“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)
Recently, while doing research for a war script I was writing, I planned a trip to Washington, D.C. to gather the information I couldn’t get sitting at home at my computer. It’s probably worth noting at the outset that I hate to fly; I totally abhor it, but sometimes you have to endure what you absolutely hate in order to accomplish what you absolutely love. So, I shut my eyes, booked a flight to Washington, and prepared myself for the worst.
Because I am anxiety-ridden and prone to sucking air at every minor turbulence bump, I always bring plenty of things to keep my mind occupied. Unfortunately, I don’t have an IPod or an mp3 player to intersect my anxiety, so I grabbed a book off the shelf just before walking out the door. I jammed the book into my bag hoping it would distract me from the inevitable.
We were somewhere over the plains of Nebraska when the pilot came over the intercom to tell us we could expect some “bumps” for a bit while he dodged a storm front. Apparently, it was tornado season in the Midwest and we were in for a rousing roller coaster ride.
It takes more concentration to read than to do crossword puzzles, so I put away my crossword and quickly rustled through my carry-on bag in search of my book. I found it, and for the first time realized what I had grabbed. I smiled when I read the title: Brave Hearts Under Red Skies. Well, the sky outside the airplane was green at the moment, but I desperately needed a brave heart to survive this ordeal, so I cracked it open.
Instantly, I found myself thrown into the middle of an honest to goodness dogfight over Vietnam while Air Force officer, Colonel Jeff O’Leary, narrated. Was it a good idea to read about an airplane spinning, diving, and shuddering in combat while the plane I was sitting in was doing the very same thing because of the wind? I wasn’t sure. Suddenly, the plane lurched left, then right. The turbulence on the plane grew to a crescendo. I got queasy trying to read, so I shut my eyes.
Despite my nausea, I couldn’t put the book down. I was captivated. I had expected to read a book about war, but instead, found myself engrossed in dramatic accounts of God’s sovereign protection in the absolute worst of circumstances. Col. O’Leary’s description of a firefight in the middle of combat blew my little weather turbulence right out of the sky. At least my plane wasn’t taking enemy fire!
Strangely, I felt calm. God drew near. The plane continued to pitch and lurch, yet I wasn’t hyperventilating or digging my fingernails into the armrests anymore. Reading about Christian pilots preserved by the hand of God in the midst battle dissolved my fear. The change in my perspective was remarkable.
God’s love had quieted me.
In the midst of those angry, turbulent skies God had brought my spirit to peace. I learned that peace is not the absence of anxiety; it is the condition of my spirit when it rests in God’s sovereign love for me. It has no connection to the circumstances swirling around me; rather, peace is the natural outcome of abiding.
Life can throw any of us into a tailspin with its midnight phone calls, tragedies, diagnoses, emergency room visits, pink slips, and disappointments. Christmas, too, can be a time of high anxiety. Disappointed expectations, dashed hopes, and unfulfilled dreams can rattle us making us worried and fretful.
But God wants to quiet us by his love. Jesus offers his peace in the midst of our storms.
All is calm. All is bright.
Is that possible in a world so full of worry and anxiety?
Yes, it’s possible.
It was possible in 1914 when the whole world was at war in Europe. The weapons of a new generation left havoc and horror wherever they were employed. Machine guns and poisonous gas appeared on battlefields maiming and killing hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Germany entrenched itself along the Western Front in Belgium and was opposed by French and British forces on the other side. The fighting was furious – the carnage horrible.
The war was just beginning and there was no ceasefire in sight.
December drew near. Nations fought. Nations bled. They mourned. Days passed. More men died. Civilians died. They fled. Ever so quietly Christmas crept into the trenches of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Humble and unassuming, it brought what no president, statesman, or general had been able to bring.
Christmas brought peace.
For a few brief hours, the battle haze cleared and the guns went silent on Christmas Eve of 1914. Then, into the anxious silence German soldiers began to sing. The gentle lullaby wafted across the battlefield. Soon British and French forces joined in as well, each singing in his own language – the language of unity, the language of peace.
“Silent Night, Holy Night. All is calm, all is bright.”
In the midst of that horrible bloodshed, there was peace. In the midst of battle, there was ceasefire. In the midst of terror, there was calm. In the midst of fear, there was comfort. God’s love quieted a war in progress.
I don’t know what fears or battles you are facing in your life right now. I don’t know how long they will last, or how costly they will become. I do know that the Lord is in your midst and he is mighty to save. He rejoices over you with gladness and will quiet you by his love. Soak yourself in that love this Christmas and allow him to rock you to peace.
All is calm, all is bright.
**Remember to pray for our troops who are home from Iraq, those still deployed in Afghanistan, and those stationed around the world. Pray that this Christmas they too will have a silent night…silent within as God quiets their fears with his love, and quiet without as God protects them from enemy assault.
©Copyright, 2011 by Donna Tallman.