Finding Life In A World That’s Bracing

Brace For the Worst

“Italy Must Brace For the 2nd Wave.”

Brace Yourself For A Long Winter.”

“MLB Free Agents Brace For Long Free Agency Battles.”

“The World Braces For US Election Results.”

“Entire Workforce Is Bracing For More Bad News.”

Brace For A Long Fight.”

Headlines for the better part of this year have prepared their readers for the worst. In nearly every single realm we are being told to “brace;” a word that alludes to fear, the expectancy of bad, and calls for self protection. The uncertainty of this year, the swirling chaos, and the constant drone of bad news can lead one to believe that this is simply a “lost” year with no good to be found. Here in Italy as we have slowly moved towards another round of “lockdowns” the “bracing” language has only escalated across the news outlets around the country anticipating the worst that lies ahead. Prepare yourself for something terrible. In fact, expect the worst, this is the language of the day.

As we became more and more aware of the language being used, we simply prayed and ask God about it. “The world is telling us to brace ourselves, what do you say Lord?” As we sat with this question, we heard the Lord say, “The world keeps telling you to brace yourself for the worst, but I tell you hope for my best; see and expect good.”

Fear Expects Death

The world tells us to live in fear. Fear is the expectation of evil. It expects the worst, anticipates and prepares for the worst, and is relieved if it doesn’t come to pass. Fear takes the posture of protectionism. It says, “I must protect myself from all the bad things.” This is the antithesis of the abundant life Jesus promises his disciples. When we only experience relief if the bad doesn’t come, we’re not really thriving – we’re simply surviving.

When we brace, we are a living from a place that expects to see death. Bracing expects death and loss. The paradox is that when we only look for and see death and loss, we’ll undoubtedly be buried by death. We see this theme all throughout Scripture. The perspective from which you live will either lead to death or life. Almost all media focuses our attention on the death and loss around us. To be sure, there has been a great deal of loss this year. But God’s invitation is to look beyond the loss and see the life that He is bringing to fruition. This requires a different perspective and a different posture.

Hope Expects Good

But God calls his people to a different perspective, a different posture. He calls us to hope. Hope is the expectation of good. Hope doesn’t shrink back and protect itself.

We hear the cry to not be afraid all throughout Scripture. “Be courageous,” we’re reminded over and over again. Courage is rooted in hope. It allows us to enter in to chaos and uncertainty, to actually fight against the clamor of fear.

Courage is rooted in the hope that God IS good and He has good for us. It is a hope rooted in love. Love, which is the very character of God, can only work towards good for others. And since God is love, we can be certain He will ALWAYS work towards our good, even in the midst of a pandemic and political unrest. Faith is confidence that this is true. Therefore, we as God’s people cannot live fearfully because our faith is rooted in the hope of God’s very character, which is love. And we know love will always work good towards us. This is true even when we can’t see it.

The thing is God promises that if we look for life we’ll find it. We’re actually invited to look for life and beauty. Beauty in life is goodness made sensibly present. Finding life and beauty actually elicits hope. As God’s people we are to look for life all around us. We know, because of the very character of God, there is life to be found if we learn to tune our eyes to see it. Again we see the paradox, when you start to see life, you’ll be filled with life.

The Practice of Looking For Life

This past year our family has had to fight to find life and beauty. From being locked in our home for three months, the disruption of ministry, losing time with family and friends from the states, or the constant shrill of unrest all around the world; the year has been filled with loss and disappointment. Life and news has been anything but life-giving. Because of this, our family faced a decision. We had to choose between dwelling on the difficulty and loss and allowing that to define our circumstances or to look beyond these things and search for the goodness of God. We had to make a conscious decision to look for life, to fight and not shrink back under the weight of loss.

As a family we started a simple practice of pointing out life to one another as we saw it. Whether it was a hidden solitary flower under a little ledge that our five year old spotted while on a walk, a rainbow we give thanks for across the valley, or a moment in which someone we’re discipling puts truth into practice, we’ve been learning to celebrate life no matter how big or small. Fighting to find life and pointing it out to each other has been a practice that has sustained us over the course of this year. Instead of bracing in fear we actively choose to stand and point to life. It’s a fight all of us are called to be in as ones who proclaim Jesus, but it’s a fight that takes practice and intentionality.

As this year draws to a close, the chaos and uncertainty will undoubtedly remain. Choose to look for and find life. The truth is: we don’t have to brace, for we have a God whose character is love and will always work towards our good. Instead, we must fight to find life. Jesus said, “seek and you will find.” It’s in the seeking of God’s kingdom life that you WILL actually find life. In the midst of such a crazy year, may you fight to find life and in doing so may you be filled with the very life you will find.

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