Fearful People are Easier to Control

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I’ve been pretty quiet for the last few weeks as I watched the COVID-19 pandemic grow. I didn’t want to jump in with just another pat Christianese answer about having faith and not giving into fear. But as the public hysteria grows, I’m done being quiet because there are some things that need said.

Yesterday I was working at Meijer as a Shipt shopper. Shipting has been my job for the past three years. If you aren’t familiar with Shipt, I’m basically a personal shopper. I use an app to accept orders which I then shop and deliver. Over and over again every hour while my kids are in school. Sorry to disillusion you if you thought I had a glamorous life that included spending my days at chic coffee shops typing out beautiful words. Nope, I’m just a professional grocery shopper.

Because I spent the day at Meijer I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the madness that is the toilet paper apocalypse. Three times over the course of the day, trucks arrived with more toilet paper. Every time before the employees could even get it to the shelf, people descended, grabbed, pushed, and shoved multiple packages into their carts. As customers left with carts full of toilet paper the shelves were once again bare.

The ridiculous thing is that there isn’t really a shortage of toilet paper. We are creating the shortage by overbuying. As the shelves deplete, more people feel panic and begin acting out in fear. Thus the toilet paper apocalypse continues.

Fear makes us do crazy things.

I know this because I spent a decade in a cultic sub-group of Christianity heavily influenced by fear. In fact, if you look into any cult you will find fear based teachings. Why? Because fearful people are easier to control. 

Our state has decided to close schools for the next three weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Trust me, that decision did not help the panicked hysteria. People have swarmed the local grocery stores and stripped the shelves bare. Parking lots are full, every checkout is open, and the lines are long. Why?

It’s not like those stores won’t be open tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s not like more semi-trucks won’t be showing up to deliver food. But the news of empty shelves causes even more people to panic and try to buy whatever they can. It’s a vicious cycle. Fear makes us act irrationally. 

But I get it. Looking into my fridge this morning, I noticed that I only had half a gallon of milk. I wondered if there was any milk left in the store. Irrational or not, I felt the urge to run out and buy some just in case. I wouldn’t really be out of milk until Sunday at the earliest, but still.

Although I tried to talk myself out of it, eventually I couldn’t help it. Ridiculous or not, I went to a smaller grocery store (that still had food) and got some milk, bread, and a bag of apples. Trust me, I understand the feelings of fear and sense of panic.

But here’s the thing, the lines in the grocery stores, the shortage on toilet paper, and the empty canned good shelves have nothing to do with the actual virus. They are cause by anxiety, fear, and worst case scenarios in peoples’ minds. Personally I’m more concerned about the effects of the public mass hysteria than I am about COVID-19.

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I was picking up my room this morning when I looked out the window and saw a sunbeam glinting on these grassy plumes in my flowerbed. It was a beautiful March morning, especially for Michigan. The sun was still shining, the birds were still singing, and the grass was still waving gently in the breeze. Life was happening around me despite viruses, or hysteria, or a lack of toilet paper. God had not lost control and life was moving on.

We aren’t used to hard things in this culture. But we fear them. And that fear makes us do crazy things.

I want to close with some reminders.

COVID-19 is basically a viral pneumonia. The media likes to call it “the deadly coronavirus” but that just means it’s killed people. So have a lot of other things. Adding the adjective deadly makes it seem scarier. Remember, people who are terrified are easier to control. I find it interesting that in the entire world no child under the age of 10 has died from COVID-19. People who are most at risk are the elderly and those with preexisting health concerns. Most of the population is at a low risk for infection and an even lower risk of serious illness. Most of us do not need to be afraid. 

Should we be educated, aware, and prepared? Yes. Should we follow guidelines from the CDC and our local government agencies? Yes. But should we do irrational things and fall into the public hysteria that is the toilet paper apocalypse? No, please no.

Instead, enjoy some extra time at home. Do your spring cleaning. Make cookies. Read a book. Play a game with your family. Experience the simple things that we don’t usually have time for in our hectic lives. Breathe. Rest. It is going to be okay.

God has not lost control and life will go on.

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When Wrong is Right

He pushed himself up against the spikes one last time, his body trembling from exhaustion and desperate pain, and drew in a ragged breath. 

Collapsing once more, he spoke three last words.

“It…is…finished…”

His bloody head fell forward; his torn body sagged. Jesus of Nazareth was dead.

