Fearing God at The End of the World

“The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” ― Oswald Chambers

by Vyckie Garrison

Even though I’m 99.9% sure that December 21, 2012 is not the Last Day, I’m having an End of the World party at my house tomorrow night.

To tell the truth, I am a little afraid – not that the world will end, but that life goes on and I have relatively little control over whatever the future might hold for me and my family.

As most readers at No Longer Quivering know, I no longer count myself among the God-fearing faithful. When I was a Believer, I honestly thought that I was fearless – not that there was nothing to be afraid of – to the contrary, as a Christian, I had all the usual anxiety of living in an uncertain modern-world-gone-mad compounded by the added terrors particular to Evangelical culture; namely, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil – all of which, I believed, were aligned against God and doggedly determined to steal, kill, and destroy my eternal soul, and my precious children’s souls too!

BUT … I regularly consoled myself with inspiring and comforting words from scripture such as, “Perfect love casts out fear,” “God has not given us a spirit of fear,” “When I am afraid, I will trust in You,” and my personal favorite from Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So every night, I said my prayers, trusted God … and slept peacefully, believing myself and my children were safe and secure in God’s protective love.

And what about now? What consolation is there in unbelief when things go horribly wrong as they did last week in Newtown, Connecticut? When I read about the cold-blooded, execution-style mass murder of the Sandy Hook elementary school children and their teachers and would-be protectors, I confess that I wanted to pray.

I wanted to pray for the victims; I wanted justice and I wanted all those little kids to have their lives back! I wanted innocence and trust restored to the survivors, I wanted all of us to feel safe again. I wanted to pray for Adam Lanza; that he would have another chance and this time, make life-affirming, rather than deadly choices. I wanted to pray for this crazy world we live in; there are way too many wrong-headed, corrupt and failing societal influences predisposing and even compelling mankind to act against our own best interests. I wanted The Big Guy to break His silence, come down here and put the world back together!

I wanted to pray for my own children; for their safety and their sanity. And I wanted to pray for myself … because as the mother of seven children, I feel vulnerable and afraid.

I mean, as a divorced mom, what can I do, really, to ensure that my kids are protected? How can I be sure that one of my own white male sons won’t one day go off the deep end and inflict unspeakable carnage on family, classmates, or co-workers?

Trust in God? … believe me, it’s tempting. Especially because I have actually experienced that “peace which passeth understanding” and I know how comforting it is to simply trust and obey.

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According to Christian apologist, Ray Comfort, America’s gone crazy because as a nation, we’ve lost the fear of God.

The bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom … but “we have had British Redcoats invade our nation, and shoot at youth through the heart. Men like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens … have come in with these smooth English accents and have convinced millions of young people that they’re nothing but primates. There’s no ultimate right, there’s no ultimate wrong. And when that happens to a nation, when they make them into God haters, something dies within a nation, and that’s what has happened in America.”

“When a man can go to an elementary school and shoot people, including children to death, and then shoot himself, he doesn’t fear God in the slightest.”

But what if it’s actually the other way around? What if we fear God because America’s gone crazy?

Chris Hedges, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, says “those in despair search desperately for a solution, the warm embrace of a community … a sense of purpose and meaning in life, the assurance they are protected, loved and worthwhile.”

For myself, I know this is true. In the past, during those times when I have felt overwhelmed by my lack of control over life’s unpredictability, it was always nice to think that so long as I was in the center of God’s will (“The Hiding Place” according to Corrie ten Boom), my loved ones and I would be safe; shielded and protected by the One Who is all-wise and all-powerful and all-loving.

Maybe I can’t get a grip on life, but if I can somehow convince The Almighty to take control on my behalf …

Of course, the reality of my circumstances never actually changed – it’s only a very clever mind game and I have lost the ability to play this trick on myself.

So now I’m just scared. ٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶

But I’ve come to recognize the value of apprehension – because fear which is not squelched or pacified by the mental hocus pocus of pious devotion can be a great motivation for necessary change. Without the thought-stopping effect of 366 biblical “fear-nots,” these days, when I am afraid, I have no other option than to actually figure out: What is so terrifying? Why am I scared? What should be done to prevent my fears from materializing in reality? What do I need to do differently?

