Points to Ponder: Face It - You're Scared
Points to Ponder
Face It - You're Scared
It was cancer. The man was otherwise healthy, it seemed. The possibility of dying within the year was now upon him. He was scared.
I was just a seminary student working at a church. Hospital visits and sitting with people who are facing death square in the face was new to me. I was at a loss for what to say to this guy who had been a professing Christian for decades. He looked me in the eye and confessed, "I'm scared."
I was used to hearing the testimonies of blessed folks who faced life threatening tragedies, others who overcame incredible odds, and many who had miraculous healings. This time I was sitting with a man who probably wasn't going to be one of those stories. There does come a time in everyone's life when the most fervent of prayers is answered from Above with a "no."
I had no training on how to respond to his confession. Fear I could understand. I barely have the guts to face a blood test, let alone a life-threatening disease. As a fellow human being I could empathize somewhat. But how do we deal with it? What could I say, how could we look at this potentially hopeless situation from which he could not opt out?
We can pray eloquent prayers, read hopeful scripture verses, and "put it in God's hands" (as if it wasn't already?) and then...Well then we suck it up and plow on? It is what it is.
After months of prayers and treatments, another of our good friend's cancer was gone! Recently she discovered it's back. A faithful Christian who studies her Bible and prays daily and fervently, she's in the midst of a renewed battle with a rather aggressive cancer. She is trusting God. It is in His hands. Go ahead and quote the scriptures - she's got 'em and believes without a doubt in the sovereignty of God. No need to preach to this choir; she could lead it.
But she's scared. She says that she knows she shouldn't worry; but she is and she can't stop it. It keeps her up at night, brings on floods of tears without warning. The possibility of leaving her family is a frightening scenario that keeps visiting her thoughts. "How do we deal with this?" she asked.
It wasn't training in pastoral counseling that helped me walk this walk with her. It was the accumulated years of Bible study and striving to understand Jesus Christ and how His life on earth points us to our Heavenly Father.
Jesus was fully God, "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9), and, equally important, fully human. Simply put, God wrapped Himself in human form (Philippians 2:7-8) and showed us how to live a perfect human life. He was without sin, but He was not without emotions, feelings, or challenges that test us all (Hebrews 4:15).
So "what would Jesus do?" That's the standard question. When the faithful face the big "C" or some other equally scary, terrifying challenge, is it wrong to be scared? Is it sin? Is it a sign of weak faith? What did Jesus do?
Gethsemane came to my mind and would not go away. Jesus was born to die and He knew it. He even knew the method: crucifixion. The term "excruciating" is derived from this word that describes incredibly unbearable pain. Knowing His enemies would soon be upon Him, and within about twelve hours He'd be nailed to a cross, He encouraged His friends at their final meal together:
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for my Father is greater than I" (John 14:27-28).
He spoke of how He, the Father, and His disciples would continue to abide in love. "These things I have spoken that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11). Joy? This from a man who's about to face a painful death!
But then go an hour later into Gethsemane with Jesus. He had His three closest disciples join Him for prayer. He confessed how He was feeling,
"My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death" (Mark 14:34).
Depressed, nervous, scared? All of the above? He was "troubled and deeply distressed" (v. 33), scripture says. Was His joy gone? Did Jesus have weak faith?...What?! No. But He was fully and perfectly human. He felt feelings and dealt with them in a healthy manner. He called on His friends and shared His distress. He went off to pray and three times asked God to change this situation.
"Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will" (v. 36).
Luke reports He sweat great drops of blood and was in agony. An angel came to comfort Him (Luke 22:43-44).
When Jesus had warned earlier that death awaited Him, Peter swore he'd never forsake Jesus. He'd die for Him. Peter relied on the power of his faith - and crumbled under pressure.
Jesus experienced the natural responses of a human being facing a deadly enemy. He immersed in the real distress of it all and then consciously committed it all to the will of God. Fear is not from God (II Timothy 1:7) but it is real and it does come.
It is normal to cry, to be scared, to pour your heart out to friends and to God. Darkness is exposed and neutralized by light (Ephesians 5:11-13). Put it out there. Face it. Then fall into the arms of the God who is sovereign over it all, all the way to where it ends.
What did Jesus do? He went through death so that death cannot go through you who believe. He faced the worst with both tears and faith, with sorrow and in joy. Because at the end, if we believe we died with Christ, then we know we shall also live with Him (Romans 6:8).
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.