I can remember being one of lead climbers on a high ropes course in the Costa Rican cloud forest. One of the students was trying to make it across something called “the x-rope.” Even though she had two lines attached to her harness, she thought she was going to fall. She desperately clung to the ropes, immobilized by fear. She thought she was going to die. Fear had overthrown her ability to listen. We calmly tried to instruct her, but to no avail. The only way to help her was to go out and get her.
I will never forget that experience. As I made my way out to her, I calmly talked to her. I clipped her to my harness and began to carry her across the rope. I was holding her in one arm and climbing with the other.
She was terrified. She was kicking and screaming, “He’s going to kill me!” I tried to calmly reassure her and slowly and gently carry her, but she was in full panic mode. She was hooked to four lines and had no chance of falling. However, in her mind she thought she was hanging by a thread 75 feet above the ground, and could fall at any moment. Moving across an x-rope is hard enough. Moving across an x-rope while carrying a person who is fighting every move you make is exhausting! It seemed like an eternity before we got to the platform. Even on the safety of the platform, it took a lot of comforting to calm her down.
Don’t we do the same thing with God? A crisis comes up, and we go into full panic mode. When we lose our job we panic: “How am I going to pay the bills? Am I going to have to move? How will this impact the family? I feel like such a failure. How am I going to find a job in this economy?” When a loved one dies, we feel lost without them, and wonder how we are going to carry on. When a relationship ends, we are devastated. We don’t know how to move forward. When conflicts arise at home or work, we go into a shell or become defensive and lash out.
We forget Psalms 46:1, which tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of trouble.” God is watching over us. He’s got us.
As I look back on my life, there have been times I have acted like I was dangling from a thread. I have been in full panic mode. I have lashed out and let fear control me. I have hurt those I loved. Meanwhile, God was right there, bringing me to safety.
How do we miss God presence? Our focus is on the wrong place. That day on the high ropes course, if the girl would have listened and trusted me, she could have seen the help I was providing. But her fear took over.
Likewise, when a crisis hits our lives, we panic. We may cry out to God for help, but we don’t listen. Do we really believe God is our refuge and strength? Do we truly believe he is present?
I confess that even as a pastor there have been times I have intellectually espoused these propositional truths but struggled to live them out. Our Christian faith is not merely an intellectual exercise. God allows these crises to enter our lives so we can more deeply participate in his drama of redemption. God wants us to stop fighting him and trust him.
That doesn’t mean that we go into denial and pretend everything is okay. Our fear and pain are real. God doesn’t deny that, nor should we. We need to follow the Psalmist’s example and openly bring our pain and fear to God. Jesus encourages us to come him when we are burdened and he will give us rest (Matt. 11:28).
As the Apostle Paul writes in Roman 8:31, “If God is for us who can be against us?” But like the girl on the x-rope, we often focus on the fear rather than on the one who saves. Are you currently crippled by fear? Bring it to the one who can handle your fear and pain. God’s got you.
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