I readily admit that not having chapter and verse and the prompting of the Holy Spirit to tell me how to raise all these kids is a challenge. When I first realized that I no longer believe in God or the authority of His Word, I fully expected to wake up one morning and feel so completely lost and overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting a quiver full of children “in my own strength,” that I would just give up. And I’m sure that I would have, except I didn’t know how to “give up” when I had little ones who needed me and who simply expected me to keep doing the mom thing.

So I did the mom thing.

At first, I literally had to force myself to think. I was so accustomed to having a ready response, a sure-fire formula, a one-size fits all solution … and if all else failed, I could always pray about the problem and turn it over to God. What would Nancy Campbell do? Naturally, she would smile and do the next thing … (✿◠‿◠)

Thinking requires a lot of effort – ugh! And it’s especially bothersome when the lid is lifted off the box of my “biblical worldview” into which I’d confined my range of thinking and suddenly all possible options are open for consideration. If the kid’s problem isn’t necessarily a matter of sin or demonic oppression, maybe there’s something physical (too tired, poor nutrition, chronic pain?) or psychological such as depression, ADHD, or a learning disability (what?!! label my kid?) …heck – it could just be that my children are immature and need to be given the freedom and space to live and learn.

Sans my former fundamentalist mindset, the only thing I definitely know for absolute certain is that there are no guarantees. Yes, I must “train up” my children, but ultimately, there’s no way I can control what they will choose to do with their lives, and I’m not counting on God to keep them in line either.

It’s a scary prospect, but that’s the reality of raising kids these days. Ironically, there is a sense of peace that comes from facing our parental fears and even embracing the iffiness of life. There’s a lot of speculation going on across the Internet about where we went wrong, who’s to blame, how could we have prevented the monstrous atrocity of the Sandy Hook massacre? The introspection is good and necessary, but obviously, there is no single solution, no one problem that we can readily pinpoint and correct. The truth is, we just don’t know what really happened or why.

While Mary Pride disparaged today’s “no-fault child rearing,” I am beginning to appreciate the axiom, “All I can do is all I can do.”

Maybe my adventure in parenting a whole passel of kids will end in a crash-and-burn disaster and I’ll go down in history as the mother of the next Adam Lanza. Odds are, it won’t happen – just as it’s unlikely that tomorrow will actually be the End of the World. But faced with such terrifying scenarios, however remotely possible, why not “eat, drink, and be merry”? Not because tomorrow we die, but rather, tomorrow we’re likely to live … and like it or not, there’s really no predicting how that’s going to work out for us.

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Read everything by Vyckie Garrison!

Vyckie Garrison started No Longer Quivering to tell the story of her “escape” from the Quiverfull movement. Over time, NLQ has developed into a valuable resource of information regarding the deceptions and dangers of the Quiverfull philosophy and lifestyle. Several more former QF adherents are now contributing their stories to NLQ and our collective voice makes these Quiverfull warnings impossible to dismiss or ignore.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Vyckie Garrison
  • m gean

    thanks for the great article vyckie. just what i needed to read right now. we just cannot know our futures, all we can do is our best today. thanks for reminding us all. happy holidays.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels Ophelia Benson

    And one thing you don’t mention in this post, Vyckie – perhaps out of modesty – is that doing it the new way is working better. Remember when someone – it may have been Ian (“Crommunist”) – asked in the Q&A after your Eschaton talk what was the turning point for you? You answered that it was the fact that your children weren’t thriving.
    So it’s harder and scarier from your angle, but it’s a lot better from theirs.

  • http://belljaimie@ymail.com Jaimie

    I could barely get past that quote from Oswald Chambers. What the what? That’s quite a leap to make. From what I have read in the news and on my facebook wall, it is the Christians who appear to be afraid of everything. They are the ones who love the guns and are pushing for a society that looks like a police state.
    A mature person has to come to terms with the transience and impermanence in life. There are no guarantees. This hopefully will wake people up to the precious thing life is. To love our families, to do good in our communities. and to be joyful and harmonious with the world around us.

