Hope in Unsure Times

By Pastor Doug Kelly
Originally Published December 2015

I am writing this just a few days after the massacres of Paris and Beirut at the hands of ISIS recruits. Anyone who’s been to the jewel of Lebanon or the heart of culture in Europe aches for those souls grieving and scared. They are the walking numb in a world of darkness experiencing an absence of any ‘great light.’

This is a time of great disequilibrium for us in the west. (Middle easterners have breathed the air of disequilibrium for decades.) Honestly, I found myself this weekend yearning for the old cold war days when Washington D.C. and the Moscow had the world parsed out nicely. There was a tremendous amount of oppression in that global equilibrium, but at least the fights were more managed. Then again, the madness of the nuclear arms race was suffocating.

Disequilibrium creates anxiety and fear. It happens in countries, in families, in churches, in businesses, in any organization. The problem then is exacerbated when solutions are offered out of that fear. Disequilibrium requires caution but fear cripples. Winston Churchill knew this when he declared to bombed out Britons during World War II, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

The Bible is all about seasons of disequilibrium: exodus, wilderness wonderings, divided kingdoms, captivity and exile, temple cleansings, cross, resurrection, pentecostal boundary breaking. And again and again the message is “fear not.”

The church season of Advent is the perfect time for the people of Jesus to once again engage the practices of “fear not”, the practices of waiting, paying attention, and hoping. Some of our families are in seasons of great transition. In our church family, we are in the process of a staff change, new configuration of our Howe houses, shifts in our music ensemble structure, conversations on sexuality – any of which can push some of us outside our comfort zone. I know of a number of Bethany sisters and brothers hungering for full employment. It can feel like we’re walking in darkness.

And this is exactly why the early church chose the winter solstice for the time to celebrate the incarnation of great light. When we wait in the dark of disequilibrium rather than running from it, when we pay attention to God’s new rivers in the wilderness rather than crying to be taken back to Egypt, when we hope in the confusion rather than grab the quick fix out of fear, we indeed perceive the new thing God is doing; “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth do you not perceive it.” (Isaiah 43: 19)

The people who walked in darkness did see a great light. I pray that the people of Lebanon and France will see it. I hope I do. “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)