I feel like many of us have been living in a certain sort of turmoil. The picture that comes to my mind is trying to turn out of a parking lot onto a busy street. You pull up with your blinker on and wait your turn. But the cars keep coming. Not just one or two, or perfectly spaced apart… but as you look in each direction you see an endless line of headlights slowly dimming over the horizon. And the words exasperatedly enter both your mind and your soul… “I’m never getting out of here”
A terrible feeling for sure, but an easy problem structure to have… at least for most. The problems are many… seemingly infinite, but as you likely have experienced, they still only come one or two at a time. And, if we end up patient enough, they pass us by and we can eventually pull out of our ruts and struggles and make our way to the road of our journey.
Some now have a different kind of pain. The picture that comes to my mind is an ocean. Far out into the massive expanse of water, you are treading over unexplored depths. It’s dark, it’s cold, and you can’t see anything in any direction that you look, save the waves that keep bouncing past your face reminding you that your small world just became a tiny piece of hay hidden in a massive needle-stack.
Sharks don’t attack in single file lines, they swarm and circle. There are jelly fish too, and sting rays, eels, piranha’s, whales, and all sorts of other deadly creatures. There are currents, undertows, and storms. But even if nothing actually and physically attacks you… you are getting tired and as you gasp for breath, each time a little more salt water finds it way into your mouth.
Where before, our problems seemed huge and life altering… we can look back now and sense that those were the good ole days. Single file problems in the highway of life that would mildly detour us, but eventually gave way and let us back in our lane. Now we have been dropped in the ocean.
Whizzing though our minds are thoughts of loved ones, travel plans, jobs, bills, food, shelter, civil issues, panic, and the uncertainty of how everyone else’s behavior could change. The store shelves are empty, the news won’t stop with scare tactics and dramatics… and we might just think exasperatedly… “I’m never getting out of this”. We might even long for the days when our terrible problems seem so much simpler now.
What strikes me is how differently Paul prayed. “get me out of this!”… nope. Not him. He said “to live is Christ, to die is gain”. He explained that if he was allowed to keep on living that he would just use his life to continue sharing Jesus with others, and if He died, that He would be with Jesus and his mission would be accomplished.
While I think this would be a great, albeit morbid application here, that isn’t the point I want to make. For Paul, it wasn’t about living or dying because he always lived his life in such a way that it didn’t matter what happened next.
When the roads backed up and he couldn’t make progress… he would, effectively, minister in the parking lot he was stuck in. When the ocean swelled around him and the sharks closed in, He prepared his mind for the eternity he had been living for all along.
There was no, “why me?” or “how come”… it was always, “Lord, I serve you”… even in situations much worse than we see today. And at the crux of it all was what He kept His eyes on. He didn’t see the road, or the cars, or the water, or the fear, or the panic… He just saw Jesus. When eyes are locked on the Savior, you get saved. That doesn’t mean yanked out of problems, but it does mean eternal life with a Savior that defines love and peace.
I’ve always been perplexed by the phrase, “meet your maker”. To most that means death. Paul lived his life every day with his maker… and it was wonderful. David sang in caves while in hiding for his life… he sang about his wonderful, magnificent maker. Jesus, when sacrificing himself for us, was in constant communion with His maker.
What I have learned is that if we meet our maker now… we aren’t afraid to meet him in the end. A relationship with God now, means we understand and even appreciate the end. Forfeiting that relationship now, is what gives so much fear and panic to such a phrase and possibility.
That relationship is hope. It is light in the middle of the struggle. It is peace in the storms of life. It brings balance, courage, and sense into the chaos.
This isn’t about having morbid thoughts of despair today, tomorrow, or even the next few months or years… It’s about acknowledging that men and women who faced such situations didn’t know fear when they knew their maker. This is true for pandemics and it’s true for surgeries and marriages and relationships and jobs. When you know Jesus, you live for Him… and that may not pull you out of the water, but it makes you fearless, content, and able to live strong, proud, and for Him in every situation.
Paul knew, he would either look back one day and see how God lead Him through, or He with be with God soon… either way was a victory for him. And that is how he lived out every day. Every wonderful, God created, Spirit-filled day where he communed with His creator no matter what the Devil came up with for that day. Today we can dread the unknown, or we can meet our Maker. He answers to God, Father, Lord, and many other titles. He wants to know you, He wants to fellowship with you. He wants to restore those who used to know Him…
Speak those words… ‘God, I want to know you!’ Perhaps speak them again if you don’t know Him well. And find where the bravery of Paul came from. Learn what hope means and why fear is trivial in the most extreme circumstances.