It became a sort of saying for him, one that he would roll out when there was a dilemma, a problem, or something a bit risky. It was almost a joke but there was bitter edge to it too. It had started when we were in a tricky situation, on a boat that seemed to be sinking, as darkness fell, in a busy shipping lane. Rob (my first husband) had been tossing up the alternatives…. if this happened we could do this, but if something else happened we could do something else… an anxiety ridden conversation, circling around and around. At some point, tired and cold, I said “Oh, well, no point fretting – what’s the worst that can happen?” Rob was almost apoplectic with exasperation “What’s the worst? What’s the bloody worst? Well, let’s start with the bloody boat sinking, shall we, and the dogs and the cat drowning, followed by you and me capsizing the bloody dinghy as we try to get in it, then you drown and then I drown… how about that for starters?” And I said something like “But, Rob, the world will go on turning. It’s not so terrible.”
That didn’t just exasperate him, it puzzled him and annoyed him and was a sure and certain sign that he’d married an imbecile (he had a point). And thereafter he would often quote me, with a sort of hopeless shake of the head, whenever he felt the need to confirm my idiocy.
But that is how I feel, still. Always have. Imagine the worst, the worst, the absolute worst that can happen in your life…. and it’s no big deal. Nations will not fall, humanity will continue, babies will be born, the sun will rise and set. And even if we take death out of the scene, and end up with something else – illness, bankruptcy, homelessness, grief – these are all passing things. The billions who have lived before us have known worse and yet here we are, mankind has continued reproducing over and over until it gets to us, and it will continue after we’ve gone, however rough and tough life becomes.
Life is essentially miraculous and joyful. Life insists and persists, not because of, but in spite of, our planning and answers and cleverness. Life is stubborn.
I dunno. Am I barmy? It may be my mad childhood that gave me this attitude. It was a childhood of fear but I learned that you can’t be afraid for ever – the adrenaline surge of fear can’t last, and is replaced by something else. A sort of detachment. I remember some things in my early days as if I was witnessing them, not living through them, protected from the worst of them. Maybe that’s what shaped my personality quite early in my life, so that I can still understand when others worry, and fear the future, but it’s not a part of me.
Why? Well, even before I knew Jesus Christ, I accepted that I had limited control and I’ve never seen the point in denying that, or fighting it. I’ve always known that I can no more make my life perfect than I can stop the rain or slow the Sun. And I don’t need to, because someone else is in control of those things and always has been. And somehow I’ve always known that this someone could be trusted. There’s a fab verse in Romans 1
‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities –
his eternal power and divine nature –
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse.‘
Oh! And another one, Romans 8:28
‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’
Maybe that’s why I don’t feel anxiety, needing to worry and fret and pull a problem to pieces – maybe looking at the world, even as a child, I understood something about God ‘s nature. Looking at his creation, I saw that he can be trusted. When I was a teenager I turned away from the teaching of the Catholic Church because, as it was presented to me, God was unjust, arbitrary and vengeful and I couldn’t worship a God like that. But I knew that God wasn’t wrong – it was the church that was wrong. I knew that God was good and somehow that all would be well because of his goodness.
How did I get to this sort of cow-like placidity? Well…. my mother died when I was small but the world kept turning. My family was split apart and still the world kept turning. There was a cruel and perverted uncle… yep, turning, turning. I discovered that my father had colluded with past cruelties, and although this rocked me back and it seemed that this, surely, would shake the world on its axis, no…. the mountains didn’t tremble. My lovely husband dropped dead with no warning…. now – now! Surely this was the time for the foundations of the Earth to crumble? But they didn’t. And there are things in my life even today that are difficult, cold, even heart-breaking, but guess what…. the Sun still rises in the East and sets in the West.
So I can’t really fret about anything. Maybe Rob was right and there is something wrong with me. It’s not that I’m entirely unconcerned about safety, of course not. Like you, I look both ways before crossing the road and I do my best to avoid eating arsenic. I enjoy life and I’m grateful for it. Because look, look, look around. Life is staggeringly beautiful, it’s the greatest gift, the first and the last gift, this great miraculous gift of life. How often do we savour the simple fact that we are alive? That our hearts are beating, that our minds are reaching out, that we know God. I mean – hang on – hang onnnnnn …. we know God!
WE know God!
Isn’t that amazing?
So, whatever is going on just now, praise God for it. Praise him every day. Even on the not-so-great days.
Sunshine gives way to rain, day to night, success gives way to the slippery slope, a lousy start turns into a magnificent finish. This will pass, and whatever you are going through right now, good or bad, is not for ever. Simply, hold on.
If today is hard, if your mind is circling and chaotic with anxious thoughts, be patient. Wait and trust. Know that God is at work all around you. Not only now, not just in the past, not in the future, but in eternity. Everything that you experience is a part of your story and your story is glorious and has already been told, written down in the book of life. .
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
That’s a great verse, isn’t it? It’s too easy to read a great verse like that and move on. But we should ask ourselves ‘Why?’
Why will my heart not fear? Why will I have confidence? Here’s the answer;
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.