I used to take a group of students with severe learning difficulties into the local youth offenders prison, to use their gym facilities. Some of the officers there were qualified trampoline tutors, so gave them sessions, and helped them earn some of the earlier badges. There was also a great fitness suite, with machines we couldn’t hope to provide within school. A few of the young offenders were allowed to come in to support the activities, which helped them get a better perspective on life, and everybody got a lot out of those sessions.
The week we had an Ofsted inspection, the lead inspector was threatening to accompany us on the minibus to the gym. That would have meant being under his beady eye for the whole Friday morning, and I’d had enough of that all week! The head, bless her socks, managed to persuade him not to come with us, and we’d never got a group of kids out of that place and onto the minibus so quick in the whole of my career! We escaped and were on our way before he had a chance to change his mind. Even so, as we were waiting for the prison gates to be unlocked and let us in, I was in sheer panic that he would follow us by car and get in with us. Once locked firmly inside, I knew there was no way he’d get permission to follow after us, but the panic never left me the whole morning! We actually got a very good report from that inspection, so my worry was indeed unfounded, but it’s so hard not to!
Genesis 43:15-23 reminded me of that escape. Once Jacob had given word that Benjamin could accompany Judah and his brother back to Egypt for more food, you couldn’t see their feet for dust. Yet panic never left them. Maybe they were fearful that Jacob would send someone after them to recall them, but certainly they were in dead panic that Joseph was setting out to trap them.
What is really interesting, is that it was Joseph’s steward, presumably an Egyptian who calmed their fears and pointed them back to faith in their own God. And how did he happen to know who their father worshipped (v23) – for it had not come out in any previous conversation? Joseph had obviously informed him not only about the God they worshipped, but also about his nature as a miraculous provider. The brothers in their anxiety missed this clue! Or perhaps the steward had learned faith from Joseph for himself, which surpassed that of these other sons of Jacob.
Whatever the case, anxiety and worry serve us poorly. They rob us of our peace and also our clear thinking. Why do we let ourselves be ruled by them? I know there is a type of clinical anxiety which affects brain chemicals, which is not so controllable and I would not pass comment on. That aside, most of us are choosing to accept anxiety as a companion. How many ‘fear nots’ are there in the bible? Yet we still do it? That sounds pretty much like disobedience to me!