Perseverance


We will not fear…

Psalm 46:2

I think most people, including myself, get pretty freaked out at times. The world can be a scary place. The things that happen to us through the course of life can, at times, cause enough fear that we freeze; we freeze at a time and moment in our lives where we no longer progress, no longer move forward, no longer keep building and growing. We more or less quit. Stasis. Death.

I think this is more common than most of us even realize. At some point in our lives we can begin to play it perhaps too safe. We learn that we “can’t do it” and so we stop trying. The reasons for this are many, but I think most of them have to do with our fear of getting hurt. Hurt physically, hurt emotionally. Its the very few who actually keep moving forward. Many of the few who move on and keep risking, keep building and growing, etc. can be categorized as the very brave, the very ignorant, and even the very dysfunctional.

The Very Brave

Some people just have that thing in them. You know the thing I am talking about? It’s a kind of moral compass that brings them into situations and circumstances which require them to be brave. Bravery only happens when we fear something and when that something we fear threatens the well-being of ourselves or others. These kinds of people stick their necks out when others won’t. I’ve known a few people in my lifetime who fit this description. When others run away, they run toward. It’s just who they are. And though they share the same fear, uncertainty and anxiety that everyone does, they are not deterred by it.

The Very Ignorant

These people just don’t know that what they’re doing is even risky. They move through life with a kind of blissful obliviousness about them. They aren’t motivated to do hard things or to face danger because of some internal moral compass, they just don’t realize that there is a struggle going on around them. They don’t know that they should be afraid. These kinds of people can actually BE dangerous themselves because they tend not to take regard for the well-being of those around them. They simply assume everyone feels as they do. They often don’t measure the risk.

The Very Dysfunctional

Then there are those who gravitate toward risk and danger because they need to. The risk and danger they face at any given time represents something else for them. A war they are still waging. They need to risk. They need to feel the anxiety and experience the chaos. It’s a kind of therapy. A high. It reminds them they’re alive. These types of people are most dangerous because they don’t fight for a noble cause; they fight only for themselves.

A Fourth Category – The Very Faithful

These are very general descriptions, of course. Notice the reasons for facing risk and danger for each type of individual move in a progression: from self-sacrificial to no reason to self-centered. Outward > neutral > inward. But there is a fourth category. One that transcends the others. Psalm 46:10 says:

Be still (have no fear) and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

This is a totally different reason for “not fearing”. The motivation comes from another place. It doesn’t depend on our internal moral compass and our ability to pluck up the courage. It doesn’t require us to be ignorant. It also does not require that we possess some kind of weird internal struggle which motivates us to find danger and chaos and crisis. What it does require is for us to know Who is in charge.

Psalm 46 is a Psalm about conquering fear. It grants the first premise of courage which is:

There are things which are worthy of fear.

Courage (literally, strength of heart) is not the absence of fear, but the presence of faith in the midst of fear. And if the first premise of courage is true, that there are things which are worthy of fear, then it stands to reason that what we then require is a catalyst. Something that, when introduced into the mix, produces a sort of steadfast faith or unconquerable hope. That thing is actually a person; the God of Jacob.

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (v.7)

What we need is Someone who fears nothing. Someone of whom all others in fact should be afraid. Someone whose faithfulness and character are such that to know Him is to stand upon a Rock which cannot be moved.

We will not fear…

“But the oceans are roaring like a typhoon!

We will not fear…

“But the mountains are crumbling into the depths of the sea!

We will not fear…

“But your world is falling out from under you!

The God of Jacob is our fortress.

It’s not a fearlessness born of bravery, ignorance or dysfunction, but a fearlessness born of faith in a God Whose will cannot be resisted, Whose plans are holy, perfect and good, and Whose love casts out all fear.

Have no fear. The God of Jacob is your fortress. He will be praised among the nations. He will be exalted in all the earth. Selah.

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It’s interesting that the phrase “put through the wringer” usually has negative connotations to it. The phrase itself is actually referring to something that’s helpful. Back in the day, before washers and dryers, there was a gizmo called a wringer. Its purpose was to squeeze all of the excess water out of a garment of clothing after it was washed. This was useful for two reasons:

  1. The excess water would be full of dirt and residue from the clothing. If the bulk of this water was not removed quickly, the dirt and remaining residue would dry on the garment.
  2. It helped the garment dry faster so that it could be put back into use relatively quickly.

Now, when we use this term in our everyday comings and goings, we are usually using it in reference to tough situations that we’ve gone through. Difficult situations. Undesirable situations. We say things like “My boss really put me through the wringer today!” or “This year’s been so tough, I feel like I’ve been put through the wringer!” Something to that effect. Well, it’s interesting, but we only typically use this phrase in relation to half of its meaning! Think about it! Wringers are helpful. Wringers are used to assist in the cleaning of dirty laundry. Wringers help increase usability of the item being wringed (wrung?). The garment of clothing gets gets squished going through, but comes out the other side clean, dry, not smelly, and usable!

So, I wonder if we could take this phrase, and more commonly use it for expressing our wonder, gratitude and joy at how God has put us through the wringer. So many of us complain about our experiences, focusing on the pain, harping on the negative, that, unfortunately, we all too often forget that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. In addition, James 1 tells us that our trials should cause us to fill up with joy. Why?

Well, I think it’s kinda like this: What teacher doesn’t test her students? What coach doesn’t drive his team into ever harder challenges testing wills and sharpening skills? What good pastor doesn’t teach hard things to his congregation? How much does God really care about conforming you into the image of his Son? And to what extent was Christ unwilling to go in order to attain our salvation, that we would one day see him, and look just like him? God, in this way, is a lot like Jack Bauer, we have no idea how far he is willing to go to acquire our cooperation! You see, being conformed into the image of Jesus is about more than just being nice. It’s about being nice when you want to scream at someone in aggrevation. It’s about more than giving when we have excess. It’s about giving in faith all that we have to God and His purposes all the time (see Mark 12:41-45). It’s about more than just singing hymns on Sunday. It’s about living my life in such a way that worship becomes endemic.

What must God do in order to work these things into his people? Well, I would point to the wringer as my illustration. It’s not necessarily what gets worked into you, but what gets worked out of you that matters. We were meant to live as children of God. We were meant to reflect the imago Dei to the world. That image, that nature, is in there for all children of God, and as he works the life of Christ into us, there must be also a working out of the dirt, residue and imputrities that are in us, and the happens by going through the wringer.

Next time you’re going through something really tough (which will probably be tomorrow), think about how you’re going through the wringer and take a moment at the end of the day, before you drift off to sleep, to just consider possibility that, just maybe, the wringer is a good thing.

Peace.
~a