Pastor Colin's new book, For All Who Grieve (10ofThose, 2020), has just released. We are excited to share it with you all! This book takes on difficult but important themes related to the grieving process, such as tears, talk, guilt, grievance, hope, and finally, healing. The difficult truth is that...
I sat in my car as monsoon rains poured down on our little island in the East China Sea, while my husband was on the other side of the world, preaching at his mother’s funeral.
A few years prior, ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) set in, ravaging her young and vibrant body.
I realized that the memorial service was just underway. Anguish forced its way up my throat and out, in body-shaking sobs.
Fear and anxiety accompanied my grief. My mother in law’s life was ended not just by ALS, but actually by FALS—Familial ALS. Her father was also taken by it nine years prior. When she was diagnosed, we had the crushing realization that my husband has a 50% chance of having FALS. And if he does, then so do our children.
Currently, there is no treatment, cure, or prevention for ALS. Victims are captive to their bodies, which deteriorate while their minds stay healthy. After three to five years, they die from being unable to breathe or swallow.
I didn’t just weep for the loss of my sweet mother-in-law, or for the sadness that my husband bore without me. I wept over the “what-ifs”. And I begged the Lord to not let them be so.
From Grief to Fear
Five years later, the anxiety that arrived the day of her death still threatens to take hold. I can easily spiral into a frenzy of “what-ifs”.
Grasping for reassurance, I’ve read the scientific research and the stories of other FALS-affected families. I’ve put my kids and husband through diets and regimens in hopes of staving off what can feel inevitable. I’ve wrung my hands and rechecked statistics. We even briefly considered genetic testing.
Yet deep down I know what Christians need to do when they are afraid. We need to rest in the Lord himself. More than prevention, more than science, more than our best efforts—in the face of what could be, we need a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). And we need a renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Both are ours by God’s Spirit if we only seek him and ask.
The Word of God and the Spirit of God stand ready to equip and empower believers in the battle against fear. Both are living and active. The Holy Spirit resides in us, giving us the strength and grace to fight our fears afresh each day. He also reminds us of truth when we wander into fear (John 14:26), helping us to wield the Word of God, our offensive weapon (Ephesians 6:17).
From Fear to Peace: Three Truths to Fight Fear
I want to share with you three biblical truths God’s Spirit arms me with when I’m tempted to be afraid.
1. My life is not my own.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:20)
When I surrendered to the Lord as a freshman in college, these words changed my whole perspective. I awakened to the reality that my life, my body, and my future did not actually belong to me. The Lord created me, and ransomed me with his precious blood; therefore, I belong to him and live for him (1 Peter 1:18-19).
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In the years since then, Paul’s words inspired by God’s Spirit have sunk deeper into my soul: “For by him all things were created…through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). My very existence is by God, through God, and for God. I am not untethered, required to conjure up my own meaning, purpose, and future. The Lord has already done that.
For the Lord is the one
who made the world and everything in it… he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind…having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:24-27)
God himself determined when and where I would live. The Lord set me here in this very family with these genes, so that I may seek him and perhaps feel my way toward him and find him (Acts 17:27).
May the the things that cause us to fear lead us to seek the Lord and find him.
2. God will never leave me nor forsake me.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
The fact that God promised this gives me tremendous courage. My kids and I have memorized Psalm 46. Together we rehearse that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v.10, emphasis added). I know him who walks with me—that his character is good and trustworthy and sovereign.
And I know what he has already done for me in Christ: He was forsaken on my behalf, hung on a cross in my place, endured wrath from the Father for me. Because we know him and we trust these promises from him, we can face any future.
Triumph in God’s promise to never leave or forsake you:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
3. Even if…yet I will rejoice in the Lord.
Finally, I find rest from fear in the words of Habakkuk:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength… (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Even if this dreaded disease visits us again—even if I am forced to walk through this particular valley of the shadow of death, I will rejoice in the Lord.
We can rejoice precisely because he is the God of our salvation, because he has already given himself over to us. More than the gifts he gives, Jesus, the Giver, is our gift. Nothing—not sickness, not suffering, not loss—can separate us from this gift.
Behold, All Things Will Be Made New
When I think back on that sad day, when my grief returns and fear threatens to well up within me, God’s Spirit reminds me that my life is not my own, that God will never leave me nor forsake me, and that even if the worst comes, I will be able to take joy in the God of my salvation.
He is also the God who says, “Behold I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). God promises to those who have faith in Jesus Christ that,
“He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
One day soon, and then forever, ALS will be no more. Whatever you may fear—school shootings, car accidents, separation from loved ones, the loss of a child, extended suffering at the end of life—it will not remain. Perfect love will cast it all out. You and I will be with our Lord, and scary diagnoses and suffering will be no more.