Everywhere we turn, there it is. We see it on the news. We overhear it as we stand in line at the grocery store. It sneaks into our conversations with friends. It rises with us each morning, sits next to us at the dinner table, and tucks us in each night.
Fear, our constant companion, running rampant like a child given an espresso and a puppy on Christmas morning.
Fear takes any number of guises — virus and vaccines, climate and country, president and predecessor — recognizable by its telltale puppeteering of our anger, envy, and disgust of “the other.” Relief seems to be found only in desperate measures: becoming numb through addictive behaviors, acquiescing to hate, or escaping into isolation. Or so fear would have us believe.
There is, mercifully, another response to fear: hope. More accurately, practices of hope grounded in the presence of God with us.
Like in the Old Testament, where God frees the Israelites from enslavement under the Egyptians, leads them through the desert, and stands with them at the edge of the Jordan. As they look out across this powerful river, the boundary separating their present life of wandering from their promised future, all they can see is … fear.
They are going to face opposition. They are limited in their resources. They are still figuring out how to be a self-sufficient, self-governing people. They have no idea how this is all going to go.
Into this fear, God speaks: “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
It isn’t the lack of trouble nor the Israelites’ own competence, not their wealth nor their certainty of the outcome that can provide solid ground for the future. Fear will always have the upper hand when these are the criteria of hope. Rather, God’s people are commanded to counter their fear with courage, to walk forward in hope because they are not alone. And because the One with them is mightier than any of fear’s most formidable guises.
It’s many thousands of years since these words were first spoken to the Israelites, yet here we stand on the brink of our own future, nothing but fear standing in our way. Thankfully, God’s promise is still relevant: He is with us wherever we go. And for that reason, we can practice hope together.
Practice hope by being present with those around us; noticing them, listening to them, serving them. Practice hope by being curious about what others think, rather than judgmental. Practice hope by searching for common ground among those with whom we disagree. Practice hope by seeing the day through the lenses of gratefulness and love. Practice hope in using our words to uplift rather than tear down.
The LORD is with us. Let us take courage in His presence. And let us keep hope as our constant companion.
Joshua Gorenflo and his wife, Kya, are ministers at Kenai Fellowship. Worship is 11 a.m. on Sundays, posted live on Facebook.