You know how it is when life throws you a tornado, and everything in your life starts flying around out of control, and your breath gets stuck in your throat, and anxiety and worry overwhelm? You know how that is?
I had that experience this past week. The week before, I spent 3 days in the hospital for a wobbly heart. Wednesday, I got a letter from the insurance company saying that they weren’t covering the stay because they didn’t think it was necessary. WHAM! Tens of thousands of dollars swam down the drain in front of my sickened eyes! I never saw it coming. It was like those winds and floods whipping through the country this past week, leaving a rash of destruction in their midst.
And here I am with this scripture: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of God’s power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
Now, as much as I would like to call the insurance company demonic, the very embodiment of corporate evil, I don’t think that’s the devil this scripture is talking about. No, I think the devil that tries to strike us down, that tries to keep us from the power of God is… Fear.
When our hearts are racing, trying to figure out how to make it all work out: and we forget to turn to God. When an unknown future looms high, and we don’t know how we can make tomorrow work: and we forget who we are, and Who we belong to.
We’re unemployed, and the mortgage is coming due. There’s a drug and alcohol problem in our family, and we feel ourselves losing control. Illness has come to one we love, and there’s nothing we can do to make it better.
And fear takes hold and tries to convince us that if we can’t fix it, the world will come to an end. And in our rational, in our faithful moments, we know that’s a lie. But in those whirlwind times… it’s hard to be rational, and it’s hard to be faithful.
But it is exactly at these times that we need to hear these words from Paul from Ephesians, spoken to each and every one of us in the whirlwind:
Put on the whole armor of God, so you can stand against this wily, demonic fear.
“Stand, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist:” When your stomach is roiling, wrap truth around your waist like a belt. The truth that everything is not dependent on you. The truth that there is a God who is with you, and will guide you through this time of swirling anxiety.
“Put on the breastplate of righteousness:” Cover your heart with what you know is good, and moral, and honorable. Don’t let mean or vengeful thoughts enter your inner being.
“For shoes, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace:” Whatever it takes- get as creative as you can as you’re tense with fear- to be able to find that still-small center of yourself that is peace. Walk- meditate- talk with a good friend- ask them to pray for you: Whatever it takes to find that still place within you.
“Take the shield of faith, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one:” Lean into the One that can hold you fast. Lean on that One. Trust in that One. Breathe deeply into that One.
“Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: “Fill your mind with those words of God you have read, you have heard, you have placed in your heart:
• 1 Timothy 1:17- God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind
• Psalm 23:4- Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.
• Psalm 27:1- The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?
• Romans 8:38-39- For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Fill your mind with those words, to drive out the sniveling words of fear.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. For in prayer God will speak to us the words which shall heal our troubled hearts; For in prayer, we can place our anxieties where they cannot hurt us.
It’s like that quote from George MacDonald: “How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource. We go to (God) because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”
What if, in the midst of the whirlwind of fear, we were to turn to God as our first, instead of our last, resource? When I was troubling about this week about my own fears, Jeanne Phelan told me to listen to a song called “The Break-Up Song.” It’s about breaking up with fear, and telling fear that it has no place in our lives.
“…Fear, you don’t own me/ There ain’t no room in this story/ And I ain’t got time for you/ Telling me what I’m not/ Like you know me- well guess what?/ I know who I am/ I know I’m strong/ And I am free/ Got my own identity/ So fear, you will never be welcome here…”
I got my own identity. Dear Ones, we know who we are. We are the deeply loved, dearly held children of the living God.
In the Name of the One who will never let us go, even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Scripture for Aug. 26, 2018 EPHESIANS 6:10-20
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of God’s power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you can stand firm against evil. Stand, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. For shoes, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Take the shield of faith, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.