Contents: Bible Reading - Message - Prayers - “Puzzle” (for the child in us…)
One of the most common phrases in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”. And even when the phrase in all its various forms (for example, “Fear not, Take Courage”) are not directly quoted, there are many, many more instances where God, directly or through his people; seeks to bring strength and comfort to an anxious and/or fearful people. I have lifted some key words from the more popular statements by Jesus and Paul, and then also a clarifying statement by Paul…
- 24b “…how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:24b-26)
- 5b The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5b-7)
- 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11a Put on the full armor of God, 13b … so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… (Ephesians 6:10-11a,13b) (NIV)
I stumbled across this old tale called The Wee Wee Woman. Before I tell the story, I want to add an aside (no extra charge 😊). I don’t recall where I heard or read it, but apparently there has been growing concern over the dark message of children’s tales (especially as they are in their original form -- in which they were often much more dark and gruesome than our more modern sanitized versions) Why do we have to scare our precious children with such awful tales of dragons and monsters and powerful, evil people all kinds of unjust scary events? The answer, according to this unremembered source, is that it doesn’t take very long for even young children to discover on their own that the world is a hard place that is filled with “dragons and monsters and scary events.” The tales are relieving them that there are also dragon slayers, monster handlers, justice fighters and courage givers.
Having said that, this tale is rather mild. If told right, and you like that kind of thing (I don’t) it is ideal for nighttime campfire or cabin story-telling meetings for not too young children.
Once upon a time there was a wee wee woman who lived in a wee wee house. One night when she was in her wee wee bed, she heard a noise! So she crept out of her wee wee bed and lighted her wee wee candle. She looked under her wee wee bed. She looked under her wee wee table. She looked under her wee wee chair. There was nothing there.
So she blew out her wee wee candle and crept back into her wee wee bed. The wee wee woman closed her eyes. She was just going to sleep when -- she heard a noise! So she crept out of her wee wee bed and lighted her wee wee candle and crept down her wee wee stairs. She went into her wee wee sitting room. She looked under her wee wee table. She looked under her wee wee chairs. There was nothing there.
So she crept up her wee wee stairs, blew out her wee wee candle and crept into her wee wee bed. The wee wee woman closed her eyes. She was just going to sleep when -- she heard a noise! [read each phrase progressively more slowly and softly but with more intensity to build the suspense until the startling punch line [word at the end of the paragraph is reached] She crept out of bed. She lighted her candle. She crept down the stairs. She went into her wee wee dining room. She crept up to the table. She lifted the cloth. She peeped under. And out popped (pause for effect, then yell) -- BOO!
“Well, well,” said the wee wee woman, “think of that! To be frightened by nothing but boo.”
The complier of the book  in which I found this tale made this comment (paraphrased): that it teaches us that fear of the “noise in the night” is a very old and natural thing, and that things that go bump in the night are usually just “bumping around in our head” -- (they are not real threats). But what is most important is how we react.
Reaction Option 1 None
When Jesus and Paul tell us to not worry, they are not saying to bury our head in the sand and let “ignorance be our bliss”. We are not to pretend that no threat is ever real, to dismiss every threat as clanging noise and empty of any power. The wee lady didn’t simply roll over in bed and dismiss the unrecognizable noise. She screwed up her courage and investigated. We don’t simply ignore --
First, because it is not reasonable for God to expect us to not have an emotion (concern and fear) that he has wisely and lovingly built in to our human make-up for our own (individual or group) survival and protection -- a flooding of our system so we are prepared for “fight or flight”.
Second, the word “worry” that Jesus wants us to avoid is the same word that Paul uses and is translated above as “anxious”. Its connotation, I believe, is not referring to a “legitimate concern” about each negative event in our life and the lives of others. “Worry” can be a good thing when it motivates us to preventative actions or proper reactions (for example, righting wrongs or extending care).
Jesus and Paul’s concern is to not live a life of “paralyzing fear” that prevents us from preparing for and working through the threats and challenges of life because we are too afraid to face what we imagine may be “hiding under the table”. I once had a book called something like “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” and while I was too stressed to read much of it (🙄😉) the oversimplified upshot of it (in part) was that humans have learned to live with their fight/flight action constantly kicked in, whereas most animals flood their bodies with those chemicals only when there is a real and present danger.
Reaction Option 2 Replace
Both Jesus and Paul try to help us with our tendency to cross the line from helpful concern to self-destructive anxiety. Jesus reminds us that being anxious about things about which we have no control will not add anything productive to our life, and in the larger context of those verses, Jesus reminds us that God loves us, values us, knows what we need and has the power to care for us. Paul teaches us to remain on the helpful side of that line by prayer and petition and thankfulness and requests (and in the verses that follow, to dwell on things that are true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy -- the good side of life.
