Fear & Peace

For two long days last week as my pastor-husband prepared a sermon, I overheard his end of several zoom interviews asking people two questions: What causes you fear? and How have you encountered Jesus at your point of fear?

I couldn’t hear their answers, so I pondered my own responses to questions I’d been asking myself for weeks.

Shelter-in-place brought on an anxiety I couldn’t control or explain. I felt uncomfortable, awkward, ashamed. What is wrong with me? I wondered. Not in a high risk category, I’m not really afraid that I’m going to contract COVID-19. And, at least on the surface, my life hasn’t changed that much. So where are these Big Feels coming from?

  • Sleep immediately flew out the window for me and our kids. “Bedtime” suddenly shifted to 3 am, which meant we also slept half the day. It took about a month to settle into a healthier sleep rhythm.
  • The loss of routine. Our family doesn’t easily set our own routines, meaning that we rely on external structure to organize our days.
  • With everyone at home all the time, there’s no solitude, little silence, and regular interruptions, which makes it hard to concentrate, to write, to be creative. I have been less able to plug in to my natural outlets.
  • The obvious loss of social outlets. ‘Nuff said.
  • I’m not working, and I don’t know what work will look like in the future.
  • The comparison game at which I keep losing: others claim to be living their best life, developing new skills and side gigs, while I want to crawl in a hole and cry, or at least, hole up with a book or three.
  • The fear of the unknown: how long will this last? And all the swirling questions: how long should it last to keep us all safe?
  • And the big one: I fear that others aren’t taking this seriously, that they’re not truly sheltering-in-place, they’re not social distancing, they’re going out too often and letting their kids hang out with others. And by not taking it seriously, they’re invalidating my taking-it-seriously actions.

So where is Jesus in all this? Sheepishly, I asked Guy if anyone had dared to answer that they didn’t know…or that their fear was not having heard from Jesus during this time. Good for them, but no, no one answered that way.

I know Jesus is with me, but He hasn’t exactly been dramatic about announcing Himself. So I keep doing what I do to cultivate an environment for peace: I persist in my daily gratitude hunt. I find joy in exercising with my dogs. I’ve rediscovered a yoga practice that I can maintain at home long-term. And I write Bible studies where Jesus helps me craft questions as He speaks to my heart.

As the days plod along, slow and steady, I am grateful for faith in His gentle presence in the heart of our home. Even when I feel less than peaceful, I trust He’s here with peace in hand.

Connect
Name one of your biggest childhood fears. Alternately, share about something that currently makes you fearful.

Study
Read aloud John 20:19-23.
Put yourself in the room with the disciples before Jesus shows up (v19). What are you thinking and feeling?
How does Jesus’ greeting also address the disciples’ fears (v19)?
Why did Jesus show them His hands and side (v20)?
Why did Jesus emphasize peace (vv19, 21)?
How are peace, the Holy Spirit, and forgiveness connected? Why are they important for the ones whom Jesus sends?

Live
When do you feel most peaceful?
What does it look like for you to receive Jesus’ peace?
If you can, share about a recent time when you felt afraid and how Jesus showed up for you.
In the midst of fear, how can you actively put your trust in God?
How does a sense of purpose help one deal with fear?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Ask God to meet you in your fears and fill you with peace.

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on John 20:19-23 individually and with your family:
What are you afraid of?
How can Jesus help you feel peaceful?
Ask Jesus to help you trust Him when you’re afraid.

If you’d like to hear Guy’s sermon based on this passage, you can watch here. The Scripture reading followed by the sermon starts at 13:32.

Image by Raheel Shakeel from Pixabay

Unexpected

How are you holding up during the pandemic? I don’t typically experience anxiety, but I have during the five weeks the San Francisco Bay Area of California has been under shelter-in-place (SIP). Some days, or at least some hours, I’m fine, and others not so much.

I do typically seek out gratitude, and this discipline has become even more important these days. It has helped to hold me steady. So the unexpected feelings of anxiety have me looking for unexpected things I can be grateful for during this extremely unexpected experience.

Unexpected things I’m grateful for during SIP (beyond things I’m regularly thankful for, like walkable neighborhoods and blooming spring flowers):

Not having to rush everywhere
Our church has learned how to broadcast services and Sunday school resources, and folks who haven’t been attending church have been finding their way back
All the people we meet face-to-face (at a safe distance) while walking
Cleaning out closets, the pantry, the fridge/freezer, vacuuming under the bed, etc.
Family projects–both kids worked with their dad to create/update pet habitats and Q15 has a new live edge redwood desk with redwood legs
People rediscovering the art of correspondence
Also, rediscovering playtime–puzzles, games, hobbies, toys that had been outgrown and tucked away have been pulled out
New cooking/recipe groups on social media and time to try new recipes
Bartering–a friend swapped me two bottles of wine for homemade hummus and granola
Artists and musicians sharing their gifts and humor freely, and amateurs dabbling creatively
My overflowing (and occasionally crazy-making) bookshelves + our local online library service + more time to read and I will never run out of new material
Technology meeting the demands of new restrictions and reminding people that we can be connected even if we’re far apart
People have been leaving whimsically painted rocks along the trails and roadsides for others to find–like discovering Easter eggs all spring!

I’m also grateful for the opportunity to write Bible studies like the one below, in which Jesus showed up to His grieving friends. I’m grateful for the reminder that I don’t have to have it all together for Jesus to be with me, to love me just as I am.

Connect
What unexpected things have you discovered you can be grateful for during shelter-in-place?

Study
Read aloud John 20:1-18.
What did Mary, and then Peter and John, expect to find at the tomb (vv1-3)?
What different responses did Mary, Peter and John have as they approached the empty tomb (vv1-9)? Who do you most relate to in this scene and why?
Why do you think Peter and John went back to where they were staying while Mary remained at the tomb (vv10-11)?
Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus (vv9-16)? What did it take for her to recognize Him?
Describe the interaction between Jesus and Mary (vv15-18).
What instructions did Jesus give Mary, and why is it important then and now (vv17-18)?

Live
How do you typically expect to approach and interact with Jesus?
How has Jesus recently surprised you by bursting beyond your expectations?
When coming to God, are you more of a “clean it up first” or “bring the whole mess” kind of person? Explain.
What does it sound like for Jesus to call your name? How do you respond?
How has Jesus met you in the grief and disappointments of life?
What difference does the resurrection make to your life today?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Pray for eyes to see the Lord.

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on John 20:11-18 individually and with your family:
What makes you sad?
How can Jesus comfort you when you’re sad?
Pray for eyes to see Jesus.

If you’d like to hear a sermon based on this passage, my husband preached a grace-filled message for our church today. You can watch here.

Cover Image by TC Perch from Pixabay