What It Means to Resist Fear
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand"
As we enter the season of Advent, I am keenly aware of the challenge that being a person of faith is today. Sometimes I hear non-theist people say things like, “Well, it’s harder for me without a religion I can fall back on in times of struggle and terror”, and my mind instantly goes two completely different directions. One part of me says, “Yea, my trust in God is a huge part of what gets me through.” Another part of me, though, screams, “You think trusting in a God of justice and mercy is easy?? You think putting faith in the power of peaceful non-violence, when confronted with the injustice, the suffering, and the systems of empire operating in our lives on Earth, is easy? I don’t think you’ve thought this through…”
No, being a person of faith is often a struggle, sometimes a great one. At times I can find myself in a period of calm productivity, and God’s hand is clearly on my life. At other times, especially when physical pain, social turmoil, and financial anxiety intersect, trusting in the God-at-work is a minute-by-minute commitment. The evidence for God’s mercy and justice can be scant, even non-existent, and my will to follow the “high road” starts to erode. These are the times when simple platitudes seem the most naïve, when words of comfort ring the most hollow, and when the temptation to lash out, to seek control, or to run away become strongest.
Many of you know exactly what I am talking about, some much more deeply than I know myself. And many of you also know about turning the corner, about making it through when you couldn’t go around. As pastor, I have had the honor of witnessing to amazing stories of faith through profound adversity, right here in this congregation. It is these experiences, not the sayings or teachings of the faith, that have given me the courage to trust that God will surely go with me, as Isaiah declares.
The struggle of faith is a struggle against hopelessness, both personal and social. It is the commitment to the position that this matters, that life matters, that people matter, despite what it might look or feel like at any given moment/season/year of our lives. It is a willingness to resist fear and reach out, trusting that goodness and mercy are stronger than empire.
In this season of waiting, we will reflect together on what it means to resist fear in these trying times. We will wrestle with what it means to claim hope, peace, joy, and love in the midst of this season of increasing darkness and cold. And we will gather together, awaiting the Light of God, which promises to break into our world. Above all else, we will trust that no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, we are in this together.
In Peace and with Love,