In this sense of keeping concerns healthy and motivating rather than debilitating and depressing, some have gone too far and developed a theology of passive fatalism. Based on God’s powerful love, care, and the control of “pre-determined micro-managed blueprinting of our lives from womb to tomb”, these people have removed the need to make personal responsible choices. They don’t take proper precautions in storms, or how they drive, or attempt to manage vices in their lives. In a sense, they put God to the test, as the devil did Jesus in the wilderness.
- 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:6-7)
They make him intercede in situations they could handle themselves with common sense. We need to follow Jesus example and faithfully do what we can -- to step away from the cliff instead of throwing ourselves over and expecting God to bail us out. Thus, Paul adds in Ephesians that we need to be spiritually prepared in/for days of evil and days of difficult challenges so that we can be strong in the Lord -- not by testing him, but by doing all we can do, including, he goes on to say -- praying “on all occasions…for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18)
The traditional tale isn’t clear, but if I could edit it, I would clarify that the wee lady didn’t simply screw up her courage and investigate, she also took all the precautions she could to protect herself from the unknown danger. We don’t simply blast in recklessly and expect God to “protect our feet” from any mishap -- we tread both courageously (not cowering in fearful concern) and carefully (not recklessly - oblivious to common sense and faithful (preventive) obedience).
With the calm assurance that comes from faith and trust in God’s goodness, we do our best to learn the truth of a situation (get our facts straight - neither inflating nor dismissing on the basis of rumors) without panic and then do all we can within our power to help prevent the worsening of a situation; and if possible, help create better circumstances. At the same time, we pray for those circumstances and for each other. An old saying sums it up -- pray like it is all up to God, and faithfully act like it is all up to you, confident that if you do what you can do, God will do what he can do - which is more than we can ask or imagine by his power that is within us. (See Ephesians 3:20)
Prayer The closing prayer is musical -- I Will Fear No More by The Afters. If you don’t have internet access, here are some of the lyrics:
Every anxious thought that steals my breath
It's a heavy weight upon my chest
As I lie awake and wonder what the future will hold
Help me to remember that You're in control
You're my courage when I worry in the dead of night
You're my strength 'cause I'm not strong enough to win this fight
You are greater than the battle raging in my mind
I will trust You, Lord
I will fear no more
If you have access, click on or copy and paste the link in your browser’s address:
Closing Blessing Mow may the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
1 Bennet, William J. (ed.), The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, (Simon and Schuster: New York, 1993) pp 445-446.
All Bible texts are from the New International Version.
Please Pray for
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Requests: Grace UMC, Albert Paine Memorial UMC, Community, Country, World, Military & Veterans, Missionaries Mark & Rebecca Smallwood, Un(der)employed, Alice, David Desparse, Jill Nissila, Pat Lanier, Jan Lubinski, Tim Wakeham, Sara & Don Peterlin, John and Marcelaine Lewis, Ashley Booth, Scott Seaman, Viola Hedin, Cara Lee Johnson, Brock, Ann Newman, Jim Winsor, Lavinia, Jerry & Nancy Smith, Sierra Jarvi & her mother Jen Palesari, Peyton (young child), Penny, Greg Van Heartesvelt Family, Marion, Lorraine Michaels, Boyne, Baily, Gary Hanson, Paula Ross, Dale Neimi, mom, Russ Alger, Jen’s aunt, John & Gayle Maloney, John Botto, Mike, John Bowen’s wife, Ron Winsor’s uncle Jack, Danny Wakeham, Pam, Rowan, Stella-Jay Calloway, Fred’s friend Mark L., Jordan Roe’s father, Andrea Johnson, June Jenkins, Jean Burich’s friend Karen, Ellie Zimmerman, Amira Rauvala, Ron Winsor, Jano Chappell Johnson, Mike, (Kerr’s) Clyde Huntoon, Mark Eschenburg, Barb Horton, Roger Samaro, Joshua Johnson family, Adam Plichta, Ted Hemmer, Fred Gaff’s aunt Bonnie, Michael McParlan, Jim Manderfield, Uncle Mike, Kelley Dutcher, Child Rylan Gibson, Debbie’s niece Monica, All with flu, Barb Koski, Sara’s co-worker Janice, Florence Burich, Baby Charlie Goke, Melissa Curtis and family, Jan Hinkle-shoulder surgery, Approaching Emmaus Walks, Debbie’s niece Danielle-breast cancer, Peachie’s niece and family-flu, Alexandra’s cousin Grace-hospitalized in early pregnancy, All travelers, Melanie Walls-hip surgery, Kathy Duncan-being tested for ALS, All of us who are impacted by or needing to deal with the Coronavirus in some way…
F/F = family and friends of * = praise