    • vyckiegarrison

      Jaimie – I quoted Chambers because of the irony, as you point out. Plus, I think it’s important to recognize the value of fear – rather than suppress or pray it away, we need to recognize fear as a good indicator that something’s not right and needs our attention and action. So for the Christian who claims to have no fear (as I once did), the question is, what makes you think being fearless is a good thing?

  • http://belljaimie@ymail.com Jaimie

    Hi Vickie! I knew it was for irony and not what you believe. It just bowled me over to hear yet another false assumption from theirs truly. I cannot imagine the courage and intelligence it took for you to unravel that web.
    Personally I choose to not live a life of fear. I exercise reasonable caution for myself and loved ones.
    But will I pretend to be some super-human fear-free person in times of stress? No. Example. My grown daughter just drove 1800 miles BY HERSELF, which brought me much discomfort and anxiety. I talked to her many, many times during that trip! In fact, I probably sounded like a crazy person when instructing her on how to find a decent motel: recognizable national chain, in a city preferably, no motel 6, no motels in the middle of nowhere with some dude in a booth reading a Guns and Ammo mag. Yes, *shaking head sadly*, I really did say that last part.
    The point is, I did not pray and “give her to god”. I took action, I gave advice.
    It had nothing to do with believing or not believing in a god. I honestly pity people who look to him for guidance, get the inevitable silence in return, and then interpret their feelings or gut instincts as his will.

  • Andrea

    There seems to be a vast difference between the paralizing fear which love casts out and awareness of the potential perils of a given situation that engenders caution and action. Trust in God should never lead someone to abandon their own role in doing all that they can to push forward through challenging times that demand human attention. It’s not “Do nothing but pray, for I am with you.” It’s, “Fear not, for I am with you.” To do nothing but lean entirely on God is really to slink back in fear of one’s commission here on this Earth. That’s not what God ever intended.

    • Bill S

      “Trust in God should never lead someone to abandon their own role in doing all that they can to push forward through challenging times that demand human attention. ”

      I like that sentence very much. But, like Vyckie, I would take it one step further and admit that there really is no God to trust. I’ve been adjusting to a new worldview, one without God, and it is not easy because I relied on God for the better part of my 61 years. Had I not done some serious research including reading Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Carrier, etc., I would probably still be putting my trust in a God who I now realize isn’t there and never was there. It is times like this when I feel a bit alienated from those trying to take comfort in poems about children being with Jesus, when I realize that they have ceased to exist. Yeah, that’s tough.

      • Andrea

        “But, like Vyckie, I would take it one step further and admit that there really is no God to trust.”

        Hi Bill. I’m not meaning to nitpick for the nitpicking’s sake in asking what may be a rhetorical question, but how might it come across to the non-believer when told they should take it a step further and just admit there is a God?

  • Portwes

    I used to read Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” when I was a Christian, and reading this quote at the top of your post suddenly made me aware of something. Christians think that these “nuggets” of truth from Christian writers are somehow divine wisdom, and even non-Christians recognize the truth in them, eg. “Lord Liar or Luntic” from CS Lewis, etc. They almost sound plausible. Now as a non-believer I read them and think, “What a load of BS. Why did I ever think that was true?”

    • Bill S

      Yes. I feel exactly the same way.

  • Bill S

    Andrea: in 2009, I was at the height of my faith when I started to check out the other side of the story. I did this because I wanted to be sure that what I believed was true. I’m pretty much convinced that my faith was just wishful thinking. You might not have come to the same conclusion and I don’t want to convert you to my worldview especially since it hasn’t made my life any better. But it’s important for me to be truthful in what I believe.

