“Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead . . .” Chapter XV, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
I have been thinking for some time now–really, since they gave us Sam’s diagnosis–about the future. The funny thing about the future is that it doesn’t really exist. We buy eighteen month calendars and fill them up, and many of us mamas out there could flip three or six or even nine months ahead and tell you what, exactly, we are going to be doing, and what each member of our family will be doing, on any given day. We put our finger on that square and we say with certainty, “This is where I’ll be.” There is a security in this locking down the calendar, in “knowing” what lies ahead.
But I can’t do that anymore. Because I don’t believe in it. What I mean is, is that when the doctors told us Sam wouldn’t be born alive, I had a choice to make: I could either live in a future that didn’t exist or live each moment as it was given to me, trusting in a God who held the future I could not see. I chose the latter, realizing (and this is another toughy) that we are all dying everyday, and our goal in the end is always to get back to Jesus (die to this life). Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).
Still . . . these theological concepts are great, but this Mama has to live every day with the reality of fearing for my child’s life. Every time he gets cold, sucks on his lip and turns it blue, or if he sleeps too long . . . my heart starts to pound. My brain blanks, and this wave of dread rushes over me. I have felt it so many times now pounding through me that I am almost numb to it. I live with fear hanging around, like a wolf at the perimeter of my psyche, waiting for a sign of weakness to pounce. My fear is real, not some imaginary “what if–” Still, I wonder constantly how I am to balance my real fear for my child with my real faith? And, when does that fear morph into disbelief (thus, sin)?
What we have hopefully learned from our gratitude for the past and from loving in the present is, if God was there, and is here, then he will be there. Beth Moore talks about real fear in her Bible Study on Esther, and her assertion that whenever we fear, we need to say, “GOD WILL BE THERE.” Sometimes that phrase alone will get me through a day. It is usually mixed in with my other favorite prayer, “Help!”
Do any of you remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? In Daniel 3, they are brought before Nebuchadnezzar after they have been exposed as Jews refusing to worship the king. They replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (verses 17-18).
“The God we serve is able to deliver us . . . ” I wonder how many times our heroes whispered that to each other each and every day leading up to the moment they stood before Nebuchadnezzar. They were completely aware that maintaining their Jewish identities would eventually cost them their lives. How could they not have been afraid? Daniel 3 recounts that the furnace our heroes were thrown into was so hot that the flames killed the soldiers that threw them in. How did they continue through their lives to work, eat, hug, worship, laugh, with death breathing down their necks? How did they stand so boldly before the king and speak so eloquently?
Because they knew that God would deliver them. The first definition in Merriam-Webster of “deliver” is “to set free.” It is fitting, then, to read in Daniel 3:25 that witnesses watched as four–not three!–men walked about in the deadly fire, free of their bindings. And I am reminded again, by the God who loves me and made me, my husband, and all three of my children, that not only will He accompany us into any fire we must walk through, but He can set me free to walk through it unbound and undeterred. He will set me free.
What do you fear of the future? What binds you? What fear wakes you up at night, stops your breath when you’re driving down the road? Say in response to the fear: “God will be there (thanks, Beth);” “The God we/[I] serve is able to deliver us/[me],” and “He will set me/us free.” If you have to, say them over and over. Pray them again and again. Know that He is there with you in the fire.
The wolf, I think, will continue to lurk in the corner of my mind. But I know that like other appetites, if I starve it long enough, it might just shrink away. Remember: “Feed your faith, and your fears will starve to death . . .” (author unknown) Feed your belief in the God who holds your past, present, and future.