Now that I have a wife and children, I’ve come to realize something: I’m afraid.
I’m so very afraid.
I’m afraid of what will happen if our bank account runs dry one day. I’m afraid of what might happen if ISIS actually does something in Phoenix while I’m traveling for work. I’m afraid that I’m just not doing enough to make sure that I’m actually safeguarding my family against danger.
I’m just very afraid for them.
And I’m afraid for me.
The world is a scary place. When people can get killed during an outing to a concert hall or while simply going to school, it’s easy to let my imagination run wild when my wife takes our soon-to-be-five-year-old girl and six-month-old infant out for the morning.
I realize increasingly, however, that the more afraid I become the more preoccupied with earthly cares I am.
I’m scared about finances. GET ANOTHER JOB.
I’m scared for my family’s safety. GET A GUN.
I’m scared that my little one will get sick. GET BETTER INSURANCE.
The more scared I become, the more my mind becomes firmly anchored in this life, in this world, in this imminent frame and all the “good things” it promises will protect me and mine, with the good things it promises will make our lives more valuable. Lives worth living.
Ultimately, I recognize that my fear of having no money, of not being safe, and of getting sick stem from my fear of death and all its friends.
Of course, as the husband and father of three girls whom I love very much, it is my duty to ensure that everyone in my house goes to bed and wakes up safe. But beyond the natural impulse I have to protect my family, I definitely realize that as I grow more preoccupied with earthly threats and earthly cares, I become more dead-set on earthly solutions.
Earthly solutions, which, at best will not defeat death, but rather, will only delay it for a little while.
The reality of this world is terrifying, but what is even more terrifying is the realization that no matter how scary it gets, death is still going to get me and it is still going to get my family. No matter how much I try to run, no matter how big my bank account gets. No matter how low my deductible is, death is coming.
And this terrifies me.
Sadly, my attempts to stave off the beast of death, often keep me oriented toward this world and protecting my life here. This, in turn, doesn’t lessen my fear of death; it feeds it.
With my eyes turned toward this world and toward this life, I realize how much I stand to lose. The things I love are here, I realize, and one day, death will take it all away from me.
This Sunday, in the Gospel reading, I see a man who is far too much like me. Whose eyes are turned toward his things and his life here. So much so, in fact, that he realizes that he doesn’t actually have enough storage room for all his grain, and so he decides to tear down his barns to build bigger ones.
Unfortunately for him, however, his life ends that very night. Tucking himself into bed, he congratulates himself for his earthly prudence, saying, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.” Yet the man is asked, “The things you have prepared, whose will they be?” The obvious answer is nobody’s, as these goods decay in their own right. And of this man, the Lord says, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Lk. 12:19-21).
Though we don’t read it this week, in the passage that follows Christ exhorts His disciples not to be anxious for anything, but rather to trust that God, who makes sure to clothe lilies and feed birds, will be sure to provide for our needs.
Clearly Christ sees here, and asks us to see, the correlation between anxiety – fear – and the nervous act of attempting to secure a “good life” for ourselves in this world. Since our heart is placed with our treasure (Lk. 12:34), the Lord encourages us not to lay our hope, not to lay our value in the things of this world; but rather, to become rich toward God, placing our hearts in His Kingdom.
Perhaps this is the sobering reality I need to face when I’m so confronted by fear, so confronted by the temptation to lay up treasure for myself in this world, trusting in “building bigger barns” to keep at bay anything that might “get me or my family.”
So instead of worrying about bank accounts and ISIS, instead of preoccupying myself with how I can avoid death, perhaps my time is better spent accepting my inevitable (and seemingly imminent) mortality and concerning myself with the only question that really matters: what kind of death will I die?
This question is essential, as the parable reminds us, because we have no idea when we will be forced to reckon with death. While we are busy occupying ourselves with establishing earthly security, our individual world may end at any given moment, forcing us to confront what kind of life we lived, and whether the time we spent worrying about these things will actually benefit us or anyone else.
So while I cannot pretend that “setting my eyes on God’s Kingdom” necessarily makes me feel any better about the threats this world presents to my family and me, I know that I need to orient myself in that direction. I must concern myself with how I can more tightly cling to God’s promise of Eternal Life in His Kingdom, and how I can lead my family to courageously trust that God has overcome death with life.
To trust that none of us need to be afraid.
To trust that Jesus wins.
I must listen to the words of Christ in the Scriptures, hearing Him promise life to those who follow Him. I need to attend Church and regularly receive the Sacraments, participating in the Mysteries and the Pledge of God’s coming Kingdom. I have to turn to my Lord in prayer, commending myself, others, and all our life into Christ.
I must hear and taste regularly of Christ’s Words of Life. And I hope that the more habitually I do this, the more likely I stand a chance of actually coming to trust Him when He says that He is with us, and that He has truly Risen from the dead, having trampled down death by death.
I am prepared to do war with fear, turning to Christ in love, hoping that His Perfect Love, does indeed, cast out fear (1 Jn. 4:18).
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.