Where does one begin in light of the current worldwide pandemic of this little virus COVID-19? I, like many of you, am holed up in our condo, partly out of caution of the unknown and partly because there are few places left to go. As I write this, all schools in my city are closed indefinitely; Major casinos are closing their doors tonight at midnight. Gyms, bars, many restaurants are dark and gatherings of more than 50 are discouraged. We are in a time unprecedented for most of us. Store shelves are empty and fights are shown on video over a package of everyday toilet paper. Last night my grocery store had armed police force at the entrance. Many workers have been laid off suddenly and without notice. Every industry sector shows signs of an uncertain future and stocks are plummeting after the Feds dropped the prime interest rate to zero! We are living in a strange time and fear has gripped a nation with a strangle hold reminiscent of an old sleeper hold by a brutal professional wrestler. The panic is more pandemic than the virus.
I am no expert in this or any other topic on which I write. Many of my readers don’t always agree with my words, which is ok. These are just my observations and contributions, as I face the same uncertainty we all do. Fear and overreactions are nothing new, even if the causes of those fears are. And fear strikes the hearts of even the most faithful people. I am reminded of an old song our band performed back in the 70’s by both Dolly Parton and Don Francisco, called He’s Alive. The very first verse paints a picture of sheer terror:
The gates and doors were barred and all the windows fastened down I spent the night in sleeplessness and rose at every sound Half in hopeless sorrow, half in fear the day Would find the soldiers breaking through to drag us all away
This is a description of the fear experienced by, of all people, the eleven remaining disciples of Jesus. Some of them had just witnessed the horrible death by crucifixion of Christ and reported back to the brothers who had gathered in hiding. Fear left them feeling orphaned. Think about it for a moment. These eleven men had ministered with Jesus for three years. They did life together, sitting under his direct and intimate teachings, witnessing first-hand his miracles, from water to wine to life from death. Moreover, they had performed similar miracles themselves by the authority Christ had imparted to them in their ministry missions. We read in awe the words of Christ when he says “I am the Life”, “I and my Father are one”, “if you have seen me you have seen the father”. But these men had heard with their own ears these words coming from the lips of the Messiah. No one on earth knew Jesus more intimately than his own disciples. And yet when the shepherd was struck, the flock panicked. And even when Peter and John ran into the empty tomb, they had forgotten the words of the Master when he said he would rise again from the dead and they returned to their hideout and to their fears. It was only after Jesus appeared to them in the flesh that they remembered His words and believed once again. If the disciples of the Savior upon whom the foundations of the early church were laid struggled with fear and doubt, it is no small wonder that fear and panic are so rampant today, even within the body of Christ.
I get it, this is new and unfamiliar territory. Pensions and retirement funds are losing value daily; parents forced to decide whether to work or stay home with their children because of school closures; the faithful torn between attending local churches or being responsible and bowing instead to science and health experts. And what makes these situations even worse is the divisions caused when one group condemns another over their chosen response to this new outbreak. And yet from a merely scientific and medically proven research, the stress and anxiety caused by fear has more of an impact and deadly potential on the body through elevated blood pressure and coronary stress than the bug itself, and could potentially kill more when said and done than any virus.
It is vital in times of uncertainty when we are tempted to react emotionally that we rather respond with what we know to be true. God’s Word has never let me down even in the darkest of times. The words “fear not” or “don’t be afraid” are listed 365 times throughout scripture, a true sign God wanted us to be reminded daily of his faithfulness.
John 14, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled and don’t be afraid”
Joshua 1, “Be strong and courageous, and not afraid”
Matthew 6, “Don’t worry about tomorrow”
Psalm 23, “I will fear no evil for you are with me”
Psalm 34, “I sought the Lord and he delivered me from my fears”
1 Peter 5, “Lay your fears on Him because He cares for you”
2 Timothy 1, “We are not given a spirit of fear but of power”
Isaiah 41, “Don’t fear, I am with you, don’t be dismayed for I am (still) your God. I will strengthen you and hold you up with my strong, mighty and righteous right hand”
Romans 8, “If our God is for us, who can possibly come against us”
God imparts to all who ask, a measure of wisdom and discretion to be used in such matters. We don’t test God or go against sound and conventional wisdom. We don’t smoke because we know it can lead to respiratory illness or death; we don’t eat fried foods everyday because science has shown us what fats do to our heart and arteries; we adhere to the medical advice given by experts. But in these cases our decisions and responses must be dictated by sound advice and precautions, not fear. Fear is often a liar. Fear says you can’t accomplish something, faith says I can do all things through Christ; fear says the medical prognosis is bad, faith says I am the Lord who can heal you; fear says the situation is hopeless but faith says all things are possible through Christ; fear says isolate and hide out but faith says let your light shine to a darkened world who needs to see your hope in Christ.
With my current health condition I would be considered at risk if I were to contract COVID-19, so I will be taking the necessary precautions to avoid exposure whenever possible. And to be honest, like the disciples, I am concerned with what may be next, how much worse things could get, what impact this will have on my family and friends. But I will not be driven by fear or guided by panic. If this is an extended visit to the valley, I will enjoy the shade and quiet time. But fear will not be welcomed here. Love, faith and fear are strange bed fellows; love casts out all fear. Over the next few weeks I would highly encourage you to turn off FOX, CNN, and all other news outlets who profit highly off sensationalism driven by fear, and pick up a good book or take a hike instead. Use this time to reconnect with friends and family and look for ways where you can be a positive influence on a world who doesn’t need us hiding in fear right now. God bless you and your families now and as we pass through this fire, remembering that there’s another in the fire with us and we will not be burned! Peace.