I pray this devotional message will bring comfort to you in this terrifying time of domestic and international terrorism. I gave it at the World Vision Canada staff chapel shortly after 9/11. It has been edited to make it flow better for an audience reading this as a blog piece.
Fear. It is the topic of choice in the coffee shops, the corner shopping mall, in the crowded subways, shops, and offices, and in our homes and churches. Psychologists tell us that once the date September 11, 2001 is mentioned, it creates a host of images and emotions. It is a nightmarish reality that we don’t want to look at. It’s too painful to look at. It’s too much of an assault upon our minds to remember.
The purpose of my message is to bring you comfort, some peace in all the noise.
Every one of us has been affected by a premeditated act of violence that has forever robbed us of any sense of safety and security. I have also been tossed, turned, and twisted from within. I am struggling with my anger at how people filled with hatred can be so cruel.
In this time of uncertainty, when we hear the horror stories of war; when another bomb lands and kills innocent Afghani children; when the image of the twin towers was reduced to a haunting shadow of its former glory; when fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters perished; when firefighters, police officers, will no longer be coming home to their wives and children; when all these terrifying tragedies happen, what message does God have to apply to our lives?
In the Bible we are told that perfect love casts out fear. Fear for the future; fear of death; fear that tugs, pulls, and eats away at us ; fear that cripples us; fear that paralyzes us. 1 John 4:18-19 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us”(NIV).
How can perfect love drive out fear? How can the pursuit of Christ’s indwelling peace comfort us, console us, wrap us within a protective blanket of love which shields us from, but does not remove our fear?
How can we as mere mortals have perfect love? Each day as we hear and see the news reports of how terrorism is rocking our world, what weapon does God give us to rise above our fears? That instrument is Christ’s perfect love, which can defeat any enemy.
We are flawed people who struggle each day to come a little closer to God. We cry out to the Lord in times of spiritual dryness to capture even brief glimpses of what is referred to in Greek language as agape love. It is perfect love in action.
Agape love dares to be forceful and tender. We envision the brawny, splintered and rough hands of the carpenter’s son trained in the seminary of love. Whether He was walking with his disciples by the stormy Sea of Galilee, riding triumphantly on a colt through the streets of Jerusalem, healing the sick or making the blind see – all these things were acts of perfect love.
When Christ was giving a spiritual pep talk to his followers, He advised them to remember to love one another as He had loved them. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35, NIV).
Jesus knew that hiis life on earth was coming to an end. He referred to his followers as his dearly beloved. It was a salutation of deepest affection and highest personal regard.
Feel the depth and power of those two simple yet profound words penetrating your heart. You are Christ’s dearly beloved. Take some time to close your eyes and be saturated by Christ’s love. Breathe in and breathe out that peace. Keep doing that until you feel a wave of the peace infilling your spirit.
The noise of this world can wait for a while.
Forget about the meetings you have scheduled. The fax you need to send can wait. The people you need to call can wait. The project you are working on can be put on hold while we commune with a loving God.
You can open your eyes now or simply keep them shut. Let the Holy Spirit guide you .Don’t n look at me. This is your time. This is your rest from the cares pressing in upon you.
In the quietness of your home you might want to spend some time in reflection. Let every worry and care fade away ever so briefly as you bask in the presence of our savior’s love for you.
You may not always feel loved in these moments alone. Whenever emotions of a painful childhood such as being abused or a recent hurtful experience surface remember, remember, remember, that you are Christ’s dear and precious child. You are his beloved child. He loves you. Do you feel it? Does that message cause your heart to beat faster? Does it make you feel accepted, loved, and filled with a deeper inner peace? I pray it does.
Others – that is the message Christ has for us in this turbulent time. Our savior is reaching out to you today. In a comforting and compelling voice He may be saying something to you like this “My beloved child, remember that I shed my blood on the cross because I love you. Follow the example of my life by loving others as I have loved you. Lean on the strength of one another. Don’t allow fear to paralyze you. Don’t let it be victorious over you. Don’t let the terrorists win. Let love win. Shine that in the darkness you see around you. Be that helping hand to someone who needs you.”
You choose to work at WorldVision because Christ’s love, and putting it into action, is your reason for living. You are ambassadors of Christ’s love. You are ministers of the Lord’s gospel of unconditional love that doesn’t judge others by their appearance, the color of their skin or by how wealthy and powerful someone is.
You may have an office job. Some of you are in administration dealing with the logistics of sending food parcels to poor countries which are grappling with starvation. Some of you go overseas as missionaries to developing countries. Others speak at churches and in the community about the work of WorldVision. Whatever role you have each one of you is of equal importance in God’s eyes.
I pray that you will take time to pray with your co-workers. Deal with internal office conflicts, Try not to let issues grow between you. Resolve your differences. Forgive one another. Forgive one another. Each one of you do what you can to prevent your workplace from becoming toxic. That’s rough. It’s like a poison that spreads through the air and affects the environment in which you work.
Cling to your children tightly. Hold them. Hug them. Tell them how much they are loved. Love them like you never have before. They’re terrified. They need to feel safe.
Small acts of kindness can have a big effect. Perhaps, you are doing these things now. Think upon these suggestions as a caring reminder. Offer a warm smile to your coworkers. Have parties where you give inexpensive gifts to one another. Don’t forget to have potato chips, popcorn, pop and desserts at them. You can’t be good all the time on whatever diet you may be on. Managers, offer your staff encouragement for doing their jobs well. It can make a huge difference in the way your employees view their workplace.
When we create these acts of love, we move just a little closer to the concept of perfect love Christ taught his followers about.
Fear is a part of our daily lives. It is a reality that cannot be hidden, nor should it be. It affects your physical and emotional health. It will eat away at your well-being if you allow it to rule your life. It’s good to talk to those we trust about the things we are afraid of. These are the people who won’t judge you. They will listen because they love you, and want only the best kind of life for you.
President Franklin D’Elano Roosevelt said, “So let me assert the firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Roosevelt’s words spoken on that dark and infamous day December 7, 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese, are relevant now. Both the attack on Pearl Harbour and the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. caught the world by surprise. It shocked us because it was an attack on our security. We don’t feel safe now. We won’t ever feel as safe as we were before. Life as we knew it with it’s sense of security has vanished like the morning mist.
We must not let the terrorists win. We must continue to love others as Christ calls us to love – your life, my life, giving to another life.
Surprise and the death of innocent souls are weapons terrorists use with great success. These cold killers are ecstatic you and your children can’t sleep! You have stayed up late. You have tried the best you can to explain to your children why there are those who get pleasure robbing you and your family of feeling safe and secure.
It’s okay that you don’t know what to say to your children. How can any of us explain to our children what is happening to our world? If I had children I wouldn’t know what to say. Words would fail me too. We should be left speechless about the cruelty of others. Some things are just too difficult, too painful to explain.
Let us seek the perfect peace of Christ to cope with our fears.
Embrace silence as a sweet gift in the hectic pace of your life. Cherish it. There is so much of this clamoring noise in our lives. We need to take time listening to music we enjoy, watching comedy movies, seeing children laughing and playing, and taking time to just be a kid again.
I offer this prayer:
Loving Father, help us deal with our fears as we face the challenges of each day. Give us loving hearts for one another.The perfect peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Dr. Kevin James Osborne M.A., M.Div., Psy.D.. D.A.B.T.E, C.M.H.C. is Dean of Psychology and President of Student Affairs at St. James the Elder University. Karen Osborne B.A., D.Sc. in Psychology (honoris causa) C.M.H.C. is the Registrar of St. James the Elder University.