Hope in the Midst of Fear
“Have you ever seen someone in the grip of fear? It’s dreadful in a child, but even more dreadful in an adult: the staring eyes, the shivering like an animal, the pleading attempt to defend oneself. Fear takes away a person’s humanity. This is not what the creature made by God looks like—this person belongs to the devil, this enslaved, broken-down, sick creature.
But the human being doesn’t have to be afraid; we should not be afraid! That is what makes humans different from all other creatures. In the midst of every situation where there is no way out, where nothing is clear, where it is our fault, we know that there is hope, and this hope is called: Thy will be done, yes, thy will is being done. This world must fall, God stands above all, his thoughts unswayed, his Word unstayed, his will forever our ground and hope.”
D I E T R I C H B O N H O E F F E R
We approached the park near our home hoping to enjoy the last hour or so of sunlight before we put the kids to sleep. The very moment the playground came into sight, everyone dispersed in childlike freedom, yes adult and child alike ran free in the beautiful spring evening among our mostly European neighbors.
One of my teammates said “hey look, there are some covered women” and immediately my heart felt the giddiness of familiarity as I heard them speak in the Central Asian language of the people we were sent out to share the gospel with. But disappointment stung a little as they were gathering up their children and tricycles and appeared to be leaving the park. If I must be completely honest, part of me was actually relieved that it seemed as though I wouldn’t get the chance to engage these women this particular evening.
We are less than 3 months from being back in America for our first state side in 3 years. I am tired. I am feeling weary. I am constantly thinking of all I need to do – the packing; possibly selling our things; the cleaning; the complicated paperwork involved in wrapping up our time in Europe; the moving; the thought of flying back to America with 4 children, one being a young infant; and feeling the weight of ministry activities and meeting with friends. Yes, my plate feels so full at times that it feels paralyzing and well I guess you could describe it as “senioritis” as I see our term coming to an end.
Naturally, I am shy and easily embarrassed. I am an introvert who learned the skill of acting extroverted in my sorority days at university. Spiritual gifting tests say that I am a teacher and evangelism is not near the top of my list. But, despite my personality traits or my natural temperament which make it a struggle to strike up conversations with strangers and share the Good News, I believe the commands of Christ are to be obeyed by all believers. I suppose my lack of natural desire or feelings of adequacy at being an evangelist in a world where I function in 3 languages keeps me humble and dependent. Therefore, l continue trying to embrace my weaknesses through reliance on His grace, with the words of Paul never far from my thoughts…
“But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”
2 T I M O T H Y 4 : 5 , NLT
As the end of our first term approaches, I find that the fight in me to step outside of my comfort zone has become just a little bit harder. So as the covered ladies appeared to be leaving, I sighed in relief and thought “oh well” as I followed the kids around the playground.
But then everything changed.
After a few minutes of watching my kids whiz down the slide, I turned to my right and there, about 5 feet from me, was one of the covered ladies. She seemed unaware of my presence, and she was falling apart quickly. She yelled frantically for her son. She looked terrified and again let out an uninhibited yell for her child. I remember standing there looking at her sort of like a deer in the headlights because I was shocked by her panic – her fearful, hopeless, defeated panic. These covered ladies usually look so put together. Their head scarves are perfectly wrinkle free and carefully wrapped to conceal their hair. Their clothes match and well they just appear to have it all together. But what I realized in this brief moment, was that the Lord was allowing me a rare glimpse into the heart, the ever-broken, always hopeless heart.
When her screams returned void, she fell apart. Completely apart.
She started crying and shaking and she truly believed her son was gone.
“Say something” my mind told me. I don’t know if it was God or just me trying to bring myself out of the shocked daze I was in, but whatever it was, I knew I had to say something.
“Can I help you?” I remember asking her in her heart language.
She turned towards me and just stared in disbelief. She saw my white skin and light hair and she heard the language I was speaking to her and it took her a minute to wrap her mind around the fact that I was talking to her in her mother tongue. I put my arm around her and asked again. Just then she spotted her toddler as he had stepped out of the park and onto the street, headed who knows where. She screamed his name again and he finally came running.
The tears kept streaming down her cheeks as she was once again reunited with the son she was certain was gone.
I am not quite sure what came over me – perhaps it was the Holy Spirit at work – but I just started praising God, both telling Him thank you and saying the Lord is good in her language. It was a moment of uncharacteristic boldness that I really had no control over.
And I had never felt so alive.
She and I made small talk about why I knew her language, why I was living in Europe, and about how I had once lived in Central Asia. She eagerly asked for my phone number and said she wanted to see each other again. Numerous cheek kisses later, we parted ways.
Later that night, we were texting and she told me how my warmth had made her very emotional. It wasn’t that I really did anything out of the ordinary – I didn’t share a story from the Bible or talk about theology – I was simply put in the right place at the right time by the sovereign hand of God and I was nothing more than a vessel of Christ’s love that said something. This world is starving for love. And when the love you extend is true fruit of the Spirit dwelling within your soul, the loveless ones know immediately.
I will never forget the fear I saw in this woman.
And as quickly as the whole situation unfolded and was over, my mind’s eye saw a foreshadowing to the panic and hopeless fear her beautiful face will be overcome with when her vapor of a life is over and she stands before the Ancient of Days.
It makes me shudder to imagine.
It helps me remember every last day here before we leave is full of potential and I must not grow weary in doing good.
It makes my stomach drop and fans the flame within me to share the Source of my hope with her. Because really, hope is everything. Forward-gazing hope that realizes the brevity of time on earth changes you. When you realize that you may suffer the entire span of your life, yet there will be an absolute end to that suffering when the perfect comes and the imperfect passes away, you react to fear differently. You grieve differently; you sorrow differently; you love differently; you live differently. You understand that God sees all and knows all and that He is always good. And even if your toddler wanders away from the park and you never see him again….or even if your mother dies or you bury a child…or even if ISIS beheads the love of your life, nothing, I repeat nothing can pluck you from the Father’s hand. Even the darkest depression or the most traumatic experience cannot separate you from the love that is in Christ Jesus. This forward-gazing hope I speak of expects. It isn’t wishful thinking, but rather a firm foundation that frees the heart of His beloved to sing with certainty through every storm. This truth, this resolve to believe that God is good and that God is for us and with us, turns the fear we feel in a moment of crisis into feelings of fear that are never stronger than the steady and secure hope that anchors our souls. After all, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but rather a sound mind that knows we are on the winning side. This hope emboldens us and produces an overcomer who can truly say to live is Christ and to die is gain.
His will, although painful at times, is our ground, our hope, and our freedom.
My new friend from the park does not know what it’s like to have a moment of panic soothed by the promises of God. She doesn’t know there is a all-sustaining grace blocked by her unbelief in the One who knit her together in her mother’s womb. She doesn’t know that the weekly Quran classes she takes her son to at the mosque are empty lies from the devil.
She doesn’t have hope. But I do. And through the Lord’s crossing of our paths, possibility was born.
Please pray for our friendship. We have since then met at the park and she has introduced me to her friend who is another covered, Muslim woman. These ladies have added me to a text group where they want to write each other and meet up and talk while our kids play at the park. Please pray that I will finish this term strong and that the Lord would give me the language ability and boldness to proclaim who He is to these beautiful ladies who need Him.