God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:5-8)
It seems that every day brings more news of tragedy, of fear, of terror. With all that is going on in our world, we might be tempted to think that God has abandoned us or that He really isn’t in control of all things. But, God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” We have His eternal promise, His absolute guarantee, that even in tragic times, even when we are afraid or feel alone, He is still with us. He has not abandoned us. That is our comfort in these times, the reason not to be afraid. As St. Paul writes, If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
While we can’t say any tragedy was God’s doing, we can say that He allowed it to happen. And again comes the question, “Why?” As humans we want to look for a single explanation for a single event. But God is in control of everything. How many thousands, maybe millions of people hear the Gospel only because of a tragedy? How many souls were rescued even when lives could not be rescued?
We tend to focus on the seemingly miraculous survival of people who escape natural disasters, of people who were pulled from the ocean or from the rubble. But how many more souls are saved when there is a natural disaster, because, staring death in the face, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they clung to, or returned to, their faith. Paul writes to the Romans, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) We can’t know—we will never know—the incredible amount of good God’s will brings from disasters, wars, and tragedies, because all that is visible to us is the incredible loss and destruction.
One of the things that frightens us most is the sudden realization that death can come at any time, at any place, to any of us. How much safer could you be than lounging at a hotel on the beach? Then a tsunami hits. How much safer could you be than eating at a restaurant in Paris? Then an Islamic terrorist strikes.
But should we be afraid? No. Instead, we can say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. People can be buried under buildings in an earthquake; others may be washed out to sea. You could be killed in an accident or even in a terror attack. But there is no reason for fear. Even though storms and other humans have the power to take our lives, they do not have the power to take our faith. There is no one, no thing, that can take from you your most important possession, your Christian faith, unless you allow it to happen. What can man do to me? Your life can be taken, but your soul cannot be taken.
What frightens us in times of tragedy is our own mortality. No matter what your age, your life could end at any time. Maybe you are ten years old. Maybe 12 or 13. Maybe you’re in your 20s or 60s. Maybe you’re older. Your age doesn’t matter. Death does not respect your age. Death can come at any moment. Realizing that, you may be very frightened. But you don’t need to be. The only reason to fear death is if you don’t believe in what God has told you through His Word.
God will take the evil we experience in tragedies, natural disasters, and even terror attacks and use it for His purposes. And one of those purposes is a warning, a call to repentance. We all see signs of spiritual decay all over our world: so much violence, such little respect for God and for the lives of others…
Earthquakes, wars, hurricanes and even terror attacks—all these things seem to sneak up on us slowly so that even Christians become accustomed to them and think they’re normal. They are not normal. They are signs. The Apostle Paul wrote by inspiration to Timothy, But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power… always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (2 Timothy 3;1-7)
Does it sound familiar? It should. We have lived in those last days since Christ lived on this earth. The world is winding down. The end is coming and it’s near. But in God’s time, near may still be generations away.
God invites you to set aside your love for money, your love for possessions. Set aside your fear of change, your fear of challenge. Set aside your fear of persecution. Cling to the cross of Christ, because it is the only thing that will make you secure. It is the only thing that can save you.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. God has not changed. Our Savior has not changed. God Himself became incarnate, was born in human form of the Virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, overcame every temptation placed before Him. And He died on the cross with the weight of our sins crushing Him. He was raised from the dead to show that God accepted this loving sacrifice. As believers, we live in the complete confidence that all of our sins are forgiven. We have been justified, declared innocent, before God, by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
The true Christian faith has never changed, because it is based on Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who also has never changed. Christians, take comfort in the fact that you are forgiven, justified, made righteous before God. You have nothing to fear. And in that faith, out of thanks to God for the mercy He has shown to you, live not with the burden of fear, but with confidence that God Himself is with you. The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid!
Rev. Paul Fries