Every time I hear the phrase, “well, with the way the world is today…” I want to cringe. Or scream. People usually use it to justify fear. I hear it most often when I or someone else is about to go abroad to do mission work. People shake their heads, and worry about the world being a dangerous place.
They’re not entirely wrong…the world is pretty awful sometimes. And for sure we’re all going to die. But I think these are two great reasons to not be afraid at all.
I spent the month of December volunteering in a refugee camp in Greece. I left shortly after the Paris attacks. During this time Americans seemed to be wrecked with fear. The internet was teeming with hatred and half-researched opinions, even more so than usual. Before I left, and after I returned, people asked me if I was afraid. They said that “that part of the world” is a scary place right now. I had done enough research to know that the people I would be meeting were running away from terrorism, not trying to spread it, and so there was no reason to worry. I also knew that I was headed to an island usually frequented by tourists, and I would be miles and miles away from the chaos these people, the refugees, were running from. The facts were on my side. Lesvos was never dangerous, and even now tourists are encouraged to return to enjoy its beaches, stunning views, and delicious food. The biggest prayers I needed were not for safety around the people I would be helping, but rather for the car ride up and down the mountain each day. But car accidents aren’t unique to Greece…they happen all over the world, even here in America. I have heard about a couple intense situations that have happened in one of the camps on Lesvos since I’ve been home, but even then, the people in charge know what they’re doing and how to keep volunteers safe. Plus, people around the world are praying for peace here and safety for everyone, so it’s all okay.
And yet, people worry. Fear is a perfectly normal emotion. I get it. I struggle with it. Oftentimes a little research and fact checking can help us realize we don’t need to panic. I can also tell you without a doubt, that some of the things that have scared me the most to do have also turned out to be the things I’m most glad I’ve done. The problem is when fear keeps us from moving, from doing, from loving.
And in the end, there’s no real reason to be afraid. Because someday, you are going to die. You are going to be in a car accident, or get cancer, or fall off a roof. Whether you have a stockpile of guns or believe nobody should own one, whether you want to build a wall or believe in wide open borders, whether you are rich or poor, whether you travel the world or spend your entire life in your hometown, you are going to die. Your life is but a breath and you can choose to spend it in fear and anger and bitterness. You can certainly choose to spend it in apathy as well. Or, you can choose to spend it radically loving others.
Our lives are fragile, wispy things, and they are slipping through our fingers.
And I don’t say this to make you depressed. Rather, I mean to encourage.
We’re holding on so tightly to something that was never ours to begin with.
But the knowledge that our lives are not our own, that some things are out of our control ultimately brings great freedom. We now have no excuse not to cross oceans and continents and neighborhoods and sidewalks to love our neighbors, to love our enemies, to go and make disciples of all nations.
Is the world a scary place? Of course it is. It’s always been awful, since nearly the very beginning. This current generation did not invent war or terrorism or violence or poverty. But we don’t have to be afraid, or at least we don’t have to be ruled by that fear. Instead of causing us to hide in our homes, “the way the world is today” should spur us to action, should cause us to shine our lights even brighter, so that we can help push back the darkness. Our fear is not going to make the world a better place, or less safe. That can only be achieved by love put into action.
You are going to die. That is certain. So the question is, how are you going to live?