February 11, 2014


There is a reason that angels are constantly telling people in the Scriptures to not be afraid.

Angels are scary.

But that's actually not the reason. See, Angels never came to people to say "hey, it's all good, just dropping in to say hi and maybe have a manna-wich with you." No, Angels always dropped in to deliver an important message that somebody was going to find very inconvenient. Take Mary, for example. She's got everything going right for her; good, normal family, engaged to a good guy (which was more rare than it should have been), and then bang, the angel drops in on her and says that her life is about to get insanely hard.

Don't be afraid.

Remember Solomon? He's just been made king and has just realized how far he is in over his head, and so when God approaches him in a dream, he's ready to ask God for one thing: wisdom. He didn't ask for money or fame or long life, but rather, the heart and mind to govern fairly and justly. Out of a place of fear, God basically says "don't be afraid, I'll give you what you need."

But I'm discovering that this one of the most dangerous prayers you can pray.

Solomon wasn't just zapped by God and became suddenly wise. If you spend the time and read through 1 Kings, you see that Solomon doesn't always make the best choices. He makes a lot of really good judgements, but then makes a lot of not so great choices; he gets himself a ton of wives and concubines (which I'd say was probably not a great idea). He ends up worshipping other gods, idols, even sticks. Yet at the end of his life, he's known as one of the wisest people who ever walked the face of the earth, and says things like, riches and fame are meaningless and that the best thing you can do is submit yourself to God. Ecclesiastes and much of Proverbs are attributed to his wisdom.

I can't help but think that these are connected somehow, that the hard things Solomon went through had a lot to do with his wisdom. Thomas Edison too - it took him over 10,000 tries before he built a working lightbulb. But we don't like that - ours is a culture that wants to know the outcome now. We don't like to wait, to sit in the desert of anticipation. When things happen in our lives that cost us, when God comes to us with change or what feels like bad news, we want to know what comes next right away.

We want to feel safe.

Which is why God says, don't be afraid. It's not going to feel safe, but it's going to be good. I'm in this, and regardless of what the outcome looks like, follow me. It might be painful, it might be hard, but the desert of the Cross is not the end of the story, it is only a defining moment in the middle ...

The end of God's story is victory, a Kingdom come here on earth, darkness turned to light, recreation and redemption. What if the desert in the middle of our stories was about something bigger than comfort, but was about finding meaning? People who stay comfortable don't learn, they don't grow, they don't transform. In fact, people who stay comfortable actually atrophy, and they will never know wonder or joy or true satisfaction. Our difficulties and trials and challenges and even our suffering - the desert - can be the makings of a journey into wisdom.

So don't be afraid.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. [James 1:3-5]

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