1407752_91676842The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out. – Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

(This is a letter I wrote to my boys and myself.)

Some will tell you these are scary times… moral anarchy. Economic instability. Political corruption. Unexpected violence in unexpected places. Terrorists. Ebola.

The looming what ifs may bark and hiss with terrible force: What if terrorists attack within our borders? What if freedom as we know it is in its last generation? What if it’s a gunman at our school? What if Ebola makes it to our city next?  

But hear this: These are not scary times. Troubled times, yes. Dark days, yes… as have long been on this earth. But not scary. Not scary because of the not ifs… not if God is a sovereign Ruler, not if God is a faithful Deliverer, not if God is a loving Father, not if God is a merciful Redeemer. If those things are true, then these days bring not one thing that should cast fear into your souls.

Either He is a refuge for His people, or He is not a refuge for His people. And if He is, then let Him be. Why panic and wring your hands as if you had no refuge? Either He is redeeming all things on behalf of His children, or He is not redeeming all things on behalf of His children. And if He is, then trust Him. Why worry and fret over evil and brokenness as if it is beyond His power to redeem?

Do not fear Islamist radicals as the enemy. They are not. Pray passionately for them- they don’t know how they live as enemies of their only hope. Do not fear dying of Ebola as the worst scenario possible. It is not. We will all die of something eventually. Know that it is gain. And labor diligently on behalf of those for whom death is most terrifyingly not gain.

The pain is real; the suffering is real. Deeply so. Grieve with those who grieve, and weep with those who weep. But do not drink the poison of fear. Do not be anxious that bad things may happen to you; go ahead and be confident that bad things will happen to you… you share the same sin-stained planet as the rest of humanity. But remember in your bones that every trial bows under the sovereign hand of a good God who will one day make all things right.

And do not waste your life building security measures to keep the world out. You cannot manufacture your security or ensure the next breath of your life.  Do not be reckless for reckless’ sake, but equally do not be cowardly for self-preservation’s sake. The world needs followers of Christ, who are willing — listen — to follow Christ. Even into the hard places. Especially into the hard places. The world needs this, and do not be deceived: your own soul needs this.

So do not fear; these are not scary times. The One who commanded the universe into existence and broke the power of death and is bringing a kingdom that cannot be shaken- He is, and always will be, with you. That is your hope. That Ebola is not in your neighborhood… that it is not as contagious as other things… that is not hope. That is a circumstance that may or may not be true today and that may or may not change tomorrow or the day after that. Your hope is this: whether you die of Ebola today or in a car accident tomorrow or from cancer when you’re sixty, God is with you and for you because of the inexhaustible grace of Christ for those who trust Him. 

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging… He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” – Psalm 46: 1-3, 10

Sarah Tenney Stehlik and her family currently live in Kigali, Rwanda, where she and her husband, Paul, serve ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries) as writer and filmmaker. She enjoys teaching their three boys at home, and blogging about life and faith at thestehlikchronicles.com. Most recently before moving to Africa, Sarah wrote the screenplay for the independent feature film, “Seasons of Gray.”

Photo: Maja Piskorska