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12 / receiving life

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I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord; “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

the CULTIVATING

journal

Do You Believe This?

April 15, 2020



Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.

Do you believe this?”

~ John 11:23-26, ESV

 

I live less than 20 miles from the epicenter of Washington’s corona virus outbreak, and I have been meditating on these words from the Gospel of John, spoken in the wake of Lazarus’s death, as I’ve watched the mounting fear and hysteria. I understand why people are afraid. I have experienced enough health-related anxiety in my life to be deeply sympathetic toward those who are fearful right now. As area businesses, schools, and churches close their doors in order to prevent the spread of illness, people become ever more frightened—this is not normal, and it is scary.

But what is it we as Christians are afraid of? Death? Pain? Censure? Fear? We say we believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, that He has conquered death and sin. So what, exactly, is scaring us?

I think this Lenten season in which we are being forced to slow down and stay home is a good time to ask ourselves those questions. Lent is traditionally a time of meditating on our own mortality: on Ash Wednesday, the celebrant marked my forehead with an ashen cross and said, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.” What are we afraid of? Are we willing to name our fear and surrender it? Are we willing to take Jesus at His word and believe that He really is the resurrection and the life? Not just say we believe but really deep down believe? Believe it such that we live it? Or are those just words we repeat to comfort ourselves? Words that we think are a nice idea but not real enough to stake our lives on?

I am asking myself these questions as fear and anxiety swirl in the air around me and stick to me like I’m made of Velcro.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

I don’t. Not fully. Not really. Not in a knee-jerk, instinctive, first-response kind of way. And when the anxiety gets loud and imperious, whatever belief of this kind that I hold, I have to dig for it. It lies in a deep well that so easily gets covered by the fear in the air.

I think very few of us with comfortable American lives truly believe this. I think we don’t have to. We have so very many things to distract us from the reality of our mortality, so very many things to do and places to go and people to see. And even if we don’t, there’s always the internet that enables us to spend every moment of possible solitude interacting online.

And here we are, facing a health crisis, and we’re scared. And the people of Jesus Christ the Risen One are just as scared as everyone else. Mea culpa. I am participating in that fear. The anxiety that is swirling in the air is sticking to me and sticking into me.

So. What will we do? We have an opportunity, friends. The corona virus is not of God, but He uses all things for good, and He can use this for our good, too. Will we stop our habitual running and look our fear in the face and finally see what it is we are afraid of? Will we honestly answer Jesus’s question: Do you believe this?

Perhaps, like me, you realize that you don’t. Not really. That is not a bad place to be. God can work with us—and work in us—when we’re willing to let Him show us who we really are.

There is no shame in realizing we are faithless and afraid. Rather, that is an invitation to let go of our faithlessness and fear. Jesus called his disciples “little-faiths.” He loves little-faiths, friends. But He does not want us to remain little-faiths. He wants us to grow in our faith, to truly trust Him at the very core of our being. Acknowledging our fear and lack of faith is the first step toward overcoming our fear and lack of faith.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Do you remember what Martha said in response to Jesus’s question? She proclaimed, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Bold woman! Such faith!

“Roll the stone away,” Jesus said.

“But, Lord,” Martha protested, “by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

So much for bold faith. When the rubber hit the road and her spoken belief was put to the test, she failed. Her knee-jerk response was prudent and practical, not bold and faithful.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Martha did not believe. And you know what? Jesus raised Lazarus anyway.

He had the faith that Martha lacked. He has the faith that I lack. He has the faith that you lack.

We can cry to him like that hopeful, fearful father who desperately wanted a miracle for his son: “I believe; help my unbelief.” Jesus healed his son. He will heal us. He will raise us from the dead.

Do you believe this?



The featured image is (c) Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project. 



 

K.C. Ireton

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