    • Andrea

      Bill: I respect that you took the time to explore the other side of the story. I’ve done similar in my own walk with reading works and listening to lectures from people like Christopher Hitchens and Lawrence Krauss. Though, at the end of the day, when all is said done, I still believe there is a God. I don’t suppose to know why some people come away from reading such material with a faith built up, while others come away with a faith diminished. What I know, I can only say from my own experience, and that is that I’m just not comfortable allowing the final verdict of God’s existence to be formulated and determined in the minds of other people. I won’t even put my faith in the intellect of contemporary theologians and philosophers because they, too, are just people and I can’t agree with everything they say either.

  • Bill S

    I probably should differentiate between the God who might exist and the God of my Catholic faith with all of its extra beliefs. I don’t know which one you believe in. I basically reject the Christian God but I am open to the existence of an intelligence that some people call God.

  • MJBubba

    God is.
    The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.

    • Bill S

      So it was written and passed down through millenia. Does that make it a correct statement?

  • http://bereanobserver.blogspot.com Bob Wheeler

    The reason I still believe in God is a) the arguments for the theory of evolution are unconvincing, and b) what is the alternative? What answers do Harris, Hitchens and their ilk have? None!

    • http://bereanobserver.blogspot.com Bob Wheeler

      I should mention one more thing: I spent three years in the army and saw what a truly godless society was like — it wasn’t pretty.

    • Bill S

      What is the alternative to which God? The one worshipped by Jews, Muslims and Christians?

      There could be multiple alternatives to that God.

      What is the alternative to the fortuitous chain of events that led to our existence?

      Either there is an intelligence behind it or it is just our dumb luck to be in the right place at the right time in the story of creation.

      • http://bereanobserver.blogspot.com Bob Wheeler

        The secular western alternative to Christian theism is a meaningless existence in irrational, amoral universe followed by the cold grave. And if you’re into science and evolution, it’s accepting your place as an animal and recognizing that all your thoughts, feelings, and actions are the result of chemical reactions in the brain. And if we’re talking about politics, it’s the law of the jungle, a world in which might makes right. As for myself, I’ll take a universe created by an intelligent being.
        I should also mention that I spent a number of years living in another godless place, an inner city neighborhood where the rational, intelligent thing to do was to commit crime, and lots of people did it. Why keep the law if you can get away with breaking it?

        • Bill S

          “The secular western alternative to Christian theism is a meaningless existence in irrational, amoral universe followed by the cold grave.”

          That is what I believe. The fact that it does not benefit society to believe this doesn’t make it false. Life is what you make of it. If believing gives your life meaning and purpose and you don’t care whether what you believe is actually true, then go ahead and believe. No one is stopping you. But respect those who believe otherwise.

  • madame

    I’ll chime in here as another Christian thinker who went from comfortably being taught what to believe to thinking for myself. I can’t say I have reached hard and fast conclusions regarding who God is, his nature, or why I should trust him. I have come to the conclusion that the Bible describes human character very well, and Jesus offers the antidote to our misery: love.
    I have my struggles with God. I struggle believing in his goodness, his love, and his righteousness. I can’t say I trust him. But I can’t explain life, especially human life, without God.
    I believe in creation, but I don’t have an issue with creation having happened over a much longer period of time than 6 days. After all, the Bible is full of imagery and God himself says something to the effect that a thousand years is like one day to him, so it could very well be that those 6 days are symbolic.
    As for the talking serpent, well, I have never really thought much about that. I have wondered how it happened that pride entered a perfect world, one that God himself had called “good”. I have wondered why God put that tree in the middle of the garden.
    I have many, many questions regarding my faith, but the faith is not completely gone either. I disagree with fundamentalists and their fear of questioning God. I have a hard time with people telling me “you must believe in God’s goodness”. Well, what happens if I can’t?
    Anyway, I believe honesty and a good dose of humility will go a lot further than the blinkered arrogance often found in religion.

