A couple weeks back I had a conversation with my friend Jake (he’s a trained & licensed therapist/counselor) about ‘feelings.’ One of the things I’ve learned from Jake (& there’s a bunch) is how to better identify & work through my feelings/emotions. As such, something I’ve wrestled with, especially lately, is when I hear someone say something along the lines of “I don’t feel safe…” with whatever reason they have for not feeling safe. Except “safe” isn’t a feeling; it’s not one of the 10 core emotions that all humans have… yep – everybody – regardless of background, culture of origin, etc… (If you’d like to see/hear Jake identify & talk about our 10 core emotions, check out THIS LINK– I’ve found the information & application to be SUPER helpful. Back to the conversation…)
Jake clarified, “Safe” isn’t a feeling – its more of a belief or interpretation, an impression, thought, idea, evaluation of a situation or circumstance.” (Thanks Jake.) Now I GET what is probably meant by “I don’t feel safe” – my guess is that its usually fear that is registering for that person at that moment, based upon what they’re experiencing & how that could affect them.
With that said, & with a bit of a disclaimer: I’ve been a pastor for 30+ years, & until recently, I’ve never felt like I had some sort of overarching ‘theme’ for the year for our church… I said “until recently,” because the last 3 years have been different (Boy haven’t they.) Its not like I sit & think for hours until I “get” the theme for the year… it has just ’emerged’ while I’m going about my preparations for a message, or in my thinking times, or through conversations (like the one with Jake W I mentioned above.)
While I was pondering ‘safe’ (& feelings, & emotions, & fears, & pandemics, & hysteria, & people, & stuff) what came to mind were a series of stories/accounts from the Bible book of Joshua. Joshua is an account of the Israelite people entering into & taking possession of the Land, including their daunting encounters with the Nephilim: Giant, 1/2 demon, 1/2 human spawn occupying the Land & making up large numbers of the “-ites” the Bible talks about.
God promised Joshua (the new leader of Israel after Moses’ death) & the Israelites He would be WITH them, He would GO BEFORE them, He would NEVER LEAVE or FORSAKE them, & He would GIVE them the Land. Their job? To believe Him, to meditate on His ways (commands, precepts, teachings, path… think of it as “God’s road for life) & to not be afraid.
I definitely don’t want to get caught up trying to make a step by step, blow by blow comparison of Israel entering the Land & our lives in 2022… but I would like to share a couple of things:
One of the main ways that we experience attack from the dark one comes through FEAR: he wants us to be intimidated, to be focused solely on our resources (or the lack thereof); to be consumed by our inadequacies & weaknesses. The goal is to keep us bound up, settling for less than God’s promises, mired in inactivity & paralyzed by our very real fears.
God invites us to live differently. Instead of attempting to overcome insurmountable & seemingly invincible enemies with our own resources & strengths & abilities, He encourages us to STAY CLOSE to Him, to live (walk) as He intends, & to allow our day-to-day to be orchestrated & ordered by Him. And as we do that, we will see Him overcome/conquer/destroy/wipe out the adversaries in front of us.
With all that said, for 2022, our theme at Hillside is STAY CLOSE – what that means can mostly be summed up in these 5 things that help define what this STAY CLOSE looks like, lived out:
- Stay close to Jesus
- Be flexible/open to God change
- Be prepared/get ready
- Be strong & very courageous – don’t be afraid
- Be careful to obey everything you know to obey
The days we live in are challenging… & I don’t believe that our adversaries, our ‘Giants,” should merely be explained away as people with wrong thought processes, ideologies, self-destructive practices, control issues, &/or political/religious/national affiliations. Instead, I believe we’re dealing with spiritual forces of darkness that aim to enslave, to steal/kill/destroy, to keep us from becoming who & what the God says we are…
Therefore, I aim to STAY CLOSE & to do my very best to walk in His footsteps in 2022 & beyond.
BONUS: check out Psalm 91 – one of the best (my favorite) Psalms on staying close to God.