Campus Blog

The Valley and the Shadow

Kate James

In writing this post, I would like very much to bring you with me into a place of peace, where we can rest easy with our Father, as his children, even in the midst of a world filled with turmoil and fear. This will be close to impossible to do in 1,000 words or less, but I’ll give it a shot.

I suppose everyone handles fear differently. For some it might not even present as fear; maybe it shows up as anger, or depression, or sadness, or even apathy. Not that this is always the case, I could be wrong, but just a thought.

For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with depression, but by my lights, it has nothing to do with fear, so I’ll add that as my disclaimer. Regardless, there are plenty of reasons to be afraid these days. If you’re on Facebook, or Twitter, or watch CNN or Fox News or Al Jazeera, or in some places in the world if you even look down the street—what the heck, it’s freaking right outside your door. Fear is a black flag and it casts a shadow that can seem a mile long. Oh Lord, have mercy.

What’s next? That’s usually what freaks me out: what’s next? What’s around the corner that I can’t see? Will things only get worse? God, are you even here? Do you not see what’s happening? Are we supposed to deal with stuff on our own, or wait for you, or do everything right and figure it all out so that then you’ll be glorified?

It’s like we paint ourselves into a corner. We kind of know our questions are stupid because God is God, and, you know, there’s Job who asks all these questions and God answers his questions by basically saying that very thing: Why do you ask these questions? Did you forget I’m God? But if you’re like me, that can only make you more afraid than ever. I’ve heard a lot of sermons on Job and yeah, I get it. In the end Job is blessed, but I still don’t think I could handle the stuff he went through.

The weird thing is that he tells us we should fear him but then tells us not to fear. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, (Joshua 1:9) for I am with you. 

Lately, especially after getting a cancer diagnosis, I’ve realized that for many years I’ve kind of left that last part out, for I am with you. 

I like to watch those NOVA shows about things I don’t understand. I don’t know why. I recently saw one on Einstein and thought maybe it would finally help me understand the significance of E=mc2. Nope. I learned something about how time contracts and expands and that this somehow effects mass, but in the end all I really understood was that as Einstein’s knowledge increased, so did the white hair on his head and his eyebrows. Fascinating.

A lot of the NOVA episodes are about the universe. These episodes absolutely terrify me. I don’t know why I keep watching them. Black holes and all that vastness. After watching them I understand—I really understand—why the Bible has many good things to say about those who fear God. Those who fear God get it. They understand the reality of God’s bigness and that when we understand how big he is our response can only be one of fear.

So. Now that I’ve taken any fear that you already have and put a magnifying glass to it so that there’s a decent chance you’re reading this under your covers by the light of your smart phone, I need to guide you back to that place that I promised I would in the first paragraph of this post: “bring you with me into a place of peace, where you can rest easy with our Father, as his children…”

I think the reason we get afraid, and I don’t mean a “fear of God” here, but just plain afraid like Joshua was afraid about an army that wanted to obliterate him, is that we have a hard time holding the two most amazing and wonderful things about God in tandem. I think we tend to go back and forth: God is huge and beyond my understanding. God loves me so much he sent his only son to die for me. Back and forth. Both true, both wonderful, but taken alone they fall flat. Worse, they turn God into the type of god who would want us to blow ourselves up in his presence, or the type of god who might give us a hug but when we ask why all the scary stuff in the world could only answer, well, you know, stuff happens.

I feel heretical even writing that last sentence. We depend on both God’s power and God’s love. Our lives depend on these two things together. And if we don’t want to be afraid, holding them in tandem is essential.

“God sent from on high, he took you; he drew you out of many waters.” (Psalm 18:16) Jesus, God’s only son, who is love, pulls you up onto his lap because you are his child. Please try to focus on this. Sometimes, as Christians, we hear these things and they just sort of slip off our shoulders, yeah, yeah, I know. Got it. I’m a visual person, so it helps me to actually picture God and his big arms (yep, weird, I know) reaching down for me.

God is bigger than we can comprehend. God pulls you up onto his lap because he loves you. Crazymaker. I wish I could overlap those two sentences. They have to go together. When everything comes down, what comes next is that, whoa, our Father, Abba, Daddy, has us on his lap and is kissing our forehead and telling us I got you, I love you and I’ve got you and all the garbage you see is nothing. I’m about to blow on it so that it flies off the face of the earth.

 

Kate James works with Cru Press and blogs regularly at NorthHillsDrive. Most recently, her poetry and excerpts from her novel Can You See Anything Now appeared in the anthology Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide (Paraclete Press, 2015).

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