Helpless…Sorta.  Hopeless…NEVER!

Rik Gervais, CCC ruling elder

Greg mentioned during his sermon a week or so ago that I was in Germany and had the privilege of visiting Martin Luther’s home and church. It was an awesome visit for many reasons, not least of which was singing songs in Luther’s church during a noontime sing-along with the seminary students and staff, as well as visitors from all over the world! As you have heard me say many times, “It was WAYYY cool!”

But during my visit, not all was okay in my world or the rest of the world for that matter. On the personal level, my wife, Bobbie, sent me a note to let me know that she had slammed her thumb in the car door. She had also come down with a cold and was feeling pretty miserable. She was “home alone” and from where I was, I was feeling very helpless. My desire was to “fix it” for her. I wanted to be home taking care of her, giving her sympathy, and trying to ease her burden. I felt helpless.

On a larger scale, Hurricane Irma was SLOWLY moving its way toward the United States and pounding one small island after another along its way. The pictures from the ‘round the clock coverage on CNN International were heart-breaking. Total destruction in so many places. And I just knew that each place that was destroyed would quickly become “old news” as thenext place fell into the path of the storm. People’s lives were being torn up and thrown around with the same abandon that their homes and possessions were being tossed to and fro inthe wind and rain. And again…I felt pretty much helpless.

Back here at home this week, I heard stories from a couple friends who have very sick relatives who most likely won’t survive. And others have jobs that are in jeopardy. And they feel helpless. Events outside their control are tossing their lives around just like Hurricane Irma. But what I also heard as they spoke was that although they might be feeling helpless, they are definitely not feeling hopeless. I had that same feeling last week in Germany. In light of all the “bad news” in our lives one might well ask, “Why?”.

The answer is because we all believe we have a sovereign and gracious Father who is fully in control at all times and in all circumstances, including things as “small” as smashed thumbs and as enormous as hurricanes and death! When our lives have been turned upside down and make NO sense, we can cling to the truth of Scripture where God’s purpose is revealed to us. For example, Romans 8:28 tells us we can KNOW, “…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And we can KNOW, “…through faith in him [Jesus Christ] we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Eph 3:12) That means we can bring him our prayers, our fears, our tears and even our joys and he hears us, and in his perfect time, he answers us. We can KNOW we have a perfect hope, because we KNOW that “He [Jesus Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17), even the pieces of our lives which seem sometimes to be falling apart.

There may be times in our lives, on a larger or smaller scale, when we feel absolutely helpless and vulnerable. Not to sound flippant, but “that’s life!” But as followers of Christ we NEVER have to feel hopeless, because we have a perfect and eternal source of hope. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps 2:7)

Jesus Conquers FUD

Kevin Miller, CCC Deacon

Earlier this summer we were driving up the Eastern Shore of Virginia on our way to Ocean City Maryland. My entire family was fast asleep and the night was pushing into early morning. I was feeling content as we were tracking to plan. I worked a full day at the office, the kids finished up their last day of school before summer break and we hit the road right after dinner. I couldn't wait to get to the beach and there was no way we were going to lose a day at the beach by getting a good night's sleep and waiting for the morning to head out. We were on the final stretch of the drive and I was battling exhaustion and boredom.The radio didn't offer many options so my audio experience had turned into the sound of the family snoring. Thankfully this, along with my coffee, was helpful in keeping me awake and alert. I also realized this time offered a much needed opportunity to talk with God.

While attempting to express how thankful I am for my family and for the opportunity to spend time together on vacation, I was also wrestling with a sense of anxiety. As I thought about it, I realized that the nostalgia associated with the beach was a trigger for me - eliciting happiness and joy with good memories, but also reminding me of all the struggles I experienced growing up over the years.

I started thinking about how unfaithful I have been and I was reminded about how many years I spent struggling with sin while not maintaining a personal relationship with God. Despite the grace that God has shown me and my spiritual growth in recent years, guilt started to fill my heart. Thankfully the Holy Spirit was at work in me and I could feel the guilt being overtaken with the comforting knowledge that “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:5-6.)

And while I am blessed with the knowledge that God loves us even when we haven't loved Him “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10), I found myself wondering and even doubting why God would love someone like me. The anxiety persisted and as I asked God for peace and comfort, I was feeling more exhaustion and confusion.

As we continued on our journey, we passed through small towns and then back into the darkness of remote sections of the Delmarva peninsula. My conversation with God turned to some of my current realities. I promised my family that I would take time off to spend time with them. They had heard this before. I was there, but not really present. I was taking calls and checking emails. But how could I possibly relax when my team's numbers at work were not tracking to our business goals? Then I started thinking about our family budget, and the renovations at the house that had multiplied and dragged on much longer than planned. And then my thoughts shifted to the kids; were we doing the right thing with our choices for their schools? My anxiety heightened as I thought about how I would probably need to work most of the time we were on vacation - and when I wasn't working, I'd be distracted with other anxious thoughts. I started to get irritated and frustrated thinking about how I was not able to truly spend time with my family. My excitement about heading to the beach and enjoying a family vacation was souring. I continued to pray.

As I was asking God for help and explaining the emotions I was feeling, we approached a small town and I saw a light ahead. It was one of those illuminated signs in front of a church and the sign read "Anxiety is Unbelief in Disguise". Wow. God heard my prayer and offered me a very tangible response with this sign. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:25-27).

I started thinking about a marketing term called FUD. It's a practice of using disinformation as a weapon against your competitor. When I look at my struggles - past and present - I see how Satan uses fearuncertainty, and doubt (FUD) as emotions that cause me to turn away from God and look to things of this world to find my security.
   • Fear about not being successful in my job turns me away from God to pursue my own glory and not His.
   • Uncertainty associated with periods of time when His plan does not align with mine (I want my vacation, I want my budget to balance, I want my home to look a certain way) results in feelings of irritability and frustration.
   • Doubt (my own unbelief) disguises itself as anxiety. When I seek control instead of submitting to God's plan, I develop anxiety.

I took my thoughts back to God and the Holy Spirit engaged to help remind me that there is good news. Jesus conquers FUD.

   • Fear is conquered with justification through Faith in Jesus Christ.
   • Uncertainty is eliminated with the knowledge of Jesus' Unconditional love.
   • Doubt no longer exists as Jesus' Death on the cross pays the price for our sins - past, present and future. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

We ended up having a wonderful time in Ocean City---rides onthe boardwalk, crabbing in the bay, swimming in the ocean. I continued to struggle with these emotions and Satan did not give up on pushing me to his version of FUD. But by the grace of God, I had a new version of FUD to fight back with.