Today, I pulled up an old podcast from Mars Hill Bible Church, which I listened to years ago. The speaker that day, Shane Hipps gave a sermon that really hit home for me. His sermon was inspired by a passage in the Bible from Ezekel in which God talks about creating a covenant for the people of Jerusalem in which he promises to rid the land of savage beast, he will rescue them from evil oppressors and will ensure the land provides a plentiful bounty in the years to come. History shows that none of these promises ever came true. There was famine, they were oppressed and as far as I know savage animals still exists. Did God lie?
The sermon was called the Lantern. The symbols he used to summarize this passage was a flame and a lantern. The flame represents our peace, our internal state. Outside of the lantern, the flame or our peace can very easily be extinguished, but you place the protective lantern over top and suddenly hurricane force winds can no longer blow out the flame. God is not literally promising to remove all the troubles of the Israelites but if you ask God for help, accept this covenant he is offering you, no longer will you be subject to the extraordinary winds that will take our peace away. His covenant is like the lantern.
My ability to feel peace in my life has largely been determined by external circumstances. I’ve never been good at keeping my internal state at peace when my external world is in the midst of a shit storm. When I heard this sermon it reminded me of Victor Frankel. If you don’t know who Victor Frankel is, he is a Nazi concentration camp survivor and author of “A Man’s Search for Meaning.” He lived in what can only be described as unfathomable misery, pain and hardship. His entire family, except his sister, died in the Nazi concentration camps. In the face of this unimaginable hardship, he was able to keep his soul, his spirit, his internal world positive and upbeat, despite an external world that was throwing everything at him, seeking to break him. For most of us, when our external world throws us a challenge our way, even something as mundane as the Starbucks barista messing up our latte order, our whole day can be thrown into disarray. Our peace is gone, extinguished.
Victor Frankel famously said, “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” For me I find great strength in connecting with a God who will protect me from storms that will rage outside of me. This can be everything from someone cutting me off in traffic to the death of a loved one. No matter what the situation, I ask God for help and picture myself inside the lantern and I remember what Victor Frankel said, that we have the power to choose our attitude no matter what the external circumstance. As the legendary college basketball coach Jim Valvano said, who lost his battle to cancer years ago, “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” If these individuals can remain strong and positive under some of the most dire circumstance one can imagine. I can certainly find the strength to keep my flame burning in the face of my anxiety disorder. Got your lantern?