Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.1
It is a moment when mothers gather toddlers in their arms and try hard not to think about the morning news. High-rise construction workers huddle in tight knots, fists clenched, muttering helplessly about the overnight headlines before they set to work to build another tower. College students tweet and post and blog and worry if the world that seemed a reasonable place but yesterday is now falling apart before their eyes.
World-girdling events are now as close as any suicide bomber’s death-laden belt or the rampages of disturbed loners on university campuses or shopping malls. “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26, NRSV).
It would be foolishness to claim that believers are unruffled by the things that shake their neighbors. The natural response to bombed airliners, savage videos, rattled economies and copycat catastrophes is fear—full, primal fear that grabs you by the throat and seems to threaten your next breath. And unless we do a foolish thing and refuse to pay attention to the world around us, with all its breaking news and heart-breaking pain, the followers of Jesus will find their pulses pounding and hair rising on their necks as much as any other dweller in the Age of Disintegration. The wind and waves and chaos are real enough.
But faith, as Jesus once reminded His rattled disciples in a sinking boat, is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of fear. We quiet ourselves, not because we can somehow miss the daily tide of disassembling news or wipe the images of drowning refugees away, but because we find a confidence in Power greater than the chaos.
This is the special contribution of Adventism as our world lurches toward its end. No movement—religious or political—in the last two centuries has been more forward than this remnant in announcing the calamitous dissolution of the powers that be—or the reasons that still float our certainty in Him in whom all things still hold together (Col 1:17). From William Miller in the 1830s to the pastor-evangelist who just preached last night in the rented hall at the Holiday Inn, Adventists have underlined that no one—no one—should expect smooth sailing. Titanic forces will rise and clash, spreading desolation, poverty and starvation in their wake, all as predicted in the Scriptures. Governments will futilely attempt unholy alliances to prop up the semblance of normality, and tyranny will have a field day as fearful citizens surrender God-given rights to buy a seeming safety. God’s law, first written in the human heart, will lose its once-compelling power, and righteousness will be the victim of expedience.
“But in the Word of God the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold, behind, above, and through all the play and counterplay of human interests and power and passions, the agencies of the all-merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will.”2
The Advent message—both in the season the Christian world calls “Advent” and in every other season—is an inspired philosophy of history, drawn from the pages of God’s Word, and asserting that the Lord, in fact, will have the final word. The certainty that others seek in every morning’s headlines will only be found in holding fast our confidence in the “Master of ocean, and earth, and skies.”
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.