by PPL Board Member Martha E. Leatherman, M.D.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:13-14
As we approach the Christmas season and reflect on the wonderful gift we have in Christ our Savior, I am reminded of another great gift that God has given us: the gift of life. He made us in His image and blew His breath into our being. He supports, maintains, and sustains our souls and our bodies. We can’t ever repay this gift, but we don’t have to cheapen it with our fear.
Fear of hardship leads some to seek abortion. Fear of burden or pain leads some to suicide or euthanasia. Fear of illness leads some to avoid human interaction, as Howard Hughes did. In each case, the threat looks invincible and we look to our own safeguards, fear, and rituals to banish the threat. That is why children were sacrificed to Baal—the people were afraid of the god and the specter of famine, so they sacrificed God’s beautiful lives to assuage their fears – but of course, it didn’t work because God is the only one who has the power to give or take life.
But God’s great gift of life is somewhat paradoxical because although He has given it to us, He still is the Lord over it. God is sovereign and is ultimately both the Author and the Owner of life. He is Lord over hardship, pain, suffering, famines, wars, and plagues.
Over and over, Jesus tells His disciples to “fear not.” Do we really think that Jesus didn’t understand the dangers His people face? Isaiah 41 shows God calling His people “worm.” He knows that in the face of all that is eternal, we are small, weak, and frightened and yet He still says “fear not.” Why is it important to live as people who find courage in God? I think that it’s because God loves us so much that He wants us to understand that His gift of life is more than the functional breath of a living creature. It is joy, community, pleasure, pain, sorrow, hope—it is abundant. Overzealously guarding our “life” can keep us from actually living, and narrows our focus. Guarding our physical lives shows how little we trust God to care for us.
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” (Ezra 8:21-22, NIV, emphasis mine)
Fear seems to have become a virtue in our society. Large numbers of people “understand” the killing of a child in the womb because it might have a hard life, or a disease, or die young—and so that fear leads us to try to become little gods and exert ownership over that life. We are afraid of infecting our older loved ones, so we decide for them that we will have no interaction with them. If you ask most people what they fear most, they will say dying alone and in pain. Ironically, our fearful response to COVID-19 has left countless thousands to die alone and in pain in hospitals where no family or friends are allowed to comfort the sick. Governments and churches are comfortable in foregoing the worship our very Creator because we don’t trust Him enough to gather for that worship.
None of us knows when God will reclaim His gift of our earthly life. To believe that we can change His plan by anything we do is dangerously prideful. Trust Him. Live the life He so graciously gave you.