The thunder was still just a gentle rumble but it served it’s purpose in warning us that a storm was on the way. As I walked through the house unplugging the TV and computer I thought about the family in our community that had a barn burn down just the day before because of a lightning strike. The storm had yet to register with my boys who were busy building towers and robots out of Legos.
We left our house early because I knew that the storm would make for a slow drive to pick up my wife. As my youngest son was getting in his car seat the gentle rumble of thunder quickly turned into a violent boom. My oldest son had a look of surprise on his face but my youngest son was crying. Loud crying. He would spend most of our drive with his hands over both ears.
When lightning flashes across the sky, adults think about what could happen. We bring kids inside because we know that each bolt is more than enough to kill and we unplug electronics because we’ve seen what a power surge can do to a TV or computer.
When most kids see lightning, they think it’s cool.
The thunder that follows is a different story. Adults rarely give it a second thought but it’s enough to send a small child running for cover.
Kids are afraid of thunder. Adults are afraid of lightning.
We know that we are maturing in our walk with Christ when we get our fears in order. We are prone to fear other humans because of what they might think or do to us or we are consumed with a fear of death, disease, loneliness or some other thing that could happen. But ultimately, these are all thunder. Sure, they make a lot of loud noise and are very scary but, in Christ, there’s nothing of eternal consequence they can do to us (Romans 8:31-39).
Jesus was really good at pointing our attention to the lightning, the thing that we should really fear.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 ESV)
Christians need not fear God because he might throw them into hell. The true Christian’s eternal inheritance is forever secure (1 Peter 1:3-5). There is also no need for us to fear God’s wrath or condemnation (Romans 8:1) because through faith and repentance, Christ took that on himself on our behalf (Romans 5:6-11).
Instead, our fear is a reverential awe before the holy and sovereign creator of the universe, the One who had every right to leave us as enemies but instead, “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).
We live in a frightening world. It’s hard to go a day without hearing scary words like divorce, cancer and goodbye. But the gospel reminds us that as painful as these things are, they are still just thunder with no power over us. The funny thing is that the lightning, the really scary stuff, is actually working at full power on our behalf (John 10:28-30).
While my son sat in the back seat crying, I was in the front seat, driving the car past flashes of lightning and telling him that everything was going to be okay. And it was.
Sometimes the scariest place in the world is also the safest.