“Fear Not,” Said Daddy

The day was clear and the sun was shining; all seemed perfect for a family outing at the amusement park! To me, there was no better place in all the world to just enjoy being seven years old.

We quickly got our tickets and, with me way ahead of my brothers, sisters, and parents, we entered my “perfect world.” I ran first to the race cars, then the airplanes, the boats, the water flume – all the rides that were just my size. For one with so much enthusiasm for adventure, it was almost overload!

After about an hour, my parents led me to what they said would be the “most fun of all.” As I stared up at the monstrous creature before me, tears filled my eyes! My “perfect world” no longer seemed so perfect and my enthusiasm all but vanished.

“Come on, honey,” Daddy shouted, “You’ll love it!”

“I can’t, Daddy! I just can’t!” I cried, “It’s too big, too fast! I’m just a little girl!”

“You can do this…But I’ll let you make that choice; wait for us here while we go,” he said as they all ran excitedly up the ramp and towards the enormous roller coaster.

I sat on the bench with my head in my hands and cried, not only because I was having to wait alone and I wanted to not be afraid but also because I knew how disappointed Daddy would be in his little girl. He knew my love for trying new things so I’m sure he was surprised when I stood resolute. I’m also sure his heart broke a little when he saw my tears falling.

But my daddy knew this moment in time was bigger than what loomed before me; he knew it was an opportunity to teach and to train. And it was the way he raised us – taking those teachable moments wherever they arose.

So, when they all got off and were getting in line again, he tried once more to convince me. “You don’t have to be afraid; I’ll be right there beside you.” But I stayed firmly planted on the bench while everyone else ran back around for the second time with smiles and laughter.

As Daddy got in line for the third time, he felt a tug at his shirt.   Looking down, he saw me staring up at him with a cautious smile.

“I’ll go, Daddy, if you’ll sit beside me.” I barely got the words out when it was time to board the ride.

Eyes closed tightly, hands gripping the safety bar, I snuggled close to him as the ride started off with a jolt. We were sent soaring, higher and faster. Slowly my eyes opened a little at a time.  It was terrifying but so much fun.

This little girl who loved adventure, climbing, and proving she could do what the big kids could do and love it, was in her element. But first I had to face my fear.

Too soon it came to an end and we had to get off. I ran to the end of the line and, with great boldness, declared, “If you don’t mind, Daddy, I think I’ll ride alone this time!”

And sitting in the very first car all by myself, eyes wide open, and with a great big grin on my face, I was off on the first of many wild roller coaster rides without my daddy.

In fact, it was just the beginning of a lifetime of “facing my fears,” one of those life lessons my dad brought home to my heart over and over again.

Most of my life, if I said I was too unsure or afraid to do something, his immediate response would be, “Then you need to do it!”  And when I would tell him of an experience where I had to put that encouragement into action, I could see his smile and hear his joy through his words, “That a girl!”

In the moments when he was there at bedtime and we would be making up stories and talking about the day, in the opportunities when we would be driving in the car on a quick errand or a long trip, he would remind me that we face our fears – every time – because we don’t want fear to cast a shadow over our lives, we don’t want to miss opportunities, and we can know that, because we are His, God is with us, bigger than our fears.  He would remind me that I could face the impossible because He is bigger than the impossible. He would remind me that the scary things of life can be and should be faced knowing God can be trusted to walk with us and give us the courage to do or to endure.

The roller coaster was one of the first of many “face your fears” moments in my life. But it wasn’t the biggest nor the last.

Sometimes I have risen to the occasion and sometimes my fear has caused me to “stay firmly planted on the bench.” And always, I heard and still hear my daddy’s voice, “You can do this…I’ll be right here beside you.” And, while I know my dad has not been right beside me in each of those moments, I have known his encouragement and have always known that my Abba Father, God who is my tender heavenly Daddy, is indeed right here with me.

I hear the voice of my Heavenly Father say, “Fear not…”

I’m thankful that my dad began to instill this truth of God in my heart that day and, as I grew, he brought it back to Who gave him the courage to face his fears – though it was sometimes hard to imagine that the man who pushed the limits on adrenaline pumping experiences and new challenges had any fear. His confidence began with the One who walks us through adventures and valleys, thrills and incredibly stifling places, strong, healthy bodies and those broken and racked with evidence of the curse.

And, I’m thankful that, in some of his last days here on earth before he stepped into eternity where, for those redeemed by the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection, fear is extinguished forever, before the God he loved and proclaimed, I was able to spend time by his side.

And I had the privilege and joy of speaking that truth to him, his once strong body and sound mind now frail, “You’ve told me all my life and I’m going to remind you now, Daddy: You don’t have to be afraid. I’m right here for now, holding your hand. But, most of all, Jesus is right here with you walking you through it all. Our God has told us, ‘Fear not…’ Hold on to and keep your eyes on Him!”

He looked at me through tired but still twinkling eyes, with that winsome, crooked smile that was uniquely my Dad’s and whispered, “It’s good to know I was heard; I guess I’m getting it back now. And that is good.”

Thank you for giving it in the first place, Daddy. Thank you for pushing me to step out beyond my fears as a little girl and also as a young woman, and, in the frightening moments not to look at the circumstances. Thank you for reminding me to look at Jesus.

You have no fear any longer, Daddy; I’ll see you when God calls me home and, in that moment and in the meantime, I’ll remember not to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!” Isaiah 41:10

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…for I am the Lord your God…do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Isaiah 43

“…do what is right and do not fear anything that is frightening.” I Peter 3:6

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“You can grieve for me the week before I die, if I’m scared and hurting, but when I gasp that last fleeting breath and my immortal soul flees to heave, I’m going to be jumping over fire hydrants down the golden streets, and my biggest concern, if I have any will be my wife back here grieving. When I die, I will be identified with Christ’s exaltation. But right now, I’m identified with His affliction.” RC Sproul

1998 Dad and Me

“It is Finished” Began at Christmas, Remembered

“Peace on earth; good will towards men.”  A proclamation and a promise.

