I know fear. I know earth-shattering, mind-spinning, gut-busting fear that comes in the blink of an eye, that overruns you with anxiety for everyone you know. I know what it means to have every single "worst nightmare" scenario race through your mind every time your husband leaves the house or your child is out of your sight. I know what it feels like to have life going along with everyone being "ok" and then the next moment, they are gone. I know it well.
Unfortunately, sudden death is a persistent friend of mine. I've met him time and again, and despite giving him the full breadth of my thoughts about him in no uncertain terms, he keeps showing up. Sorrow and suffering, it turns out, don't take direction from us. When they show up unannounced, all that seems permanent and concrete and never-failing can begin to shiver and quake and flip the world right on it's axis.
It's been said a few ways:
"Be anxious for nothing, but with prayer, and supplication, and THANKSGIVING..." Phillipians 4:13
"The answer to deep anxiety is the deep adoration of God. And the greatest gift we can give our great God is to let His love make us glad." - Ann Voskamp
"It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men." -CS Lewis
Worship casts out anxiety and fear. Worship reworks our grief, our uncertainty, our loneliness, our overwhelm to have a new face, a new name, a new purpose. Worship overwhelms us with His Presence where uncertainty is turned into certainty, where loneliness is conformed into fellowship, where grief is somehow skewed into joy. Worship opens the floodgates of God-focus and spins fear and oppression on it's head.
In the darkest moments of the grief that I've experienced, I've heard that still, small voice whisper "He is still good."
He is still good when the heart stops beating, when the red light is ran, when the scans come back as our worst nightmare, when another breath can't be brought forth from their broken bodies. He is still good when the race has been run, there's nowhere else to turn, and the hope that comes from the flesh is all spilled out.
He is still good because Jesus. Because of that baby, and the gift of HIS breath and HIS beating heart, and his eventually broken body- we have life, everlasting. When our bodies are broken and done and our flesh has given out, His flesh has already walked ahead of us into eternity.
So the secret recipe to turning fear upside down and squeezing it tight and pouring out hope instead? Jesus. Not just the head "knowing" that He existed, but the full knowing and feeling and absorbing and WORSHIPPING of his birth, his life, his death, and his resurrection. Worshipping a God who holds yesterday, today, and tomorrow in the palm of His unfailing, steady hand sends fear on his way.
Our bodies simply cannot house a weapon of Satan and unrelenting praise all at once. One casts out the other.
The war has already been won.
So as you weep upon the floor, paralyzed by the unknown, struggling to feel like you can/t walk out your front door again and face LIFE again- Praise Him. Sob. Praise. Sob. Praise. Sob. Praise.
Sorrow and suffering always leave room for praise and joy on our journey. Always. We just have to see and invite.
He will meet you there, in those depths. Our God is the tide of the oceans. Whether we stand on the sandy shore allowing our toes to be touched on occasion by his waters or whether we are steadfastly ankle deep, knee deep, chest deep, or in over our heads in our love for Him- He can always reach us. Storms come, His waters swell, and they overcome us. He overcomes us. He is unrelenting. It can feel like drowning.
It can be terrifying at times. It point-blank IS terrifying. This typhoon that came with no warning and no prediction- the lightening, the raging wind and pelting, stinging rain- not being able to see an inch in front of your face, gasping for breath against the raging sands and salty air. But the waters swell, and He comes rushing in- pulling us out into the darkest depths, underneath Him, swallowing us from the wind and rain and lightening and torment. Silencing the deafening rage.
"And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said the the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." Mark 4:39
He covers us whole. He envelopes us. He saturates us. And as the storm calms, he sets us back upon our feet- deeper though, in His Presence, more covered and soaked by Him than we were before. We are more ready for the next storm which will inevitably come, with His Promises fresh that we can never walk far enough away from the waters that His waves of love, mercy, grace, and peace cannot reach us. He can always saturate us, into our deepest core, while protecting us from being broken by the storm.
It feels like sorrow. It feels like suffering. It feels like punishment. It feels like life gone wrong. It feels terrifying.
But that is Satan. Yes, loss and fear are sorrowful. We do suffer. But it is not punishment. The thing that we didn't anticipate that did happen, that could happen, that might happen (today, tomorrow or someday) is nothing gone wrong. It's His Love gone right. Because there is nothing that our God cannot redeem.
Every moment that seems like life destruction can be taken captive to become part of His Purpose: bringing glory to himself for one reason only- TO BRING THOSE WHO ARE LOST AND FAR AWAY CLOSE. That is HIS one true purpose- relationship, reconciliation, righting the wrongs, redeeming the wretched.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20
So yes. We can count it ALL joy. The accident. The diagnosis. The disability. The addiction. The lost job. The lost love. But ONLY when we praise Him- in the quiet behind our closet door AND in the presence of anyone who will listen.
Praise silences the lies of the enemies and brings life to dry bones.
It gets our toes wet on his shore. It saturates us- so that we can point to Him and show others where our hope, in the face of great devastation, always lies.
"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts You." Isaiah 26:3