Tribulation comes in all forms. I often say the bookends of tribulation resemble a hurricane or a tornado. At present in America, we have both. The Corona Virus (CV) hurricane is pushing destruction to the shores of America, combined with the shocking tornado of rapidly dropping financial markets. This double whammy has resulted in a designation of a pandemic, a declaration of national emergency, a fearful populace, stringent measures such as closing schools, businesses, and churches; and the mantra of the day – “social distancing.” The result is a cataclysmic vortex which threatens our national wealth and our personal health, a scenario which few living Americans (or citizens of other nations) have experienced in their lifetimes.
I have seen many excellent articles, blogs, newscasts which assess the alarming growth curve of the virus and the worsening economic conditions in our nation and the world. Our leaders are waging war, mobilizing every resource possible, on our behalf. There are also many who have provided powerful Biblical encouragement. This blog, with the associated picture of a businessman overlooking the city below, will simply remind us:
With Height Comes Perspective
The HEIGHT we seek comes from seeking Biblical truth about the tribulations we face. In times of travail and faint heartedness (lack of courage), David sought height and perspective from God: “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). Similarly, the prophet Isaiah voiced a declaration from God: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
The PERSPECTIVE we seek relates to FEAR and to FAITH.
Regarding FEAR — Let’s be honest that we are all fearful about the unseen but deadly Corona Virus, and to varying degrees fearful about the impacts of the related economic collapse. As a military man, businessman, and father who has navigated many daunting and fearful crises, I remind myself and others that courage is not the absence of fear. Rather COURAGE is staring down fear. Courage is the ability to overcome fear to navigate a challenging storm, honorably to the best of your ability. Courage ranges across the physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and relational domains (see Resilient Leaders). The question then is how to courageously overcome fear in the first days, weeks, and months of the “perfect storm” in which we find ourselves.
Fear is clearly a common emotion. I am told the Bible contains 365 “Fear Not” passages. Jesus addressed fear numerous times. The storm on the Sea of Galilee in Matthew 8:23-27 is instructive – in short, the boat was being overwhelmed by waves and the disciples feared for their very lives – “Save us, O Lord, we are perishing!” Jesus woke from his sleep and admonished the disciples: “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then Jesus stilled the wind and the sea.
From this we are instructed not to focus on fear. We must FOCUS on faith. We know that Jesus said “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In fact, the simple equation is:
FEAR + FAITH = COURAGE
The real problem was not big waves, rather little faith. This storm story concludes with “The men were amazed and said, ‘What kind of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?’” We see that these men’s limited view of Jesus and God exploded when they saw His actual power over the forces of nature. The reality is that fear diminishes as faith rises. Our faith rises when we recognize the grandeur, sovereignty, sufficiency, and greatness of the object of our faith, our Heavenly Father and the Son He sent to save us.
Regarding FAITH, let’s look at a time of great trial in the Bible, not unlike the conditions we face today. The Prophet Isaiah provides a spiritual template for navigating a crisis. First, he reminds us to gain altitude to gain perspective. Then, mightily declare faith against fear, declare the greatness of God which is far greater than any earthly challenges we face:
“Get yourself up on a high mountain,
O Zion, bearer of good news,
Lift up your voice mightily,
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;
Lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’”
To press this point home, Isaiah then provides many illustrations of God’s greatness which allow our faith to rise while fear diminishes. For instance, here is Isaiah 40:12 which shows the unimaginable greatness of God:
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?”
For a moment, consider the terms “measured the waters in the hollow of His hand” and “marked off the heavens by the span (of His hand).” Pastor Tim Delano from Times Square Church in New York City provides powerful insights from the Jewish culture. The “hollow of the hand” is the small basin in the open palm. This provides a glimpse into the magnitude of God when one considers that two thirds of the earth’s surface is ocean, and add to that rivers and lakes. The amount of water is incalculable in human terms, yet God holds it in the hollow of His hand. This awareness allows us to gain mental and spiritual height and perspective – it allows faith to rise and fear to diminish.
In similar Jewish terms, the “span of the hand” is the distance from the tip of the “pinkie” finger to the top of the thumb. Now consider that the nearest star beyond the Sun in the heavens is 26 trillion miles away, yet God “marked off the heavens by the span” of His hand. This is likewise amazing, just as the disciples were amazed when Jesus stilled the storm. This awareness likewise allows us to gain mental and spiritual height and perspective – it allows faith to rise and fear to diminish.
Now, let’s get relevant and real. Last week’s newsletter highlighted a video by a young couple stricken with cancer, Jason & Julie Farino. We saw them navigate an existential crisis in their lives through the power of worship. As exhorted by Isaiah, they “lifted their voices mightily,” they chose faith over fear, and they declared “Here is my God”— a Great, Protective, Almighty, Sovereign, All Knowing, All Powerful, All Present, Loving, and Merciful God – that’s my GOD!
This is a great example to all of us – WORSHIP is our Weapon to fight fear, to let faith arise. As a practical tip, as you seek to worship through the Corona Virus hurricane and through the economic tornado, hold your open hands up to praise your majestic God. When you do, consider the hollow of your hand, and remember God’s greatness, holding the oceans. When you do, consider the span of your hand and remember God’s greatness, measuring the heavens. Most of all, know that this great God also holds you in the palm of His hand, and He knows all about your fears, your fragility, and your faith. We do well to follow Peter’s exhortation, “casting all your anxiety (fears) on Him, because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)
In summary — With height comes perspective… fear + faith = courage … worship is our weapon to let faith arise and fear to diminish.
As Jesus said,
“In the world we will have tribulation,
But take COURAGE, I have overcome the world.”
Respectfully in Christ,