If there’s one thing I’ve learned living in a massive city like Paris, it’s that distraction is often times an attractive means to hide uncertainty.
When we were hit with the terrorist attacks, there was a time of grief and shock, especially as the media constantly reminded us of the horrors of what happened. After the initial shock of the terrorist attacks of November 13th, everyone longed for the day we would wake up, and life would go on. Our conversations would vacillate between what we had all just been through, while trying to keep up in this increasingly busy world. First there was the COP 21, the ecologists new hope for protecting the earth. Though people were touched by the historic treaty, and it struck with the world’s leaders, there was still an atmosphere of uncertainty. Then, we moved into the Christmas season. It took some time for people to feel safe in shopping centers, but steps were taken to ensure public safety. In the end, it worked, and the holidays were celebrated a little more quietly than years past. Now, we are back to work, and there is much uncertainty: politics, world economy, immigration, new laws, and more protection. So, the train of life moves forward, even over a road of new distractions that masks uncertainty and covers fear.
Uncertainty can help us seek the only One who is constant no matter what we face.
Fear can even be a gift. I’m reminded of that when I’m on a high place, and I feel dizzy apprehension. Fear can actually protect me and send me into fight-or-flight to get me out of a threatening situation. Fear and uncertainty can also be crippling. That’s why the world’s answer of distraction is so attractive. What can be a better way to forget than to watch the Force Awakens in 3D a fourth time or more refreshing than to expend nervous energy in a gym? At least we’re not immobile; at least we are not letting the terrorists win!
At the same time, I’ve seen something else happening. Many churches are spending time praying, praying together, and praying for each other. As we’ve taken the occasion to reach out, we’ve seen that people on the street are receptive to the Gospel. Yet I also noticed the temptation to give into fear and live in distraction. There are still some people who are afraid to go out, and there are others who purposely haven’t slowed down. These very different movements are present in daily life, both hoping to shape our days, and in the end, our tomorrow’s. This is what brings me again and again to the voice of Paul at a dark time in his life when he was writing his last letter to his dear friend Timothy.
2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
As I look back to this verse, I’m reminded of what I’ve been given. It’s done. In fact, it happened long before I was born. The day Jesus rose again, He went to visit His disciples who were also facing uncertain times and fear. He appeared in the midst of them, breathing on them, and giving them the Spirit. I can’t help but notice He didn’t first say, “Yeah, things are pretty bad, but just try to think about something else. Go to the gym or go watch a movie, and by the way, here’s the Spirit!” No, it was more like, “Peace be with you; receive the Spirit.” I feel that’s a message for us in this time.
Jesus knows the difficulty, and I rather think He is more interested in filling us with peace than letting us flow in the wave of distraction or sink in the pit of fear.
God surely didn’t give me a Spirit of fear, so why should I hold on to it?
What He gave, though, is everything I want to cling to, and really, what we need today! The verse says power. Power to live in such a way that glorifies Jesus in a rapidly changing world that is seeking its solutions in the glory of man. It’s not an election year in France, but many of the same issues are being brought up that I see in the US news. We are looking for someone who can lead the way to better international relations, a more prosperous economy… Many are pessimistic about what they see, but I’m not. God has the power to open doors for the Gospel, and He’s doing it in many unexpected ways.
In the same way, we need love to live out the Gospel in a time when many denounce hate, and yet, can hatefully marginalize their political opponents or professional rivals. There is a real social debate that has opened up with the presence of our new immigrants and our efforts to increase security. Love is what I need when I want to share with nationals that feel invaded, as well as refugees fighting to find a new way of life and many that are returning back to where they came from. Love that is stronger than fear; love poured out in my heart by the Spirit.
Lastly, we need to keep our wits about us. We need a sound mind to keep it all in perspective as the world continues its spin out of control. Having a sound mind is a strength as it answers the unreasonable questions fear and uncertainty use to cripple us. This is why I’m so thankful for Jesus’ solution. It’s much more healthy and hopeful – His Spirit, bringing a new hope for a new day.