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Facing Fear, Finding Light

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On December 11, 2013, my husband, Volodymyr, stood in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, praying as military police advanced toward a crowd of peaceful protestors in the middle of the night. It was a tense and violent push and shove that left many seriously injured. As police called for the evacuation of the square, leaders quickly reminded everyone that this was a peaceful protest against corruption and injustice.

Fear was palpable, as no one was certain what might happen next. Suddenly, amidst a cacophony of noise and chaos, as riot police began to advance, Volodymyr heard the nearby bells of St. Michael’s Cathedral begin to ring. I am told the ringing of the bells was once an ancient call for alarm. My husband said he could feel his heart beating faster and in sync with the bells. The ministers then began to lead all who were gathered in the Lord’s Prayer, continuing to do so throughout the dark hours of the night.

Frederick Buechner writes, “The grace of God means something like: … Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” The world can indeed be a terrible, scary place where violence, wars, oppression, and poverty threaten far too many people daily. If we give in to fear, it has a way of paralyzing us. How, then, do we preserve our faith and continue to trust in the One who saves?

In Psalm 139:7–12, the psalmist prays a gentle reminder: Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Sometimes, it’s when we have hit rock bottom, been defeated, gotten lost, or experienced real fear that we need the most simple truth—nothing can separate us from God’s love and presence. There is nowhere we have to flee in order to find Him. God is already there in our midst. But He is not just with us. He is for us—on our side. The With-Us God is not just here to stand with us in the darkness but to actually turn darkness into light!

It is this reality that allows us to move forward in the various circumstances of our lives. There is something quite transforming about praying the Lord’s Prayer when you are gripped by fear and have nowhere to turn but to the God of love and grace and justice. Like the psalmist who cried out, like the bells that rang in the night, like the priests who led people in prayer in Kyiv that December evening, I, too, am called to push through my fears and to sound the alarm that there is One who has the power to save. And there is One who is present even when terrible things happen.

For so many of us, the circumstances of our lives continue to unfold without any certainty of how the story will end. But it is in these moments that we find hope in knowing that God is here, among the poor, the brokenhearted, the weak, the vulnerable, the wounded. Amidst the noises and voices that seek to surround us in fear, God asks us to continue proclaiming that ancient message: “Fear not!”

 

This story was republished from NCM Magazine. Read more at: ncm.org/magazine

 

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