I have done that, just to wake up and find that he has gotten up out of the bed and is sleeping all crunched up in the chair beside of me. Even though he said his prayers asking God to protect him, he was still afraid. It was almost like he thought God was hiding. Well weeks later the most amazing thing happened. I was babysitting for him, at his house, while his parents were at dinner. That evening, I went with him upstairs to his room, we read a story, said prayers, and after kissing him goodnight, I asked him if he wanted me to leave his light on. He looked up at me and smiled really big and said, “No Granny, I am fine, God is here with me.” I cannot begin to express to you how I felt when he said that. He was dead serious. There was no fear in his eyes. It was obvious that he was no longer afraid. So, I went downstairs and read a book, still checking on him several times, and observing how peacefully he was sleeping. It was almost like I really could feel God’s presence. I even wanted to say out loud. Hey God, are you still there?
Just this week I text my oldest sister and asked her if she was afraid to meet me for lunch. You see I have not seen my sisters (which I have 3) in way over six months. I had already lost my brother in a car accident several years back and I was missing my family. She texts me back and said she was NOT AFRAID. I told her I would wear my mask going into the restaurant and when leaving, that we would go to a restaurant where they were abiding by the Governor’s rules and no matter how much I love her I would not hug her. We both agreed. It was the best lunch I have had in a long time. For you see I was hungry, not food wise, but hungry for the love of my family. But many people are still cooped up in their homes petrified to leave their homes and feeling hopeless and isolated.
I tell you these stories, because it reminds me of the story about Job.
Job had been through a horrible time where he had lost everything from his house to his self- respect. He owned nothing that was material anymore. He lost his family, his servants and all of his livestock. He even lost his friends. Then he became sick with a high fever and he was covered from head to toe with open sores.
But the worst thing of all, worse than anything he could have ever imagined, was that the God who he had been so close and intimate with, who was such an important part of his life, the God around whom Job had built his very purpose for living, seemed like he was hiding. In fact, no matter where Job looked, God seemed to be missing. As Job sat on a pile of ashes, scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery, he became afraid, he cried out with anguish at the deepest hurt of all…that being the absence of God.
As you heard in the scripture, God does finally appear and speak with Job. God thunders out of the whirlwind to remind Job what he forgot. That all of those hours of anguish when he was afraid and felt God absent, he could have remembered. Remembered the story of faith and rested in the assurance, that God is always in control. God reminded Job and invites us to remember there’s something about the power of a story.
We need to remember that we worship a God who decided to come to earth and live a human life, a human story. And in our Bibles, how do we read and learn and relate to the big stories, like Noah and Jonah, the feeding of the 5,000, and the woman healed from a deadly illness? These are stories which you and I can find our own little stories and remember that there is indeed a big and active God always at work, even when the circumstances of our little lives lead us to feel scared, afraid, and that God is hiding.
One time I was scared, angry, and mad and I automatically started to feel like God was hiding. It happened one night while I was working at a local hospital, a small child was being admitted. Not a child who was sick, but a child that had been abused. Now for a person who could not have children of her own, I was devastated. The child ended up having to have surgery and the Mother was told there was a good chance that the child may not survive. I was raging mad, I was angry. I questioned where God was. The child was afraid and cried continuously. When the child finally stopped crying, it became withdrawn and refused to eat. They put a feeding tube in her which the child seemed to pull out every chance it could. The child was losing weight and the doctor told the Mom that he was not sure if the child would survive. Days later, this child, had been labeled a failure to thrive. The mother was a single Mom with 3 other children, so it was hard for her to stay at the hospital all the time. I questioned God as to why he would let something like this happen. I questioned where he was. I was so scared and that this child was going to die while I was on duty.
