Pastoral Perspectives

When I am Afraid

When my kids were younger, they learnt a song. They taught me the song. The words of the song goes like this:

“When I am afraid I will trust in you, I will trust in you
When I am afraid I will trust in you, for You are my Saviour and my Lord.

We sang that song when they were afraid of something or when they were afraid to go to sleep. With that song ringing in their ears, they would slowly drift to sleep, knowing that God who neither sleeps nor slumbers is watching over them.

As they grew older and became more aware of the things surrounding them, we needed more than a song to calm their fears and anxieties. We spent more time answering their questions to which we did not have many answers. We spent more time explaining about the character of God and how as believers, we can trust God and His Word which was given to us.

Then the pandemic came. We still have no answer to the many whys. Every night as we pray for church members, there are questions as to why good people in church have cancer. Then there are questions about the ongoing war in Ukraine. “Are there Christians in Russia and Ukraine? Who will God help? Why are they killing each other?”

As a parent, I have my own fears and anxieties too. Not only do I have my own fears, I also hear of other people who are fearful of the pandemic and the uncertainty cast by the war. We find ourselves in uncertain times; in unknown territory.

In Psalm 56, David finds himself in unknown territory and he was afraid too! What was he afraid of? He was fleeing from King Saul and finds himself right into the arms the Philistines, Israel’s enemy! In times of crisis, we may find ourselves running from one thing to another.

But David puts his trust in the Lord. Ps 56: 3-4 says,

“When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mortal man do to me?”

As war continues to rage in Ukraine, we hear and read about different countries reacting to the situation. Many people from all over the world are calling for the nations to do more so that the war would cease. Where is our trust? Some trust in the military might of Russia. Some trust in the US, NATO and some in weapons. Isaiah 31:1 reminds us that reliance on horses (perhaps missiles, guns, tanks, nations, sanctions) is a futile mission.

“Alas for those who go down to Egypt for help
and who rely in horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!”

We can take courage in knowing that our God is not confined to one nation or weapons. He is the Lord of hosts who reigns forever and ever. Exodus 15:3-6,18 reminds us:

“The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;
his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power—
your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy…
The Lord will reign forever and ever”

We have mighty God in whom we can put our trust and hope. Even when we cannot understand or see the future, like King David, we can put all our fears and anxieties into the Lord’s hand because God is still at work. When I was very anxious and afraid, I prayed this prayer written by Walter Brueggemann.

You Who Casts Out Fear

You are the God from whom no secret is hid, and so we tell before you our great fear:
We have fear down to our toes because of the danger of the COVID-19` virus;
We have fear up to our ears from violence all around us;
We have fear for the fragility of our economy and our place in it;
We have fear for the threats our democracy faces;
We have fear before the surge of too many immigrants among us;
We have fear that causes us loss of sleep;
We have fear that skews our vision and distorts our judgment.

We know that fear is contagious; it passes among us; it flows from issue to issue, and our negative adrenalin is magnified.
Our fear evokes our worst selves and summons us to shriveled demeaned, and demeaning lives.
But then You! You as perfect love;
             You who crowds in against our deep fears:
Cancel our fears!
Veto our anxiety;
Nullify our uneasiness!

O perfect love, cast out our fear; Cast out our parsimony,
                        that we may become generous in self-giving,
                        that we may gladly risk more and more of who we are
                        and what we have.

O perfect love, cast out our fear; cast out our anger,
                        that we may become more forgiving,
                        that we may more readily transform circumstances of
                       threat into venues for shared wellbeing.

O perfect love, cast out our fear; cast out our guarded isolation,
                       that we may be more welcoming of the “other” in our midst,
                       that we may be more accepting of those unlike us.

O perfect love, we turn to you so that we are not eaten alive by our fear.
   In your presence we move toward fearlessness;
                       let us be fearless in our generosity;
                       let us be fearless in our forgiveness;
                       let us be fearless in our hospitality.

Let us put ourselves down in your deep embrace that holds us closely,
            along with all those whom you love.
We pray in the fearless name of Jesus. Amen.

God delivered King David from the hands of the Philistines by helping him escape to the cave of Adullam (1 Sam 22:1). When I am afraid, fearful, and anxious I will be singing King David’s song and praying this prayer all over again.

Pr Loliro Sani

March 13, 2022