When I was almost 14 my uncle died tragically in a car accident. My family had just returned home from celebrating Christmas with my grandparents when we got the call to come back for a much less happy reason.
I don’t remember a whole lot about that trip, other than sleeping with my great-grandmother, her homemade noodles and stewed tomatoes. I remember sitting at the funeral home with my sisters when my grandmother sat down with us and said, “Girls, I want you to see something. Your uncle had only 3 pictures in his wallet when he died.” She opened his wallet to show us the three pictures were our most recent school photos.
Then I remember the family dinner after the funeral. I can still picture the room and the long tables. I chose a seat on the end of one of the long rows, my sisters soon joined me and we began eating. Then one of my other uncles came to sit down right across from me. He lifted a spoon of mashed potatoes, leaned across the table towards me and said in a hoarse whisper, “Hey! Do you want to have a food fight?”
And I trembled with fear. Not because he was a scary uncle, but deep inside I really, really wanted to have that food fight but I knew I would be killed if I indulged in any shenanigans.
That was the last conversation I remember having with this uncle. Until yesterday. Yesterday afternoon I called him. We chatted for the first time in 35 years. I am still reveling in it and am giddy with joy.
After that conversation, I did as most people do when something or someone touches them deeply, I thought on it. I relived it. And in my reliving the conversation, Jesus began speaking to my soul.
“Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. And you shall have plenty to eat and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; then My people will never be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-26 nsab
He spoke of restoration. Of replenishing and replacing. Of blessing after losing. This is what Naomi experienced. She fled Bethlehem to escape the famine, but the Lord came back and visited His people and gave them food. He blessed them. He restored them.
“Do not fear…rejoice and be glad, for the LORD has done great things.” Joel 2: 21 nasb
Life changes. Jesus changes life. Changes bring fear–it’s a natural occurrence. Even good changes. We are often comfortable with something hard, difficult, and even painful because it is what we know and it’s familiar. We know what to expect. We are terrified of the pain but at least we know the pain. Changes bring a different fear and a different pain. Change is scary because we don’t know what it will look like or how to act and we often fear losing our identity in the change. We identify with what scares us. It is who we are.
We are called and commanded to not give way to fear. We are commanded to rejoice with exceedingly great joy. This means we’re to jump up and down for joy. Fear and this type of joy–or any joy really–cannot co-exist. They are like light and darkness, oil and water, good and evil.
We cannot be fearfully glad or gladly fearful.
Fear equals an absence of trust. Gladness equals the uncompromising presence of trust in the face of fear.
Fear is the antithesis of trust and gladness. We cannot trust what we fear, but choosing to rejoice and choosing to trust in the face of fear drives out fear.
Fear is a very driving emotion. It drives us places and leads us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. Our actions become irrational and we behave in ways that shame us. We live out the truth of Romans 7. Everything we don’t want to do, we do. And everything we want to do, we don’t do. Fear always brings a reaction and not a response. Fear always hides.
Grace, Joy and Gladness expose. Fear cowers in the face of true Jesus-Joy. Joy will always triumph over fear when we, in faith, choose to trust ourselves to the Father.
Give in to fear and Joy flees. Give way to Joy and fear dies.
I don’t know about you, or where this hits you today. But it hits me hard. Fear is something I’ve struggled with throughout my life. I’ve lived it. I’ve shared it. I’ve given into it.
But Jesus brings a different way. A better way. A way of trust. And Hope. And Joy. The choice is ours.
Will you make the choice?