“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” – Isaiah 54:10
My husband and I recently took our youngest daughter shopping at a nearby mall. After only a couple hours, we were all exhausted and grateful to find a restaurant where we could have dinner together. As we sat looking at the menu, our daughter pulled a new sweatshirt out of her bag, put it on, and immediately regretted the size she had chosen. She asked if she could run back to the store to make an exchange for a bigger size. I encouraged McKenzie to go by herself and probably played it off like I was encouraging independence in my daughter, even though the real reason was that if I had to get up from the table and go into another store, I might start sobbing in the restaurant. This “independence” idea seemed much better for all involved.
She went off with her bag as Steve and I talked and after about five minutes I started looking for her to return. It seemed to be taking a little longer than I thought it would, and I kept finding myself looking over my shoulder to see if she was coming back. After a few more minutes, there she was, big smile on her face, carrying the bag with the bigger size. She walked through the food court, gave us a thumbs up, and returned to the restaurant to join us for dinner. She happily showed us how much better this size fit and all was right with the world.
We devoured our food in about 15 minutes and waited for the check. All of sudden, we heard a deafening roar of screams and looked towards the food court to see hundreds of people sprinting towards us. It was mass confusion as chairs toppled, food fell from tables, and people shoved others out of the way in an attempt to escape the mall as fast as they could. It took us a moment to process what was happening, but finally our brains registered that we might be in danger. The restaurant staff announced that we should move to the back of the restaurant and Steve grabbed McKenzie by the arm and led her in that direction. I watched as the chaos began to seep into the restaurant as well. People knocked over drinks, children were crying hysterically, and one little boy even started choking because the commotion scared him so much. As we waited in a safe space, we learned that someone had a gun and another person had been shot. After some time had passed, we were told we could safely leave, and I found myself wondering if this was actually reliable information. We tentatively walked to the car and breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived safely home.
As we talked about the event and replayed it over and over again in our heads, I suddenly said, “What if it had been ten minutes later when McKenzie went to return her sweatshirt? She would have been stuck in that stampede!”
We all looked at each other as the reality of this set in. I tend to laugh when I am nervous so there was that and then I hugged McKenzie and said how glad I was that she was ok. Steve commented on the fact that we had been trying to encourage independence in our youngest and yet could have unknowingly thrown her into a den of lions. I thought about how different it would have looked from her happily walking back to our table to experiencing terror in the midst of people panicking and trying to survive. I cringed to think about it.
It was a reminder of the difference a few minutes can make, but also a sobering reminder of how little we really control in our lives. Things can change in an instant and when I think about all that can happen, I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed. Not only that, but there has been so much horrific tragedy in our society, that it seems everyone lives with a heightened sense of anxiety. We long for peace, but the realities in our world tend to create a constant low-grade anxiety in our souls.
The bible tells us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Our shepherd and protector. We are told to cast our anxieties on him because he cares for us. There are over 400 references to peace in the Word of God, but if we are honest, how peaceful are we really?
My mind can be a war zone, wreaking havoc on a peaceful life. I can play “what if” scenarios over and over again in my head or say negative things to myself about how I handled a situation and often find myself slipping into a restless, negative spiral.
I am convinced more and more that we must make space for quiet in the midst of our chaotic world. It is important to make the time to journal and process with the Lord in order to get in touch with all of the turmoil that exists under the surface of our souls.
As we prepare for Easter, what does making space for the Lord look like? Where can we create moments of quiet and solitude to consider what it means that we follow the Prince of Peace? 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.” This week take some time to really pray through that verse. What does it look like to cast our anxieties on Him? Do we trust that He cares for us no matter the circumstances?
I tend to beat myself up when I worry or feel anxious and maybe you do too. It’s ok. We just need to come to the Lord with all of it and really process it with Him. I want to end with a recent quote from Katherine Wolf, the author of Hope Heals. Her story is an amazing one that demonstrates incredible faith in the midst of suffering and uncertainty. In a matter of minutes, her own life drastically changed because of a massive brain stem stroke. In spite of miraculous reminders of God’s faithfulness in her life, she admits she still feels afraid at times. She still worries. Even though she has had more MRIs than she can count, she still experiences angst and anxiety before each one. She writes, “You would think doing the hard things over time would make them get less hard, but sometimes they don’t get any easier and sometimes they get even harder. And maybe that’s kind of the point. Maybe this good/hard life is about still showing up scared to the ongoing hard with ongoing hope. It’s not about the outcome of this life hurting less but about the process of our hearts hoping more.”
May His “peace, which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) as our hearts learn to hope more in Him.
*This is the first post in a new Lent series.