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Could there be anything more wrong? A truly good man, totally innocent and absolutely perfect, had been betrayed, falsely accused, denied a fair trial, tortured, and finally brutally executed. He hadn’t done anything to deserve it. But the religious leaders, motivated by things like jealously, fear, pride, and hatred had set him up. Pilate, not wanting to cause conflict with the Jews, agreed to their scheme. It was totally unjust, inhumane, and undeserved. It was evil. It was sin.

And it was also the most right thing that has ever happened.

Jesus’ death was right because it was God’s sovereign plan for the redemption of the world. It was right because He wanted it. Is it possible that the same can be true of our lives? That terrible, painful, unjust, and wrong things can happen and still be right?

I think so…

God never loses control. Sometimes He allows horrible situations for reasons all His own. His plans for us do not always include peace and happy feelings. Sometimes He doesn’t make any sense. But we CAN trust Him. I believe that with all of my heart!

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This truth doesn’t mean that we have to think positively about difficult and even evil experiences. We don’t need to make excuses or justify. Circumstances can still be very wrong. It’s okay to see them like that. But I believe that we can also see these painful times as right…because God was in them, working, moving, and changing us.

Often it’s the terrible things that draw us into God’s heart. It’s the unjust actions that show us sin lurking within our own lives. Sometimes it’s the devastating situations that end up setting us free.

The Kingdom of God is kind of ridiculous and rarely makes sense.

It’s crazy when we can look back on the brokenness and see God’s fingerprints all along the way. When we realize that He never left us alone, He never abandoned us, and He always had our back…then we can shake our heads in amazement.

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The Creator who allowed Himself to be wronged, tortured, and killed because He loved us, will use everything for our good. 

Do you believe that?

I have been contemplating this idea since last Sunday…and it has literally begun to set me free from painful circumstances that were weighing me down. If Jesus can turn His own horrific wrong into right, He can do that for you and me too!!

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There is No Magic Formula, But We Still Have Hope…

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In my last post, I wrote about ways we try to manipulate God, twist His arm, and push the right buttons on His “heavenly vending machine” to get what we want. While most of us would never come out and say it this bluntly, the formulaic way we treat God speaks for itself. We believe the lie that there are specific spiritual steps we can follow to achieve a desired outcome. We try to claim Bible verses (out of context) and say they promise things like physical healing. And when none of these things work, we blame ourselves or others for a “lack of faith” (as though there is a certain amount of faith that is guaranteed to make God do anything).

Perhaps we create formulas because we are trying to grasp for a feeling of control in a shaky, frightening, and often heartbreaking world, trying to make sense of things we don’t understand.

Even though we believed, prayed, and did everything we could…

  • The cancer still won
  • Our marriage still fell apart
  • We still miscarried
  • I’m still single
  • My husband is still looking at porn
  • Our child still died
  • I still lost my job
  • We still didn’t get pregnant
  • We still went bankrupt
  • They still don’t love Jesus
  • The world is still a mess

How do we reconcile a supposedly good, all-powerful God and the “good” things that He fails to accomplish? Believe me, I wrestle with this often!

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I think we start by expanding our minds. We throw away the understandable “god in a box” that we have created in our own image. We allow the real God to be bigger, greater, and just more than we can comprehend. Does the Bible say that God is good? Yes! All-powerful? Absolutely! Does He still choose to let bad things happen and take good things away? Yeah, actually the Bible says that too. Check out one of my favorite verses.

“I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Isaiah 45:6b-7

I found this verse after our second late-term miscarriage. Even though I didn’t know why God choose to take our baby, it was comforting to me to know that He never lost control, it was something He did, and He was big enough that He didn’t owe me an explanation. Maybe I can’t possibly understand God or make sense of Him, but a God that huge who also promises He is good and loving is something I am okay with.

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If there are no secret keys, no hidden formulas, no special chants, no magical ways to get God to do our bidding, then what can we expect? What has God really promised us? The answer might surprise you.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” John 15:20-21

Let’s get this straight, we’ve been promised trouble, temptation, and persecution? That doesn’t sound like a very nice promise! I thought life with Jesus was supposed to be warm fuzzies, roses, and sunsets? You know, easy and peaceful?

You might hear some Christians say that, but it’s not exactly in the Bible.

The Bible very clearly tells us that the world we live in is broken. It happened at the Fall, when sin first came into God’s perfect universe. Creation is broken so we have things like disease and natural disasters. People are broken, so they make choices that hurt not only themselves but also those around them. We will face trouble BUT look at the other promises in those verses.

