COVID-19 has rattled the world in which we live and with it fears of all kinds have risen to the surface. What do we do with these fears and how can we live in the midst of them?
Begin by Fearing Things in the Right Order
We all fear things. We fear snakes. We fear our boss. We fear what could happen to our children. Some of those fears are not well grounded (we fear presenting a new idea, but it is received with great accolades), and some fears are very well grounded (we may have just received a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer). But things get wacky if we begin fearing things in the wrong order. Imagine the person who fears losing a prized painting and remains in a burning building. Jesus was clear that at the top of our fears should be God Himself (Matthew 10:28). Fearing God doesn’t necessarily mean God shaking in our boots, but it does mean that if God says, “You should be more concerned about X than Y,” he’s the one we should be taking our cues from. Keep God at the top of your fears and you are off to a good start in keeping all the others at bay.
Remember God’s Faithful Past
There are at least two ways we can learn about people. We can learn about others by asking them questions and listening to their responses. Or, we can learn about people by watching them behave. Most of us consider the second kind of learning more trustworthy. A person might say they are kind, but if you witness them acting rudely again and again, you will conclude otherwise. One thing I love about the Bible is that it does not just tell us what God is like, it shows us God in action so we can come to an even better conclusion. And if there is one thing God proves by his past activity in the world, it is his utter faithfulness to those who love him. Whether it be rescuing Israel from slavery (Exodus 14), keeping three young men unharmed inside a fiery furnace (Daniel 3), or releasing shackles from an imprisoned disciple (Acts 12:1-19), God reminds us by his past behavior that he is bigger than even our most formidable challenges, including COVID-19 and its wide-ranging consequences. How can I keep my current fears in their proper place? By remembering God’s past faithfulness.
Take Comfort in God’s Presence Now
Even if you aren’t very familiar with the Bible, you have likely heard the words of Psalm 23. At the center of this ancient hymn are the words, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Notice that David in writing this psalm did not say that his comfort came from his own prowess or ingenuity (though he was marked by both) but from the very presence of God. Some of our fears today can spin us out of control, because we are looking solely at what we bring to the table. But those fears can remain in their proper place if we take comfort in the words of Jesus to his followers, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Maintain Hope Based on the Future God Promises
We cannot hide from the fact that some of what we fear can take our lives, COVID-19 included. If there is nothing after our last breath, we are probably right to be gripped by fear. But what if this is not all there is? What if there is a glorious offer of a beautiful life with God into all eternity? That changes everything, doesn’t it? Jesus said that everyone has been bitten by the sin that leads to death (whether by this coronavirus or something else), but he also said that whoever believes in him will have eternal life (John 3:14-18). That’s why one of Jesus’ followers later wrote: “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Rather than be gripped by fear, you and I can live with a hope anchored in the future God promises to those who believe.
© 2020 John Hopper