The Fear of God

This morning before I walked into church I heard news of the suicide bombing in Pakistan. As of this writing, the dead number 72 and hundreds more were injured. The majority of the victims were parents and their children, celebrating Easter in a park.

In recent months the world has witnessed attack after attack. Targeted terrorism and senseless violence shake us on a daily basis. People are living in fear. As I sat in church this morning my heart was heavy, and as I thought about the fear pervading our atmosphere, my thoughts drifted to Jesus before he was to be arrested and crucified:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

As with any passage of scripture, many interpretations of these words exist, but to me, the truth seems obvious. Jesus was scared. Humiliation, torture, separation, and death were waiting for him, and his very human response was fear.

I thought about those around the world who are filled with fear. The newly orphaned. Fathers and mothers who are reaching for children that are no longer there. Separated brothers and sisters. Those who have been forced to flee their homes and risked their lives only to be met with closed doors at best, and more often hateful rejection. I thought about all who are looking at frightful futures where the only certainty is pain; those who must surely be praying”Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me”.

Christ was afraid. Jesus wept. These feelings are not shameful. They are not wrong. They do not stem from a lack of faith. Jesus finished his prayer with the words “yet not my will, but yours be done”. His faith was certain even when his fear was not. And Gods will was done, and it meant great pain. The death of Jesus must have felt like such senseless violence to his friends, his mother, his brothers and sisters. They too, must have been filled with fear and loss.

The beauty of the Gospel is the resurrection. To me, that goes beyond Christ’s triumph over death. The beauty of the resurrection is God making sense of the senseless. As Jesus’ friends and family were filled with grief and confusion and despair, God spoke purpose into their pain. There must have been such great relief in knowing that there was reason behind the chaos, a plan within the suffering. Senseless suffering breaks the spirit, but we are often willing to endure great trials when we know the purpose of our pain.

As we continue to walk through testing times, I’d like to offer up a reminder that Jesus knew what it was to be afraid. He too, lifted his head to the sky and prayed in anguish, “God, take this pain from me”. We have the freedom to lift up prayers of sorrow, of pain, of heartbreak and rage. And if we can find the strength to end those prayers with the faith to surrender, “yet not my will, but yours be done”, there is peace to be found. As we continue to look for answers for the tragedy surrounding us, there is hope to be found in God’s promise of resurrection. Peace will overcome violence, love will overcome hate, life will overcome death, and God will make sense of the senseless. That is the Gospel.


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