Tonight at church, we turned off all of the lights and decked the kids out in glow sticks of all kinds, and we danced and sang about Jesus. We talked about trusting God when you’re afraid.
I looked around the room and wondered how many of them felt a little bit scared in that moment, with lights out and with storms brewing in their homes while they were away. I wondered how many would go home to terrors we could never imagine, to crimes and cries and hurts of all sorts.
I called a boy to the front and handed him a microphone. He said the words I have been trying to imprint in their fragile little hearts since late last summer: Do not be afraid or terrified…
I could see little mouths on the front row, lit by neon, glowing necklaces, mouthing the words along with him.
The Lord Your God is with you…
I thought of Belgium. Of the dust and the blood and the destruction that filled the airport. I thought of faces smeared with grimaces of pain and grief as they limped their way out of unstable buildings, alive, while others lay inside, their last moment of this life already gone.
He will never leave you nor forsake you…
I thought of Jesus, praying in the garden, grieving already over what He knew was going to happen.
And, when the boy finished reciting the very words of life, God’s words, I gave him a high five and sent him back to his seat, a spot on an old gym floor in a dark room, where I really couldn’t even see him anymore.
The night went on, and through the wild, fun chaos, we told stories of God’s faithfulness. We told victory tales of how we had been afraid, but God had seen us through. For one girl, it was tornadoes. For another, it was a dark house at night. One boy had been worried about a history project. And, I wondered how many thousands of fears for the future that we could have collected in that room from teachers and students.
I wondered how many terrors were too awful to even speak of there, in the dark, neon dotted gym on a Wednesday night.
When the time was up, I sent the children home, knowing some would go home to peace and rest and others would go home to fears lived out in shadowy living rooms. I drove my own babies back to our peaceful, albeit messy, sweet parsonage, knowing that across the sea mothers are still waiting to hear if their babies are safe in the aftermath of the terror. I thought of the little boy who disappeared in the dark of the back of the room tonight, and I wondered how often he feels that invisible.
The words he spoke to us are still echoing in my mind tonight. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid. He is with you.
I picture Jesus, kneeling there, all trembling sweat in the garden, alone while His friends snored in the distance. Yet not my will, but Yours be done, He prayed. And, and in this strange mixture of agony and peace, we see what it means to trust God. Even when the future He maps out is going to be difficult. Even when the hurt seems too deep. Even when the terror feels too real. Even to the point of death. Even when you are all alone and you feel as invisible as a little boy in a pitch black corner someplace. Yes, even then. He is with you.
Trust Him with your own life. Trust Him with all those you’re hurting for. He is close to the broken-hearted, to the agonizers and the peace-seekers. And, He isn’t going anywhere.