I spoke about my feelings with the Physician. He told me that we don’t have the answers of why bad things happen to good people, but what we needed to do was to pray for this child, love this child, and to care for it to the best of our ability. His exact words were, “it is up to God whether he lets this child live or not, but I can assure you that he is with this child”. I went home and thought about what that Physician had said. I realized that my anger was wrong, and that no matter how bad I felt about what happened to that child, that God was not going to abandon me, but that he was going to love me and see me through in helping this child. I ate dinner that evening and put on my jeans and I went back to the hospital, which was only a few miles away from my house. I went into the child’s room and I untied its hands and feet and placed its limp body upon my lap. I loved and cuddled this child, singing songs from my childhood. All I remember is looking into those big sad blue eyes. I combed the child’s hair. I asked the nurse on duty to bring me some Jell-O. I played every game I could think of to get that child to eat. While pretending the spoon was an airplane, I finally got the child to open its mouth and to take one bite. I cannot tell you how happy I was. I thought I had just won the lottery. Going forward at as many mealtimes as possible, I would hold this child on my lap, rock and love on it and gradually I would get a few more bites of food into that mouth. After about a week, I followed the doctor in to see this child. When we entered the room, the child turned its head, made eye contact with me, and smiled. The Doctor looked around at me and asked me what I did, which I replied. I did what you said, I pray every day, hold them on my lap and talk and love on them. He said well, whatever you are doing, it seems to be working, keep it up. We may have a chance. The outcome-that child did survive. After multiple weeks, it was able to walk out of the hospital, holding its Mom’s hand, carrying a little white Easter bunny, that I had bought it. You see God was present in that child’s life, just as he was in mine. And through his help, that child was able to return to its earthly home and I was blessed later on with a child through adoption. Oh, and let me mention that I had a letter written by a certain doctor with adoptive children of his own that he thought I would make a good parent.
You see, what happened to me when I felt God had abandoned me as well as that precious child, was kinda like what happened to Job. When all he could feel was the absence of God. Who made the foundations of the earth? God asked. “Do you remember the story? You see I had no right to question God, just as Job had no right. God reminded Job of his creative power. And suddenly, even though the pain did not go away, Job began to understand.
He had heard from the time he was born, story after story about a God who had spun the universe into existence, who’d planted every tree and created every living thing, who controlled the changing of the seasons and the pull of the tides, a God who carefully crafted and powerfully manages every living thing.
And when he was suddenly and forcefully reminded of the story, Job was able to finally see himself and HIS story more clearly. Job became, not just a scared, abandoned man who was suffering, but a beautiful creation of God.
Job became, not all-consumed with the indignities and pain that characterized his life. But suddenly aware that his story was only a little part in a larger story.
Job was finally able to look up from the pile of ashes on which he sat, to look through the pain that consumed him and to see that God was right there with him, and God had been all along. That is the power of the story.
Just like Deacon when he finally realized that the Old Monster in the book was no more. He now realizes when he goes to sleep at night that God is with him. There was power in the story.
I am sure that there are times in your life, and I know in my life, that we feel God is hiding, and we become scared. We feel very strongly the absence of God at a time when we really need to feel God walking beside us. What can we do at times like these? We can remember the story.
We can remember the grand story of a God who so desired relationship that he laid the foundations of the earth and created human life out of nothing, formed us into creatures in his image and began a grand story of salvation from Noah to Abraham, David to Joshua, Jesus to Paul…all the way to your story and to my story.
This God, who has been in relationship with all of humanity since the beginning of time, is the very same God that we feel sometimes that we cannot see.
But if we tell the story...if we listen again to its power... we might be able to remember that God is walking right beside us, as he has been from the beginning of time and will forevermore. Then, we do not need to be afraid anymore. AMEN!!!!! And that my friend, is a powerful story!!!!
Almighty God, your ways are higher than our ways; your thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Forgive us of our pride and times when we thought we knew better than you did. Give us humility that thinks not less of our self, but of ourselves less. Give us eyes to see how much we depend on your guidance and grace. Renew our minds that by faith we would trust you ever more deeply today and each day following. Amen
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