Be Still, and know.

I am afraid of many things.  In the old classic, “Hinds Feet on High Places”, the main character is named Much-Afraid.  Sometimes I think that would be a good name for me.
I fret over tomorrow, over money and school, over what I will eat and wear and do when I graduate, over what other people think of me, over “something bad” happening to me or to someone I love…some nameless, dreadful thing like sickness, death or loss.  It is so easy to be afraid, I do it without much thought.  It is an instinct, some say.  I think a better description would be “sinful nature”.  Nevertheless, it is certainly a part of my make-up to jump to fearful conclusions about everything.  Linus, in Charles Schultz’s old cartoon Peanuts, talked about his many fears with his “pyschiatrist” sister Lucy in one strip.  She tried to “pinpoint” his phobia.  “Are you afraid of responsibility?” she asks, “Then you have hypengyophobia.  Cats?  That’s ailurophobia.  How about staircases?  Then you have climacophobia.  Thalassophobia is the fear of oceans…gephyrophobia is the feart of crossing bridges.”  But none of these seemed exactly right to Linus.  At last Lucy says, “Or maybe you have pantophobia…the fear of everything.”  “THAT’S IT!” Linus hollers.  For me, that sounds about right.
And yet, for all that, I do not think I am a particularly worrisome person as persons go.  I worry more than some but less than others.  In other words, I think that this is a very human plight; this disease of anxiety and distrest.  Do you suffer from it?  I imagine you do.  And friend, you are not alone. 
In the old classic film National Velvet, the jockey played by Mickey Rooney describes his fear as feeling “all soft and yellow inside”.  Don’t you feel like that sometimes?  Instead of a sort of dark, rooted, rich courage, there is just a total lack of strength…like a cliff dropping suddenly at your feet for fathomless miles where you expected or hoped there to be solid ground.  A pussy, disgusting wishy-washy slush were you thought was hard-packed earth or unbendable steel or unyielding stone.
Jesus Christ’s mission on earth lasted for thirty-odd years.  He spent time with many people, healed many sicknesses and gave many messages.  The most crucial, or at least the best sampling, of these were compiled for the ages into four books we call the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Only what was essential to be preserved was recorded.  For, as John himself noted, all the world itself would not be able to contain the books that could be written about This Man.
So I think that the inclusion in these condensed biographies of our Lord’s lengthy discourse on anxiety, is significant.  Jesus, fully human and fully God, must have understood our battle with anxiety perfectly, though He never sinned by fearing and thus distrusting His Father.
In what my pastor calls “our sanctified imagination”, I picture Jesus with His hands outstretched, pleading with His stubborn hearers.  He who has spent countless ages beholding the glory of His Father in the splendor of His Kingdom does His best to convince these silly peasants of the greatest and the unutterable goodness and generosity of their God, of which Jesus Himself is the best proof.  Forgive me if I paraphrase these familiar words.  Look at them afresh.
“Look to the sparrows!” He reminds His trembling listeners, “God sees when each one dies.  And aren’t you, His precious creations, more important to your Father than many little birds?  Look at the lilies in your fields!  They don’t work and they don’t sew, but even the great King Solomon wasn’t dressed as beautifully and richly as they are.  O little lambs, God can take care of your physical needs, too!  He has counted the hairs on Your head!  He loves you!  Trust Him.  Don’t worry about tomorrow -today’s got enough troubles of its own without you adding more worries to your heads!  Don’t fret or be anxious, just trust me.”
And yet we run around, bumping our heads on the walls of despair and frustration, and shake our insignificant little fists at God and wail, “WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?  Why have you abandoned me?  Oh You probably don’t love me at all, do You?”
And there He stands, all the while holding us unbeknownst in His loving hands, shaking His head sadly.  “When will they understand that when I say I will never leave or forsake them, I mean it?  When will they learn to trust and obey Me?”  And so He brings trials into our lives, scraping away the gunk of our fallenness and confusion and gently pushing us towards Himself.  And yet we howl and moan and wonder where these stormy clouds are coming from.  Don’t we realize yet that He only disciplines those He loves?  Sometimes, dear pious Christian, you need a good divine spanking.  And so do I.
Slowly He is working out His perfect work.  Do not think He is dismayed by our attitudes, for He will bring good things to pass and He will work a good thing in us.  But if we learn to trust and obey Him, how many wrinkles we will wipe away, how many fears we will quell, how many torturous nightmares we will delay…just learning to trust and to obey.
Don’t tax your eyes, trying desperately to see  the muddy future, peering into tomorrow.  Just be still and know that He is God.  Do the duty set before you now.
Lately I have been reading an excellent book.  I haven’t read as much as I should this year, so any volume that keeps my interest and makes me finish it earns a well-deserved spot in my library.  This book I can hardly put down.  It is called “Keep a Quiet Heart”, by Elisabeth Elliot.  All it is is a collection of essays by Mrs. Elliot about tranquility, trust and inner peace.  On the back cover, a quote by J.I. Packer well expresses my opinion of it: “Tough-minded [and] kind-hearted.”  I would recommend this whole book to you as a wonderful tonic for anxiety and frustrations.  When you feel like a little quail darting frantically around on the road in front of an oncoming truck (“Oh what will I do, what will I do?!?”) then this little volume will help to put your sights where they should be -on Jesus Christ and His promises.
One of many excellent essays is called “Do Not Forecast Grief”.  Here is a long quote:
“…Is it our business to pry into what may happen tomorrow?  It is a difficult and painful excersize which saps the strength and uses up the time given us today…Our lives are His, our times in His hand, He is Lord over what will happen, never mind what may happen.  When we prayed, ‘Thy will be done,” did we suppose He did not hear us?  He heard indeed, and daily makes our business His and partakes of our lives.  If my life is once surrendered, all is well.  Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand, but would be safer in mine!
Today is mine.  Tomorrow is none of my business.  If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.
‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof ‘–and the work thereof.  The evil is not a part of the yoke Jesus asks us to take.  Our work is, and He takes that yoke with us.  I will overextend myself if I assume anything more.”
So relax in the luxury of quietness.  Like a child who falls asleep in his car seat on a long drive home; perfectly trusting his Daddy to get him there safely.  Trust the Lord.  You know that He has proved Himself faithful to you countless times.  Why would He stop now?  Just do what He asks of you today…and then tomorrow…and then the day after that.  In His pleasure there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).  Indulge in this peace; saturate your soul in it.  Believe in Him, and walk.  Be still, and know that He is God.

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