Jesus wants to give us peace! He encourages us by reminding us that He has overcome this world. He is faithful! He will provide a way out of the temptation. And in chapter 14 of John, Jesus tells his disciples that he will not leave them (or us) alone; he is sending the Helper (the Holy Spirit).

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So, life is going to hurt, but I will never be alone? That’s right. And a God who is more, and better, and bigger than I can ever imagine is in complete control even when it doesn’t look like it? Yes. And He wants to walk with me through life, to help and comfort me, because He loves me? Yup!

He wants to walk so close with you that He actually lives inside of you. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

I don’t know about you, but rereading that last paragraph brings tears to my eyes. It’s so much better than a vending machine, or a magic formula guaranteed to bring me what I want! HE is a real, living, incredible, loving Being, who wants meHe wants to be friends with me and help me. He wants to give me peace and joy, despite the brokenness of this world, not based on anything I do or don’t do, but simply because of His amazing grace!

How about you…are you willing to believe in and trust a God who is way too big for you to twist His arm, who might not always give you what you want, who is impossible to understand, but who is in complete control and will walk with you through each heartache in this broken world? I sure am!

 

It Doesn’t Matter Who Wins the Election

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People are so worked up and stressed out about this presidential election that the American Psychological Association has identified a new disorder. They are calling it Election Stress Disorder. If you think I’m joking, check out this article.

I’ve tried really hard to stay out of the chaos. I’ve almost completely resisted being political on social media, and I’ve unfollowed some of my more political friends. (Sorry, guys!) But as the election looms in just three weeks, and we will be forced to choose someone to be president, I’d like to remind all of you that it doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t matter who wins the election. Seriously, in the grand scheme of things, God’s scheme, it doesn’t matter.

Stick with me for a few minutes.

  • In the history of our world there have been many nations and civilizations with bad leaders. There is nothing new under the sun. It is not the end of the world. We will survive.
  • The United States is not a “special” nation appointed by God for anything. We are just one of many nations in the world. Contrary to what some Christians claim, the United States was never even a “Christian” nation, whatever that means. The US was begun by theists who respected God and the Bible, but were not necessarily living in active relationships with Jesus. Certain types of Christians (Cough, like the cult I grew up in.) have perpetuated myths about our founding fathers. If we never were a Christian nation, we cannot stop being a Christian nation. Not to mention I’m not even sure if it’s healthy to be a “Christian” nation. Let’s save that for when Jesus rules the world.
  • Also, while we are talking about Christian myths, the US and Israel are not synonymous. We cannot take promises God made to Israel and claim them for the US. We are not God’s holy people. (Another thing I grew up believing.)
  • There is nothing in the Bible that says God gave Christians the job of “morality police”. We are not supposed to be running around forcing our morals on other people through the government or otherwise. We cannot expect a culture that has rejected God and the Bible to follow Christian morals. It is okay if the culture is a wreck. It was a wreck in the 1st century and the new believers stood out like lights in the darkness. Not because they were running around, freaking out, yelling about morals, but because they knew Someone who made them different, and they were full of love, peace, joy, etc.
  • If our culture continues to be a wreck, it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually easier to share the message of Jesus with someone who is broken and has never heard of it before than it is to share it with a “moral” person who thinks they are good enough or are already familiar with Christianity. My brother-in-law and his wife spent the summer in England last year sharing the gospel with college students at a university. They couldn’t get over how interested these young atheists and agnostics were to hear what they believed as Christians. So, bring on the darkness! Let’s be lights!
  • Jesus is coming back, you guys! This world is not our home!! So we live here for a few years and maybe our comfort level isn’t as high as we’d like. Oh well. We get to be with Jesus for eternity! And, we have the privilege of sharing His amazing message with others while we are on earth. It’s okay.
  • While we are talking about losing our comfort, let me give you a hint…we are ridiculously comfortable as American Christians. We are so comfortable that we have a hard time having a genuine relationship with Jesus because we are distracted and satisfied without Him. When have I grown the most spiritually? When I was going through trials, or when I was doing “without” such as living at camp or on a mission trip in Haiti. We could all do with a little less comfort. It won’t kill us. (And if it does, who cares? We get to be with Jesus!)

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We absolutely should vote and be a part of this process. But in the end, if our choice doesn’t win, it doesn’t really matter. Jesus is still Jesus. The gospel is still the good news. And God is still in control!

We still have a purpose: to enjoy the relationship with God that Jesus provided through His death. We still have a mission: to share the good news of Jesus with the world. We still have a future hope: eternity with our Creator in the most amazing place we can never imagine.