Despair And Fear, Hope And Forgiveness

Nehemiah 2:1-2, “And it came about…in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.’ Then I was very much afraid.”

Life is hard. Life can hurt. If you don’t know that to be true, then you probably haven’t lived long enough yet. Now don’t misunderstand me. God is good. All the time. I am convinced of that. He does indeed cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, those who are called according to His purpose. That reality is a truth that cannot be supplanted no matter the circumstances or situations of our life. Life is hard. But God is good.

The struggle for us involves our limited perception. As long as we live on this side of eternity, as long as our viewpoint is one of looking through a glass dimly, we will “see” that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Loved ones die. Children are born with disabilities. Teens go astray. Once solid marriages crumble. Rape. Abuse. Murder. Senseless, seemingly pointless crimes happen every day. People lie. People leave. People lose. They lose their feelings of love. They lose jobs. They lose hope. They lose heart. And in the vacuum that is left behind, despair and fear storm the throne room of our heart desperately longing to displace our God.

The truth is that Nehemiah is not the only one to ever come before the King’s presence with despair and fear. The difference is that Nehemiah’s despair and fear could have very well meant the death penalty. Historical research tells us that the king’s servants were required to maintain a cheerful attitude in his presence. No matter the circumstances in their personal lives they were commanded to hide their true feelings, fake a smile, and lie if necessary. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Not really. I see it almost every single Sunday in church. People come to church with the exact same mentality. Their lives are filled with pain, hurt, disappointment, despair and fear. And so what do they do? For a couple of hours they fake a smile, hide their true feelings, and lie if necessary. What’s even worse is the degree to which we all encourage and facilitate such an atmosphere. Church should be a place of hope, help, and healing. Instead, we have turned it into a hospital where the majority of the patients are trying to convince both themselves and the doctor that nothing is wrong. On the inside we are hurting but on the outside we tell everyone it’s all good.

The answer? It begins for each of us on a personal level. It has much to do with the way we individually approach God. Stop trying to fake it in His presence. Be real. Be honest. Be transparent. Be vulnerable. Pour out your heart before Him. No matter what you have done or where you have been, His love will overrule every disappointment, failure, and fear. How is that possible? It’s what the Bible calls grace. If we will confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Because of His Son I am able to approach the throne of God with confidence. In Jesus I have a King who fully understands my every weakness. When I come before God I can be myself. I don’t have to try to hide anything because He already knows it all… the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the best of part of it all? I don’t have to worry about the death penalty. That’s already been taken care of by the very One who sits on the throne. The King that I would fear is the One who died to give me hope, to give me life. Now that’s what I call a reason to rejoice! So, next time you feel the urge to hide behind that fake smile, just remember. Remember that God already knows. Remember that God cares. And remember that our King want to help us in our time of need.