Entering 2013 Looking for Shalom Between the Fiscal Cliff and the Kardashian Baby

There are two types of posts I keep finding on Facebook and Twitter, those really excited about the new start of the year and those that are really anxious about it. Obviously I’m overstating but for every blog post about getting things done, there’s 5 Facebook statuses venting their negativity. It’s probably like this every year, but for whatever reason, this year I’ve been struck by how many are entering 2013 with a bit of apprehension and fear.

I think it’s fair to say that many of us exited 2012 in a funk. Between the Newtown tragedy, the Fiscal Cliff, and the US Presidential election, there’s a lot of chatter hitting close to home. Then, there’s the “holiday hangover” (which has nothing to do with alcohol, GC@Nite readers ;) All the drama of the year, culminated by the Christmas rush has finally come to an end and many of us are drained.

What’s among the first things we hear in the New Year? That we’re falling off the “Fiscal Cliff.” Our minds race: “The US economy might go back into recession, this will affect the fragile global economy, jobs will be even harder to find, things aren’t that great right now and you’re telling me they might get worse …” Frustration brews over at our leaders, our rivals, and all the anger and disappointments that have been adding up.

The next thing we heard was that Kim Kardashian is pregnant. The first people I thought of when Kanye made the announcement were all the couples who are struggling with infertility. If you know our story before the three kids, you know what I mean. “God allows Kim and Kanye to have a baby but we can’t!??” Of course, that’s not how my personal theology works but I tell you, when you’re hurting, the world sucks too much to be concerned with better theology (Grace and strength to those who can relate. Btw, we cannot recommend the beauty of adopting enough. We adopted Nathan, who is awesome, and then had two of our own, they’re incredible too. I’ll never thank God for infertility itself but for the lessons and gifts from it – absolutely). Sorry for the digression but it was an important one.

Now the people that ask me to pray for them don’t really mention things like the Mayans or Kim and Kanye. Instead they ask me to pray for things like finding a job or finding one that is fulfilling, or finding a soulmate, or a health need for them or a loved one. One line I hear often is, “If this doesn’t happen, I don’t know what I’ll do.” Directly or indirectly they are praying for meaning, purpose and a hopeful future.

It’s a scary thought to the say the least. It’s the uncertainty, the anxiousness, the tension, all the “what if’s?”

I feel it too. Too often my mind races to worst case scenarios that can happen to my family. If some of these evil tragedies only happen at the least expected of times to the least expected of people, how long can one stay on the positive side of the statistics? And when I temporarily dismiss that set of  nightmares, I remember that every life gets that phone call that makes them look for parking in an over-crowded hospital lot and that everyone has to take a deep breath before exiting the elevator.

Again, I feel it too. Sometimes after a fun night of playing with the kids and joking with my wife, there’s that weird and unexpected thought whispering these times may be rarer than we realize. One thing is to not take the goodness of life for granted, it’s another to allow ourselves to be haunted by fear.

If I may encourage us for a moment, I’d like to remind us of the countless passages of Scripture focused on dealing with fear. The two most readily on my mind are:

“Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be strong and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.” Psalm 27: 14

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity of cowardice, but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1: 7

I remember the Psalm 27 passage because I literally read it at just about every funeral or at the side of a hospital bed as the family “waits.” I remember the 2 Timothy passage because of a sermon I heard years ago. It was soon after that Sunday morning that it dawned on me that God hates that we fear, probably as much as He hates sin and evil – both demonstrate a lack of trust in Him and His redemptive work.

We often describe fear as crippling. And it isn’t just crippling in the personal sense but capable of compromising society. Fear actually moves humanity backward, similar to how when panic sets in a crowd. When Jesus rises from the dead, He conquers sin, death, evil, and fear on our behalf. Fear is overcome with love. The life that Jesus offers us strengthens us not only to withstand the storms of life but to also pick up those that the “way of the world” has trampled. This is the shalom, the peace, the courage, that Jesus offers.  

The powerful truth about God is that He is able to rescue us regardless of how far down we have fallen off the cliff, regardless of adjective. The beautiful thing about God is that He loves all people which reminds me that I ought to pray especially for the Kardashian baby because if I don’t, I’ll dismiss this child as pop-cutlure trivia. (God might even be able to help me muster up some compassion for Kim and Kanye ;)

As we enter the year anxious and frustrated, let us remember that the Scriptures are not trite, but rather true. They tell us that God is near the broken-hearted, He gives strength to the weary, His light casts out darkness and that His love drives out fear. May 2013 be a year of shalom – a year marked with the the peace, courage and love of God.

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