It’s about the be the second week of Lent already if you can believe it. For some of us, perhaps it feels like Lent has been dragging on as we struggle to persevere in our chosen fast. I have had up and down days for sure. It is insightful to take last week’s message about fruits and see how the Holy Spirit is working in my life. For one of my fasts, I’m choosing to do a full fast on all the Fridays of Lent (as in the Ash Wednesday and Good Friday fasts of one regular meal and two smaller ones that don’t equal the larger). I have never been good at fasting, and I was rather nervous about it this year since for nearly 11 years I have always been either pregnant or nursing.
I was surprised to find I wasn’t struggling all that much with hunger. I figured my kids would be begging me to eat something by 3pm because I was getting so hangry (hungry/angry). This doesn’t mean I wasn’t struggling. On the contrary, I was struggling immensely because I couldn’t control my thoughts about food. When will I eat next? What should I eat? How long has it been since I’ve eaten? I wonder why I’m not more hungry than I feel? The Holy Spirit’s work seems to be twofold – detachment from food and disciplining my thoughts. It’s only been 2 fasting days so far and I can already see progress in both of these areas.
Speaking of progress, it’s funny (and not so funny) how sometimes we have to learn the same lesson a few times before it really sinks in. Take Peter, who we are looking more closely at in this week’s video. I mentioned the show, The Chosen, and how it beautifully displays the scene of Jesus walking on the water. Peter, too, walks but only when he keeps his attention fixed on Jesus. When he looks around at the waves and wind he becomes scared and begins to sink. Again at the Transfiguration, Peter beholds the most incredible sight as he witnesses Jesus’ full divinity on display. And then he looks down, back to earthly things. God literally interrupts Peter to draw his eyes back heavenward.
I also brought up a passage from the book of Exodus regarding the Israelites Red Sea crossing. They had not crossed yet, but had turned to see the chariots of Pharaoh closing in on them. With the sea at their back, they felt trapped and began to panic. Being still was the farthest thing from their minds. And yet, this is the command of God through Moses.
Do not fear! Stand your ground and see the victory the LORD will win for you today. For these Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you have only to keep still.Exodus 14:13-14
Stillness is hard. For some of us, we aren’t even still in our sleep as our mind wrestles with the problems of the day and the worries of tomorrow. Restless, busy, anxious, worried, full, overwhelmed. We spin on our hamster wheels day after day without seeing any real progress. What’s the point of it all?
The hard truth is that our life isn’t about us. It’s about God. We were made not for ourselves, but to give God glory and praise. We were made for relationship with Him, not with the world. When we recognize that fact, we take our first step off the merry-go-round. Fear not – let go of what you are afraid of. Are you busy because you are afraid to be seen as lazy? Are you anxious because you want to be in control of everything? Are you restless because time shouldn’t be wasted or seen an unproductive? Are you overwhelmed because you want to please everyone so you don’t say no?
Letting go of fear means we can look beyond ourselves and see what God is waiting to give us. Have you ever tried to give something to someone while they are running away from you (you with toddlers, you know what I mean). It’s hard! It’s messy, uncoordinated and usually doesn’t go well. God isn’t going to shove His blessings upon you while you run in the other direction. He waits, He is waiting. He is waiting for you to let go of fear and to be still so that He can fill you with His love and grace.
If you need more encouragement, look again to Peter. Peter, who clung so strongly to fear that he denied even knowing Jesus during Jesus’ trial, is who Jesus chose to be our first Pope. Peter was too scared to say he was a follower of Jesus to a few people. And yet at Pentecost, he preached a speech so moving more than 3,000 people were baptized in a single day. The same Spirit that filled Peter fills each of us who are baptized.
There is much the Holy Spirit would like to work in your life. Are you ready to let go of fear? Be still before God, release your fears to Him and watch His wonders unfold.