But so many things threaten to undo our peace.

Intermittently, circumstances and the pace of life chip it away.  Sometimes it is sin committed against us; while at other times, our own sin unconfessed.  Sometimes we grieve loss of various kinds in a world turned upside down; broken relationships or death that takes one we love far from us.  And sometimes we watch or are the prodigal sprinting to a supposed “safe place,” a place of assumed comfort, only to find it is anything but calm. And sometimes it’s obedience in a long direction.  But, though that “delayed obedience” may take a winding path, when it ultimately returns to the Truth, the enemy of our souls cringes. And sometimes it is loving unbelievers bent on denying the reality of Christ or believers who confess the name of Jesus but think and live like it makes no difference; yet we do not compromise our words or actions to appease in order to make one “feel” better;  but, unashamed, we speak truth out of a great love for them and for our Savior so they will “know the hope!”

And a tremble can be felt.

We are setting holiness in motion; allowing God to reign and work.  The enemy of our souls can wound our spirit, make us uncomfortable, insert sadness, stoke discouragement, or prompt tears.

But He cannot destroy us.

We can have rest.

“The weary world rejoices” and so can we as we set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”and not let the lies penetrate our soul; all because of the our God penetrating the darkness and coming in flesh on that holy night! Pain is real but so is the Savior who has promised peace for the brokenhearted, a way of return for the runner, rest for the weary.

And even sin does not have to separate any further.   No, we don’t always follow perfectly, but we are in this world to be Christ’s image bearers, light shining in this generation, and we have been given the power to overcome and to grow in that likeness.   When we fail (and we will), we can run to the Savior and humbly go to those we have wounded or sinned against and make it right.  We can admit to those who have witnessed our failure and cynically thought, “Well, there you go – I see there’s really no difference in a follower of Christ” that we have failed and so need the Redeemer but also that  we do live as one being changed by the transforming grace of God.  For the difference is not in us; it’s in our Savior.

We have not only the obligation but the privilege of laying it down and reminding the watching ones that our hope is in Jesus and our desire is to become more like Him daily, to increasingly want His will not ours, and to understand and live out the beauty of His holiness a little more with each passing day and year.  And by His grace, we have that One who forgives us, picks us up, embraces us, brushes us off, then sends us out to “go and sin no more.”  We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior! (paraphrased from John Newton)

And so, in the moments, there are times we will have a settledness in our souls and others when restlessness will haunt us; but, for the follower of Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God through the finished work of His Son, who came as babe on a silent night, crashing through the barrier between those who bear His image and our three times holy God, devastating death there on the cross with “Tetelestai” – “It Is Finished!”  The condemnation of our sin is paid for, defeat by discouragement has been decimated, and we, who long for the Savior’s return, keep “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” so that we are growing deeper in His truth and in His love, able to enter that respite and “shake off our fears.”

And it all began on that not so silent night!

We long for His return even when we feel too attached to this world.

“Peace on earth; good will towards men.”  A proclamation and a promise. The now and the not yet!  Gazing on the babe in the manger, we remember what was to come – His finished work on the cross and His resurrection to life!  And we await our soon and coming King once more!

This is Christmas!  The longing for Jesus to break through darkness and discouragement, hold us near to His heart, and equip us to rest even when circumstances cause our spirits to sometimes faint, even falter!

Christopher West says it well, reminding us of the reality of hope we find even in our weariness:  “This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

And Emmanuel has come.  It is finished!

Cries of the Heart

There are times we cry.

Yes, we long for and delight in tears of joy, but what of the moaning of the heart?  Tears may be tender and quiet; at other times they come almost violently, physically draining – weeping of deep sorrow.  The grieving may come from the physical pain of illness, loss of life, the betrayal of a friend or a loved one, the death of a dream, watching a loved one wrestle and drift, the waiting that does not fit our time table, or a myriad of other reasons.

Great joy does not always exclude sorrow.  There are times my greatest joy has come from my deepest sadness and loss when it meant that God had torn away something that was not for my ultimate best.  At other times, the profound sorrow led to a deeper understanding of and dependence on my tender Savior.  He has often turned my “mourning into dancing.”  (Psalm 30:11)

Seasons of life have arisen when my own compromise with that which I know God had called me to or away from was made to extend my comfort.  But no lasting comfort, satisfaction, or pleasure comes from being the prodigal – either running to the far country or just outside the walls of His protection.  Tears that flow from leaving behind something that was not His best or was totally contrary to His heart are dried in the reality of the sure hope that my God knows what is the most excellent path for me and will bring it to completion if I will just surrender and trust.  His course may not always be easy, but it is, ultimately, the most pleasant.  It may not come with immediate relief, but He does promise the “still rest” as we remain steadfast waiting for our faith to become sight.  And, oh that amazing view!  But even if it never becomes sight this side of heaven, it will be worth the surrender of my will.

The cries of the heart often stem from the longings with which we were created and which, when fulfilled, will be satisfied – but only partially here.   As glorious, pleasing, and satisfying as they are now and will be in this life, they are only dim reflections of things we cannot even imagine!  They are gifts that delight from the hand of our good and gracious God, intended to point us to a greater love, a grander gift, a deeper joy!

“Now we see through a glass dimly…but then we will see (clearly) face to face…now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  (I Corinthians 13:12)

Will I allow the cries of my heart to be dried by the hand of my Redeemer and King as I rest in the hope of a greater promise?

“And in Your hands the pain and hurt look less like scars and more like…character.” -Sara Groves