According to the “increasingly inaccurately-named ‘Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy’ trilogy” (which, the last I checked, had 5 books in it), the fictional guidebook cited in the title had the words “Don’t Panic” across it cover.
Now, I don’t necessarily recommend those books to others. They are irreverent, irreligious, and occasionally inappropriate. However, I read them some decades ago, and they do have some thought-provoking ideas, woven into a fictional sci-fi universe.
Instead, let’s take a look at a passage from an older book: one that has been more widely-read than even Douglas Adams’s satire:
The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Exodus 14:14 NLT
Whether or not you have a T-shirt, baseball cap, or background screen with a “Keep Calm…” meme, it’s good to know that we can remain calm when evil forces appear ready to overwhelm us.
However, this isn’t just a platitude or a reminder about how we should behave. This verse was spoken by Moses to the Israelite people after their exodus from Egypt, when Pharaoh was about to catch up to them. Moses’ words include a reason why they could be calm: God would take care of things.
A similar sentiment was echoed in a letter from Paul to the church in Rome:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28 NLT
Now don’t misread these things: God doesn’t always choose to part the waters, provide money from a fish’s mouth, cure physical sickness, or send food from heaven – at least not as often as we might like Him to. However, in His infinite wisdom and His infinite power, He does take care of things in a way that is righteous and strategic. This often occurs in the small scale of our finite lifetimes on earth, but it always happens in the infinite scale of eternity.
As a result, those who have aligned themselves with God (which includes accepting Jesus as our only way to God the Father) do not have to panic about anything. Sometimes we will need to act on things urgently (like getting the news out about Jesus Christ). Sometimes we will need to be righteously angry and take action (like Jesus did). Sometimes we will feel overwhelmed by forces around us. Still, we have no need to react in a way that is not self-controlled or that is inconsistent with God’s leading. We can get through the storms without letting them get to us.
So, if you’re in the same situation as the Israelites (about to be overrun and killed or re-enslaved by the army of a large country) know that you can still be calm…as long as you are in the will of God. I doubt that most of us are in that situation at the moment, but consider these other situations:
- Do we get stressed out when things don’t seem to be going right? Here, the verse from Romans above reminds us that God’s plan is not thwarted by what appear to be setbacks. He knew what was coming, and He knows what is yet to happen.
- Do we worry that we’re not doing a good enough job? Jesus’ death means that we no longer have a “job” or “law” to fulfill in order to be reconciled with God. If we think that we aren’t living up to God’s calling for us, though, I propose that the first step isn’t to just work harder or to do more. Instead, let each of us check back with God to understand where He is directing you and me. It’s likely that we’re not personally responsible for fixing every problem that we encounter. Trust God to put the right people in the right place, and ask Him to help you see where the right place is for you to serve.
- Do we take on the responsibility for others’ decisions about their faith and actions? Long ago, I had to learn that I couldn’t save anyone. Yes, we must share the good news about Jesus Christ; however, an individual’s salvation is a matter of their own choice. When we love other people, we may desperately want to make that life-changing decision for them, but we can’t. We help share the truth, and set a good example of Christ-likeness, but the battle in a person’s soul is God’s domain.
God can handle all of these things for us, and He is taking care of His creation. Our role is to seek His will, live according to His direction, and to trust Him for everything else. Don’t panic!
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.