    • http://bereanobserver.blogspot.com Bob Wheeler

      I certainly agree with your last statement. But I think that the humility comes from recognizing how limited our understanding is as human beings and recognizing our dependence on some form of divine revelation for what we know. We are in the position of being finite creatures trying to understand the infinite. Inevitably there will be things we can’t comprehend. But as for what we can know and understand, it comes down to exegesis – an honest attempt to understand what the Bible actually says. And I think that even among perfectly orthodox Christians there are legitimate differences of opinion about how to understand Genesis 1 — not to mention the Book of Revelation!

      • Bill S

        “But as for what we can know and understand, it comes down to exegesis – an honest attempt to understand what the Bible actually says.”

        How did the Bible become the ultimate authority on what life is all about. What did the people who wrote it know that we don’t know and why would their period of history be a time when men were closer to God than today. The greatest minds the world has ever known are living among us today. Who back then knew more than them? And Genesis and Revelation are mere fantasies.

  • Fred

    The thing you need to remember is that the strength you thought came from God came from within you. The peace you found in God came from within you. You still have the ability to run your life, you just need to tap into your inner resources. You know you are capable because you have done it in the past.

    The shooting was a terrible tragedy but it is a thankfully rare event. Most young men do not grow up to become killers, even if they are bullied at school, even if they have mental issues, even if they are white, even if they play violent video games. Most young men turn out alright. Lanza was an exception. The odds are in your favour.

    Of course you can improve the odd by not keeping guns in your house, or keeping them locked up and making sure only you have the key.

    Everyone is shaken up by this tragedy, which is only natural. Thanks for sharing your own struggles.

  • Bill S

    “Of course you can improve the odds by not keeping guns in your house, or keeping them locked up and making sure only you have the key.”

    Of course. How can anyone disagree with that?

    “the strength you thought came from God came from within you.”

    Exactly.

  • Sargasso Sea

    Thinking of you and yours :)

    Hope that whole end of world thing made for an awesome party – worked here!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

    ” There’s no ultimate right, there’s no ultimate wrong.”
    Says who?!?

  • http://na rb

    I wish I could comfort you in this insane and evil world, and just admit that I find myself in almost the opposite position. I am generally a non believer, but must admit that the time and circumstances in which we find our world and ourselves in, are actually prophesied in the bible. Most people don’t realize (or care) that obamacare actually has a mandate that every man, woman,, and child is to be implanted with a micro RFID chip within 36 months of March 2013. This chip will allow constant tracking capability and will house your medical and most importantly, your financial records, including your bank account. Obama wants to reign in a new world order comprised of one world government that he has every intention of using the U.N. to accomplish. The fact is that as Americans, we did not question the official narrativeof the September 11th attacks on our country, and it was all am inside job just to begging the new world order led by the Illuminati. You’ll notice the re-emergence of Illuminati symbolism in popular culture. If our government killed 3000 people which led to the lies that helped further their agenda of war and aggressive foreign policy, then what makes the American people think that it’s impossible that they would kill 20 children to disarm the American people to hasten the destruction of our 2nd amendment so that our people could not fight the ushering in of the new world order? Without our 2nd amendment, all other amendments fall. Our forefathers knew this. Without our constitution, we will be slavwe, and a new world order will be easy to achieve. It’s no coincidence that the events of Sept 11th attacks helped pass legislation that crippled American freedoms, and that Sandy Hook is doing the same thing. The legislation is passed each time when American emotions are running so high and unchecked, that most people will give their freedoms away just to feel some semblance of that false security that our government promises. There is not one shred of evidence that says that Adam Lanza committed these horrible crimes, and we are just supposed to take our media and governments word for it? The assault rifle wasn’t even in the school, it was found in the back seat or trunk of a car. Not even necessarily the car that Lanza drove. Whether our government was directly involved or not, which I tend to think they were, especially given the false flag nature of the WTC attacks, are still exploiting the tragedy. It’s still an evil move perpetrated under the guise of “public safety”. Please people, Wake up! All governments are corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. God bless America, and the people of America, but God Damn the American government and the people in the illuminati and other secret societies that are pulling the strings of that government. The whole world thinks they hate the American people, they just hate our government and don’t know that we are not our government. We haven’t been for a long time.


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