“Chicago is experiencing some stormy weather, so we’ll likely experience more turbulence as we land.”
That’s what I heard when I was coming back from a short trip to Memphis. We had already experienced a significant amount of turbulence as we took off from the Memphis Airport. The Pilot got on the speaker and said we were in for more. It seems as though I was flying on a day that had windy/rainy weather all throughout the middle-north USA.
I have flown before, so “turbulence” was a word I was used to. But what we experienced during takeoff was a bit more than I had signed up for, which made me nervous for the landing into Chicago. I normally chew peppermint gum to make sure my ears pop at the right time…but during takeoff I had hoped the peppermint would calm the ever-growing nauseous feeling in my stomach.
It is not an overstatement to say that I was becoming fearful. Not the outlandish, screaming, panic-y kind of fearful; even still, I began wondering how much jolting this aircraft was built to handle, and in my minds eye I created scenarios where I’d have to act heroically and make life-saving decisions if the plane were to go down.
Before it got too bad, however, and before anyone was reaching for the barf bag, we had broken through the clouds and when I looked out the window I saw a beautiful contrast. Above and beside us was nothing but blue skies…while below were the dark grey clouds we had left behind.
It’s amazing the perspective you have when you’re above the problems you were just facing.
So many times, however, we aren’t above our problems. We’re in the midst of them. Because of that, we allow them to create fear — a low-grade level of anxiety that sits at the pit of our stomach and the forefront of our minds. We begin creating scenarios in our head about the worst possible outcome. We rationalize that kind of thinking because, well…better to have a plan in case the worst happens.
All the while, if we’ll just lift our perspective so we can think above the stormy clouds, we’ll be able to see clearly. We’ll be able to right-size fear and put it in it’s place.
“Do not be afraid.”
God often reminds his people throughout Scripture of this command. And that’s what it is…a command. Each time these words find their way into the narrative, God is reminding someone that fear and anxiety, although real, must not define the reality of a Jesus-follower. There’s a better way, and God is there to help us experience it.
The task ahead of Joshua — to lead the Israelites after Moses passed — was daunting, to say the least. But God was there.
The story God was writing for Mary & Joseph was bizarre, difficult and confusing — but God was with them.
This four-word command from God doesn’t negate the fearful situations we find ourselves in…it simply offers us a better way to engage in those situations. We can meet the fear and anxiety when it comes, recognize it, and then immediately bring it to the more-powerful presence of God.
When our fears meet God’s presence, the feeling we get — the peace that passes understanding — will be like breaking through the clouds after experiencing some turbulence. Calm will surround you, and the fear will be below you.
Realizing God is with us enables us to rise above the clouds.