Fear. It’s all around us. And within us.
We fear running out of money, time or gas. We fear people who are different. We fear losing, missing out, or not being prepared. We fear criticism, criminals, wrinkles and rain. Oh, and we fear death.
In The Report Newsmagazine, Candis McLean reported that “ordinary children today are more fearful than psychiatric patients were in the 1950s.” And that was in 2001!
Most recently we fear coronavirus. And apparently, we also fear running out of toilet paper.
I’m a Christian and a pastor. So the question I ask is this: How should people of faith respond?
The Bible is full of statements to “not fear.” Someone once told me that the phrase “fear not” occurs 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year. I looked it up and it’s not true. But it’s still a consistent and persistent message!
But why? Why shouldn’t we fear?
In short, because the powerful presence of God is always more significant than the powerful presence of fear. A bully on the schoolyard is never as intimidating when your big brother comes along and turns out to be bigger than the bully. Psalm 27:1 captures it well: “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
But let’s get a bit more specific.
First, for followers of Jesus, it’s important to maintain perspective. Illness and hardship have been a part of our broken world for a very long time. The world has, unfortunately, experienced many other pandemics. Even though information (and misinformation) travels faster than it used to, what we’re experiencing isn’t 100% new.
Second, despite what is happening, God is always sovereign, he can bring good out of bad, and hope always wins in the end, even if we have challenges to overcome in this short life. In 1 Corinthians 15:26 the ever-zealous Paul calls death “the last enemy.” And since the resurrected Jesus has already given him the one-two punch, his people are no longer under his domain. What we see isn’t all there is to see.
Third, we pray and help. We pray that people get better, that medical professionals and government leaders act with wisdom, and that those of us who are healthy help and serve others—this includes attending not only to physical needs where appropriate, but spiritual needs too. Jesus’ instruction to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31) persists in a pandemic.
I get it. Things like illness, war or famine are concerning. We should pay attention to the authorities, and yes, in this most recent case with coronavirus, wash our hands frequently! But mostly, we should pay attention to God.
The powerful presence of God is always more significant than the powerful presence of fear.
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