November 14, 2007

When Fearful

2007 1531 page31 caphere are scary things “out there.” Every day we’re treated to sensational media reports about natural disasters, terrorist threats, identity theft, dangerous microbes, wild animals, drunk drivers, Internet scams, sexual predators, serial killers, etc.
Then there are the things that may be hiding in our bodies. I mean, who knows what kind 
of clots, cancers, syndromes, or genetic mutations are right now conspiring to shorten our lives or leave us suffering some painful, debilitating disease?
But to anyone who feels nearly crushed by the fears and apprehensions that are so often part of our lives in this day and age, I offer these few words from a familiar hymn: “This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”*
Like you, I’m often distressed by the senseless, cruel, and stupid reports that pass for news or entertainment. Yet I am frequently reminded that this is our Father’s world. In spite of the evidence of sin’s curse, God has filled the earth with countless tokens of His love and creativity.
2007 1532 page31I often rise before dawn. When it’s clear I see the stars, like so many shining sentinels—the same canopy that has marked the seasons for centuries. Long before the sounds of humanity drown them out, I hear the delicate peeps and chirps of the birds that nest in the trees. And those same trees add their music when the wind rustles their leaves or whispers through their branches.
In summer I love to watch butterflies and bumblebees swoop, dive, and hover from blossom to blossom. That’s when I realize that although their presence brings me immense satisfaction, they’re really involved in a struggle for survival; that they will probably not survive the season, and only their descendants will grace us with their presence next year.
When I go to the office, I like to park as far from the building as possible. The sky, the clouds, the birds in flight, the scents of the season are all reminders of the way creation was designed not just to sustain life, but also to inspire us.
On Sabbaths when we don’t attend our own church, my wife and I sometimes visit other congregations that are brave enough to invite me to preach. There’s so much natural beauty in this part of central Maryland. Fields and orchards, tended for generations by families long-forgotten, remind me that we were placed here for a relatively short time to be stewards of the natural resources that not only make life survivable, but also enjoyable.
On occasion I visit large cities to attend meetings and conventions. My hotel check-in ritual always includes asking the desk clerk to recommend places for my morning runs. Almost invariably I can find, within a few minutes of my hotel, a park, a river, a lake, a bike trail on which I can run for miles and be inspired by the natural beauty found there. Some of my favorite places to run include Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Portland.
Clearly, the environment we live in surrounds us with a natural beauty that is meant both to delight and inspire. Does it ameliorate all that is perverse, violent, and debased in society? Hardly. But in nature we are reminded that this is yet our Father’s world; that in spite of sin’s encroachment, He is still sovereign. How can we not be filled with love, gratitude, and praise to God for all the beauty that surrounds us?
The apostle Paul counseled the believers in Philippi to focus on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (see Phil. 4:8). In spite of a climate that often engenders fear, we should all spend a portion of each day contemplating nature’s wonders and anticipating the earth’s ultimate re-creation. As creation groans and longs to be restored to its Edenic state, countless signs all around us declare, without doubt, this is our Father’s world.
*Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, No. 92.
Stephen Chavez is managing editor of Adventist Review.