By: Nathan Hood
Scripture: Psalm 46
Grandma Verneal was always there, quietly waiting on those around her. She would serve and support until everyone else had been taken care of, then she would get herself a plate of tacos for Christmas Eve dinner. We have tacos for Christmas Eve dinner. Then, one day, she could not be there for us anymore. Her mind started to leave and we needed to be there for her. The names she knew, the faces that made her smile, the memories she had collected over her decades of loving life started to vanish from her frail, failing mind and I was afraid. The woman who had always been there was fading from presence on earth and it shook me to my core. I was afraid. I was anxious. I was unable to fix the issue. All I could do was watch and wait for my grandmother to pass away.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” - Psalm 46:1
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” - Psalm 34:18
These ideas presented in the Psalms, that Barry preached in his sermon on November 13, 2016, that have been passed down from Christian to Christian for as long as we have been passing ideas are challenging. In the midst of fear, we do not feel safe. When we cannot grab the wheel and steer the car of our life in the way we would like it to go, we do not feel comfortable. Our lack of control makes us need. So how is it that God is our refuge? How is it that He is close to me in my brokenhearted state?
After Grandma Verneal went home to sweet Jesus, I was running in Eagle Creek Park one afternoon, trying to think of how I would write a song to honor her memory. I like to write about the things I do not understand. It helps me process them. And I had hit nothing but walls. As I rounded a corner in those quiet woods, the sunlight from above peppering the ground below with light as it tried to breach the thick canopy of trees between, I came to an opening that gave me a vision of Eagle Creek reservoir and a big, vast, blue sky on top of it. I pictured my grandmother sailing off into the great, blue beyond. I would not be able to ensure that she got where she was going. I did not empirically know that she was in heaven, worshipping with the Cherubim and Seraphim, and my heart began to fill again with fear. But then these words came to me:
“If the sky were a sea, then hope would be the boat that lets us cross it.”
I was filled with peace. God is our refuge. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. In these moments of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, a special kind of wisdom that comes from God and is grounded in trusting Him descends upon us. The way God sees things is not a common worldview, but it is eternally comforting. The way God understands the world is separate, but it is the single best way to emotionally proceed through life on this earth. The comfort of the wisdom of the Lord swaddles the Christian like a thick cloak wrapped around them by a loving parent. “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18) and God is perfect love. But thank God for this fear. Thank God that we can “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) because when the mercy of God descends and drives out fear, God’s power is undeniable. Things are out of our hands, but the hands that they are in do not shake. The hands that things are in do not tremble and they do not fail. And if those hands are attached to a God that knows all, understands everything, is everywhere and is infinitely powerful, I fully believe those hands can be trusted. Lean into His understanding in your moments of fear and anxiety. God is our refuge.
Listen to a playback of the sermon, Emotions: Fear & Anxiety here!