I’ve been troubled by world events. I had been increasingly troubled over recent months, but it sort of came to a head when, on Tuesday, a terrorist slit the throat of a priest in Normandy while he was performing mass. I’m troubled by the savagery, and I’m troubled by the subsequent reflection of an acquaintance, who posted a diary of recent terrorist events in Europe – with the location and dates, followed by, “A Muslim killed ________ or a Muslim did _________ or a Muslim murdered ______.”
Not a terrorist. A Muslim.
This labelling plays right into the hands of ISIS, effectively contributing to their mission. They want a war between religions. They want us (Christians or Caucasians) to mistrust refugees and hate Muslims, and they want the tension to grow to the point where it erupts in civil war and mass barbarity.
They want us to judge a person by his attire (jubbah, beard, hijab, niqab) and label them the enemy. Now – I understand it takes an effort to get to know someone who looks different from us, or whose culture differs from our own. But I fear we don’t have the luxury to wait in making the effort while the animosity grows and we get to the point where we’re blind to the common humanity that lies behind the differences.
Parallel to the side-effects of terrorism are the growing troubles in America and the divisions that appear through racial tension and heated debate over the presidential election. You all know my preference for the next president so I won’t reiterate. But I’m beginning to fear that the hatred, which has been stirred, will erupt no matter who wins – from where the violence erupts will depend on which candidate carries the victory. True, my most pressing fear lies in the state of affairs in Europe, but I can’t help but think the affairs in the US tie in critically.
I see these events coming together like a perfect storm. A charismatic leader with dogmatic rhetoric, the oppression of one race, the mistrust of one religion, the decayed souls who plot the next act of slaughter on every front and without cease, the refugees desperate to give their children a chance at life (but who look the same as the ones who plot murder) pouring into Europe by the masses.
I recently read an article that resonated with me, called History tells us what may happen next with Brexit and Trump, by Tobias Stone. He was struck by how the assassination of a “minor European royal” led to the death of 17 million people in World War I. He suggests we should be asking ourselves what our Archduke Ferdinand moment will be. Is it the pregnant woman hacked to death by a Syrian refugee in Germany? The priest in Normandy brutally killed before his parishioners?
It seems we’re still at a point where we can ignore these troubling world events (if our daughter has not been killed because she happened to be in the vicinity of terrorists, or our son has not been killed because of his skin color, or our husband has not been killed because of his profession). We can ignore, and go on vacation, and continue working, and send our children to school. And maybe it will go away, things will ease, it will get better.
I hope so. And I’m not being blithe when I say I do believe it’s a possibility that we will skim through this without massive collateral damage.
But I’m afraid, and sometimes that leads me to examine the worst-case scenario rather than the best. When I’m afraid, I pray. And when I have trouble praying, I pray through scripture so that my faith may increase. And this is sort of the point of my post.
Here are some of the scriptures I use to combat fear:
How to take heart:
You, Lord, are my lamp;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall. 2 Samuel 22:29-30
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side. Psalm 3:5-6
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident. Psalm 27:3
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day, Psalm 91:5 (This entire Psalm is faith-building when it comes to battling fear).
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
“I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass, Isaiah 51:12 (This scripture has a special place in my heart – I talked about it in my memoir).
On being courageous:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”
But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” Nehemiah 10b-11
And then, of course, what Jesus says:
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:1-3 & vs 18
I read these things, and I remember God is not limited by my comprehension or my circumstances. He’s a personal God who comforts and reassures, who does not despise me for my fear, and who does not minimise what I feel. He is always ready to shield me from the enemy. And – what’s even more remarkable – he has the power to do so.
All this is what I focus on when I’m afraid.