There are times when moving forward is not enough. There are times when you can’t just change what you do, how you speak and how you think about things. Sometimes, you have to change who you are. You need to pick both feet off the ground and leap.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Quantum Leap”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
And while the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it’s seems it would be easier sometimes to change the past.
I keep thinking about the victims of the Aurora, Colorado theater shootings. I’m sure some of the people who were there, some of the wounded, some of those who died, were probably religious. Some of them probably had faith. Some of them probably loved God. Did those people have no fear in the dark, choking on whatever gas the shooter released into the air, hearing the gunshots, the screams of the victims, seeing the blood. Were they not afraid because they had faith?
People get hurt, we get sick, we’re afraid, we sometimes cry. Doesn’t God understand that? If the writer of the FFOZ commentary is right, then every time a person of God feels fear, they are experiencing faithlessness. They are experiencing a total, catastrophic failure in their faith, a failure as a disciple of the Master, a failure as a child of God, and a failure as a human being.
Nevermind that we’re wired to have all of these emotions that we experience, including the emotion of fear. If you take your small, sick child to the doctor and you are told your baby has leukemia, is it a sin to be afraid that your child will die? If you lose your job and realize that you have no way to support your family and will most likely end up putting your wife and children on the street because you failed, is it a sin to be afraid?
It would be wonderful to not feel fear. It would be wonderful to approach every difficult situation with ultimate confidence and self-assuredness. It would be wonderful to constantly experience the love, grace, and strength of God in all circumstances, no matter how dire, knowing that even if you should be hurt, suffer the most hideous and painful diseases, and even face the loss of everyone you have ever loved, that it would be OK because God is with you.
And you never ever felt afraid.
It would be wonderful, but how many people have ever pulled it off? How many people have that much faith, trust, and confidence in themselves let alone God, to never feel afraid?
I don’t know the answer, but I suspect that the number is extremely small.
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. -Luke 22:39-44 (ESV)
It’s impossible to really know what Jesus was feeling at that moment in time, but obviously he wasn’t facing his bloody, tortuous execution with calm, cool detachment. He accepted the cup set before him by the Father, but he still asked that it be taken away. He still was in agony, so much so, that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
But the Bible says,
…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
God was addressing Israel through the prophet Isaiah. Did Israel feel no fear because God was with them? Did they feel no fear when faced with the barrier of the Reed Sea as the armies of Egypt descended upon them with murderous intent? Did they feel no fear as they faced giants and fortified cities when they first tried to cross over into Canaan? Did they feel no fear on the day when the Temple was destroyed, when Jerusalem was burned to the ground, when the Jewish people were sent into exile and scattered like loose change among the nations of the world for 2,000 years?
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” -Romans 8:15 (ESV)
Yesterday, I wrote,
Maybe you’re thinking I’m being unreasonable. Maybe you’re thinking that I can’t be serious. Maybe you’re thinking that it would be too hard for you to help another person while facing a crisis of your own. And yet, God calls us to serve Him under all circumstances. Certainly we expect Him to serve us no matter what we’re going through and no matter what else is happening in the world.
You and I are only flesh and blood and bone. We’re weak. How can we stand up under the pressures of life and still be expected to help someone less fortunate than we are?
Some days the faith and trust is better and some days it’s worse. Some days I feel like I can take on whatever life and God dish out and some days I just want to hide in bed under the covers and have God make it all go away.
Someone recently commented on one of my blog posts, “I say, let the End come! Only He can fix this mess. We just keep messin’ it up!” I responded with encouragement. We can’t give up. We can’t just sit on our thumbs and do nothing and wait for Jesus to arrive on the bus from Heaven to repair our broken and dying world.
But discounting our weakness and criticizing the faithful for being faithless when we feel fear isn’t an answer I can accept. All flesh is grass (1 Peter 1:24). It is said that the spirit is willing but the body is weak (Matthew 26:41). I say that even the spirit is weak sometimes. For some people, it’s weak a lot of the time.
Some people say that fear is a liar and I suppose if a person allows fear to be the driving force in their life, then they will never really live. But many people have good reasons to feel afraid, either because they’re in a stressful or dangerous situation, or they’ve experienced enough of those situations that the future looks like a room full of tripwires and trapdoors.
But having said all that, the FFOZ commentary ends on this note:
It may not sound like one of the commandments of the Torah but it actually is a rule of life for the People of God. We are to live by faithful confidence in the strong hand of God. He who delivered Israel from Egypt and defeated the Amorites will also deliver the Canaanites into the hands of Israel. He who rescued our Master and Savior from the grave will also rescue us from every trouble and fear.
Yeshua says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
According to Rabbi Freeman, we have a Godly soul that strives to go higher each day and “she will transform that animal to yearn with a divine yearning.”
We have a Godly soul and a body of shredded and bleeding flesh. When you’re young, you have a certain amount of courage, even to the point of foolishness, because in most cases, nothing really bad has happened to you yet. After three or four decades, you know better. If you stick your hand in a fire, you’ll be burned. The chest pain you are feeling might not be “just indigestion.” The “near miss” on the freeway because an aggressive driver just had to pull in front of you came within an inch of a collision at 65 miles per hour.
All I know is if God decides to slowly feed me into a running wood chipper feet first, an inch at a time, my only guarantee is that He will be with me. One translation of Job 13:15 says, “Though He slay me, I have no hope.” I suppose it’s more encouraging to rely on standard translations like, “yet I will wait for Him” or “yet will I hope in Him.”
I just wish some religious people wouldn’t be so hard on the rest of us (or is it only me?). Faith isn’t easy. Hope often fails. The commentary says,
When we feel frightened or worried, we must remember who our Father in Heaven is, and that He cares for us and watches over us.
Tell that to the people of Haiti who are still struggling. Tell that to the Christians in Japan post-tsunami. Tell that to every soldier, Marine, and sailor who has ever gone to war and still struggles with PTSD years and even decades later.
And tell that to the victims of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre.
Are they just going to recover, bounce back, and feel all hunky-dory again as if nothing ever happened? Are those people weak when they hear a car backfire and run for cover? Do they all suffer from chronic faithlessness just because they get scared?
Don’t you have compassion? Haven’t you ever been afraid?