Do you ever have moments when you look at everything going on around you and wonder if the world, maybe our country, or your family – even you – are going to survive all this? You’re not alone if you do.
Fear is one of the strongest emotions we know. It can paralyze. It can spark anger. It can evoke heroism. It can make you wish you could just take a 20 year nap like Rip VanWinkle, wake up and find it’s all gone away. When fear teams up with “I’m all alone in this”, confidence and hope find themselves pushed aside, replaced by anxiety, panic, even despair. Life itself becomes frightening!
We have to remind ourselves of the hope when the skies look ominous, don’t we? That’s what this post is about.
If you’ve received Christ (see John 1.9-14) you’re not “some kid across town” or the boy/girl next door – you’re His son! – His child. A song popular in Christian circles a while back said it this way: He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.
God told his people (Israel) so in Deuteronomy 31.6-8. Moses addressed his successor, Joshua, with the entire nation looking on and said “He will not fail you or forsake you.” That’s on about page 180 in my Bible, pretty near the front. He says it again near the end (about page 1050 in my copy). “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said “I will never desert, you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (Hebrews 13.5-6)
I doubt Moses or the author of Hebrews were either one thinking about rising gas prices, soaring healthcare costs, constantly-climbing insurance rates, college tuition, being laid-off, a volatile economy or a crumbling marriage when they said and penned those words, but we sure think about it. Wow, is it good to know that none of this is a surprise to God!
The picture Christ, Our Pilot by artist Warner Sallman has been around for a long time. I remember seeing it as a young boy, usually in inexpensive frames at the Bible Book Shop in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where my folks -Dad especially- liked to shop. I always paused to look at it while my parents shopped or visited with Beth, a close friend of the family who worked there. But I don’t remember ever having it in my room or anything. I mean, how many storms had I weathered at the age of nine? Not many. There are children who have endured remarkable storms, or face them every day. My heart goes out to them.
In the Fall of 2002 this picture surfaced again for me and came front and center. When my dad went home to Glory in August of 2002 it was a privilege to plan and lead his memorial service. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also one of the highest honors ever extended me.
In October, two months later, I received a phone call that my uncle, Dad’s younger brother Jerry, had suddenly taken ill and was in the hospital in Madison about an hour away. I was packing to go to New Mexico and help divide and ship Dad’s library and other things. But Jerry and I had enjoyed a long heart-to-heart talk in New Mexico, more man to man than uncle to nephew, so I quick ran to Madison to visit him in the hospital and then to the airport to fly to help Mom. I was in New Mexico when the call came that Jerry had also gone home to Glory, and that he had asked if I would have his service.
One of the things I learned in preparing what I would say is that Christ Our Pilot was Jerry’s favorite picture. His laugh was contagious, his sense of humor bright and buoyant, but Jerry, as all of us, faced storms and trials in life. This picture reminded him of the truth that we are never alone, there is never reason for despair. Christ is our pilot. What’s more, He has the ability to say “Peace. Be still.” and the storm will calm. He doesn’t always, however. Sometimes he leans down and whispers “Peace. Trust me.”
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I hear “Peace. Trust me.” and wish He’d said the other one. When I look at those clouds, the size of those waves, when I feel the wheel in my hands threatening to spin out of control I can cave in to fear <snap> just like that.
I have a choice, though.
I can focus on his hand on my shoulder if I choose to. I can look where HE is looking, and refuse to look to the left or right. I can hold on tight and use His power. The fear in my eyes can turn to determination. “I’m with You. You are my pilot.” It’s makes a huge difference, even if the storm roars on. Maybe your storm is showing no sign of letting up anytime soon. Trust Him. He’ll never leave you.
I hope these words encourage you today.
Oh – one more thing. If the storm gets really harsh and severe?
The waves and the spray make it impossible to see or know where you are?
Lean back on Him. He’ll take the wheel and you can ride it out in that safe zone between his arms.
He’s up to it.
You will not be His first failure.
You can count on that.