You don’t have to scratch hard to find someone’s fears and insecurities. Okay, some of us have become good at covering up those anxieties. We put a brave face on it. We may even be under the illusion that we’re in control – as William Ernest Henley’s poem “INVICTUS” claims:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
Through the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
But under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
The reality is far different. Repeatedly situations arise where we realise that we are not the masters of our fate or the captains of our souls.
Many of us can remember those childhood nightmares where our fears surfaced from our sub-conscious into horrible, heart-pounding dreams. In those moments we were thankful for the presence of our parents – the hugs of Mum or Dad and the reassurances that everything was okay.
For some of us those bad dreams continue on into adulthood. Especially in the dark of the night our fears and insecurities often rise to the surface. But now there’s no longer a Mum or Dad to wrap us in their embrace. I can remember my father’s evening prayers at family devotions after the evening meal in which he would often pray for the Lord to protect us from the “horrible dreams and visions of the night”. That was an acknowledgment that we need more than human help for our fears and insecurities.
What William Henley didn’t want to own up to is that we are not invincible. Henley discovered that too. He’s dead. In 1903 God Almighty showed Henley who was really the master of his fate and the captain of his soul.
We Christians don’t find our comfort in our “unconquerable soul”. Instead we find our comfort in this, that we belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. This Jesus is now the sovereign Lord of the universe. This means that we as Christian parents won’t just reassure our troubled children by telling them it’s all okay because we are still there to look after them. No! When they wake up from a bad dream we’ll reassure them that Jesus is on the throne of the universe and that nothing can overcome Him and that He loves them with an everlasting love.
Our embrace of our insecure and fearful children may give them some comfort. But the reality is that we won’t be there for them forever. I recall that one of my bad childhood nightmares was that my parents would die and that I and my siblings would be left as orphans. Well, the fact is that we are orphans – my parents died in 2004 – but I’m truly thankful that the Lord didn’t take them from us when were mere children. In those moments of my nightmares I needed more than a reassuring hug from my mother or father because my fear was precisely that they might no longer be there to do that. I needed to know that Jesus held me in His embrace and that He is in total control of all the circumstances of my life.
It’s a wonderfully comforting thing to know that the Sovereign Lord of all things is the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. That enables me to cope with my worst nightmares.