Mortality. People don’t like to dwell on it, yet there is an endless stream of books, movies, products, and information hurled regularly our way on the subject of immortality. This is how we know death and aging is more prominent in our thoughts that we care to admit.
Even those of us with the assurance of Christ, redemption, salvation, and eternal life are fixated on death, and when and how it will happen to us. Especially when we find ourselves or a loved one in a potentially dangerous or life-threatening situation, such as war, cancer or other terminal illness, frequent travel, high risk careers, and so on. Or perhaps we just lost our job and are no longer certain where we will get the money to buy food or pay bills. We cannot help but worry, fret, fear, and express concern in these situations. Often, and rightfully so, we pray and get others involved in prayer as well as community outreach and support.
But where does God stand in the midst of all our anxieties?
Psalms 139:23 says “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties” (NKJV)
Matthew chapter 8:23-27 (NIV) tells the story of Jesus calming the storm:
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
In thinking about just these two portions of scripture, the one thing I believe is important to pull out of them is that God already knows. Not only does He know in advance my anxious thoughts, He knows my circumstance. As an Omniscience God, He is all knowing. As an Omnipotent God, He is all powerful. As an Omnipresent God, He is always present. It is because of this that I believe our Lord said what He did to His disciples (“you of little faith”). He has a right to expect those who pray in His name or call upon Him to have that underlying confidence that our life is in His hands. He’s got us!
Let that thought sink in a little. Now combine it with other thoughts, like how He knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11), He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30), He knows when a sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29), has engraved us in the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:16), has written in His book all the days ordained for our lives (Psalms 139:16), and more. How is it even possible then for those of who are us in Christ to fret, knowing all that? And yet somehow, we do.
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not what you would call a “Calvinist”, believing that man has no choice in the matter. That is not me. What I am saying is, God knows these things, and as we are yielded to Him, is able to impact them. He knows the choices I will make. He knows the number of days I will live. He knows the plans He has for me and the purposes He wants to accomplish through me. He KNOWS.
I am not sure what this speaks to you, but let me tell you what it speaks to me. To me, this means that I do not have to fear my mortality. I don’t have to fear death. When my eyes are focused on Him, and my confidence rests securely in Him, then it does not matter to me if I have just been pronounced with cancer. It doesn’t matter that I currently reside in a war zone. It doesn’t matter that I have just lost my job or find myself in the middle of a storm. Like Jesus, I can sleep (have peace, rest) in the middle of any or all of that KNOWING that one of these days I will indeed die – but NOT BEFORE all the days He has ordained for me have been accomplished. Even if the odds are against me, the odds do not see the angel armies standing by waiting for His command if this particular moment is not my time or my way to die. And if it so happens to be my moment, my time, then I know His purpose for me has been accomplished, and I have lived every moment He intended for me to live. And I am OK with that.
That is how Jesus was able to sleep on the boat during the raging storm. He knew his mission on this earth didn’t include him dying on that lake. Remember, He may have been all God but He was also all man. He knew because He was One with His Father, and in tune with the Father’s purpose. That is His prayer for us as well, to be One with Him, and to be One with the Father.
Think about the young man who always wanted to be a soldier. He may not yet fully understand that it was God who planted that desire in his heart and opened the doors for him to fulfill this dream. But here he is, on this field, and the battle is raging. Psalms 23 is going through his head… “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me…”. He gets shot at but lives are saved and he lives to tell the story another day. Why? Because it would not have mattered at that moment if he was in his back yard picking flowers or on the battlefield dodging bullets. His trust was completely in Christ His Savior, and that was not his day to die.
To bring it home to a more personal story, I think about my own mother. She’s pictured on this post with my brother, who was about to take her out on his jet ski. I love this picture because you can see in her face that she has complete confidence in my brother, and is set to have a good time.
When mom first learned she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, her prognosis was not good. The doctors did not expect her to live much longer, maybe a year if she was “lucky”.
At the time she was reading a small book called “The Butterfly Effect”.
“How significant is my life”, the book asks? “Do I make a difference? Do I really matter”?
In 1963, Edward Lorenz presented a hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science. In summary, his theory was that if a butterfly flapped its wings on one side of the earth, it would set into motion things capable of starting a hurricane on the other. He was literally laughed out of the conference, and for decades the so-called “butterfly effect” was the staple of science fiction. So imagine their surprise when more than 30 years later, Physics Professors world-wide came to the conclusion the butterfly effect was accurate!
The book goes on to address the questions I mentioned with a story of how one man, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, by one action, impacted the world as we know it. In conclusion, the message to the reader is that everything you do matters!
From that moment, mom took that to mean her cancer was an assignment from the Lord, and as a result, she would be placed in the path of people she may never have otherwise met. Cancer or not, she was prepared to make a difference, an impact, and it would not be the first time.
Mom lived a full two years after her initial diagnosis. Our Lord knew the plans He had for her, and He knew all the days He had given her to accomplish them. And that she did!
I hope this somehow encourages you in your walk of faith, to live in confidence and not fear. Be at rest, God’s got your back!