Have you ever felt on edge because you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop? Perhaps it’s a financial burden looming on the horizon, such as a debt that must be repaid with no apparent means to do so. Perhaps it’s waiting for a test result to determine whether a dreaded illness once again threatens your future.
Maybe your child or other loved one is on a self-destructive path, running away from God straight to inevitable devastation. Or what if you were convicted of a crime and are waiting for sentencing, knowing that the outcome will be bad at best and fatal at worst?
In many situations like these, our anxiety and distress are aggravated by knowing that we are in some way responsible for the dilemma, whether through irresponsible spending, neglecting our health, careless parenting or even illegal acts. If any of these situations ever apply to us, how should we live our life while we’re waiting for the resolution?
A well-known story illustrating an extreme example of such a situation is that of Damocles’ sword. During the fourth century BC, Dionysius II, tyrannical king of Sicily, had a power-hungry, opportunistic courtier named Damocles. When Damocles expressed his admiration and even envy of the king’s wealth, splendor and magnificent lifestyle, Dionysius II offered to trade places with him.
Damocles eagerly accepted and was seated on the royal throne, only to find that Dionysius II had arranged for a deadly sword to hang over his head, held in place only by a single hair of a horse's tail. How could Damocles enjoy living in luxury when his life could end at any moment? Ultimately he begged the king to let him resume his former life, having learned that grave, imminent danger accompanies great power and wealth.
Damocles was responsible for sacrificing his own peace of mind to acquire fortune and power, and he quickly regretted the consequences of his decision. But I wonder if he found true peace once he returned to his less exciting, but safer, life circumstances?
Ultimately we must all face the truth that at any moment we may be in life-changing, paradigm-shifting, even fatal peril. If we escape the immediate threat that is our primary concern at the moment, whether it is financial collapse, life-threatening illness, loss of a loved one, or even criminal penalties, do we breathe a sigh of relief and resume our carefree ways?
Scripture is clear that we are not promised tomorrow, and that no one but God knows what the next moment may bring (Proverbs 27:1). The fool whose goal was to build bigger barns to protect his amassed wealth did not know that he would die that same night (Luke 12:16-21). When we speak of scheduled events, we should always add, “Lord willing,” because His will surely prevails over our plans (James 4:13-15).
So how should a born-again Christian (John 3:3-8), one who is saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), live their life when danger looms? Fear is a natural but undesirable response, as is remorse or guilt if our own choices endangered us. Even if the calamity is not of our doing, all trouble can be traced back to the curse of sin, which affects all of us (Genesis 3).
If our sin has put us in peril, we should quickly ask for forgiveness, which God in His mercy will grant us (1 John 1:9). No matter how threatening the external circumstances, we should have the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), for we can trust that He works all things together for His good and our glory (Romans 8:28).
No affliction can come near the child of God unless He allows it to accomplish His purpose (Job 1:8-12). We need not fear what man can do to us (Psalm 118:6; Hebrews 13:6), for if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) The worst that can happen to the saved soul is physical death, which is then immediately counteracted by eternity in Heaven (John 3:16).
As James and Paul remind us, we can have joy in the Lord through all our trials and dangers (James 1:2; Philippians 4:4-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27), for His grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
But what happens when the immediate trial passes and we experience resolution?
Our sin nature leads us to drift away from the Lord once the imminent danger is over, as we forget that without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Our faith grows stronger in the valleys than on the mountain tops, for our pride seduces us into believing that we are responsible for and deserve our own successes, rather than seeing them as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13; 5:19; 1 Peter 4:10).
In truth, each of us, whether saved or unsaved, has a lethal sword of some sort hanging over our head by a single thread. At any moment, the thread could break, destroying our physical body or our earthly life as we know it, or it could hold, protecting us from disaster. These threats result directly from our sin nature, for since Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3), every one of us has been plagued not only by the consequences of sin, but by aging, sickness, and physical death (Romans 6:23; James 1:15).
The unsaved should rightly fear the devil, who not only kills the physical body but throws the unsaved soul into everlasting hell (Luke 12:4-5). For that person, Damocles’ sword dropping is truly a disaster of eternal consequence, for after physical death, there is no escape from eternal damnation. Now is therefore the time of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), before it is too late!
Should born-again Christians live in fear of the next calamity? No, we should trust God, Who is still on the throne, to do what is best for His children and to deliver us (2 Corinthians 1:10). He has given us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), He provides for all our needs (Luke 12:22-32), and every moment of every day is a gift from Him (James 1:17).
If the thread breaks and the sword pierces one of God’s children, we will be absent from the body but present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Every earthly trial will fade (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17) and every earthly blessing will pale in comparison to one look at His precious face! Our physical senses cannot even begin to imagine the delights He is preparing for us! (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9)
God has not given us the spirit of fear (Romans 8:15), but of power, of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), for His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). We should cast our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7), for He cares for us! We should not be anxious about any trial, known or unknown, present or future, but pray to Him for deliverance, thanking Him in advance for the optimal outcome (Philippians 4:6).
May we use every day to serve Him, for the time is soon coming when He will return for us at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) or bring us home to Himself. May we thank Him for the gift of each breath, using it to enjoy and praise Him for the many blessings He has given us!