“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed….For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9,15)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Is the thought of coronavirus keeping you up at night? Is it dread about how it will affect your job or kids or finances or elderly parents? Have all of your plans for the coming weeks fallen apart with all the shutdowns?
Let’s come up with a new acronym, FOC—fear of coronavirus. It’s happening all around us, at work, in our homes, and in our hearts. Anxiety has incubated in the petri dish of hyped-up news and has spread more rapidly than the virus itself. All of our conversations right now are centered around this new disease threat.
Personally, my undocumented theory is that some of our fearful response (like the mad rush for toilet paper at Walmart) is due to the hour of sleep we lost last Sunday in the change to Daylight Savings Time. It takes about a week for us to recover from that body-clock disruption, leaving us tired and worried.
When fears creep in like roaches, they climb through the cracks made by an insufficient faith in God’s plans. Our trust in Him is quite confident when the sun is shining and birds are singing. Throw even the sturdiest of us into the darkness of an emotional maelstrom, however, and we fall apart.
In a faithless vacuum, our fears can lead us to panic or paralysis. They can drive us into sinful thoughts, words, and actions. We have no anchor, no peace, no rest in the tossing waves of turbulent imaginings.
But take heart…real faith begins in the midst of real fears, when we have no other option but to put our trust in God. Real faith rests in Him alone and not on our circumstances or our own abilities.
Among Jesus’ most radical commands to His disciples is the admonition to “fear not.” He issues this mandate when the disciples are in the middle of a cataclysmic storm on the Sea of Galilee. He says, “Don’t be afraid,” when He is walking on the water…when His disciples see Him transfigured into a shining vision on the mountain…when they wonder if they will be saved. They have real reasons to be afraid! These are not imaginary problems!
I’m ashamed to admit I’m just as guilty as Jesus’ first followers. Too many times, I let fear take root. But let me give you a rare example of when I actually followed my own advice:
My husband, Mark, and I were in El Salvador four years ago on a mission trip. My job was to teach Bible lessons in a local school, so I talked about fear—I figured many of these kids faced daily dangers in a country fraught with violence.
Later that afternoon, as our group walked down a mountain jungle road, a stray dog began following us closely, me in particular. Suddenly, two other dogs lunged out of the overgrowth and attacked the intruding animal.
I wound up in the vortex of a junkyard dogfight as the others in our group stepped back in horror. Remarkably, the first thought that came to me was, “Don’t fall down.” I didn’t panic but began slowly and steadily moving sideways to escape. The dogs continued to circle, raking my pants legs with their bared teeth as they charged at each other.
After what seemed like an eternity (just a few seconds), I reached out to one of the group members and told him to grab my hand. Together, we moved out of the fray as the dogs took their squabble back up the road.
All of us were shaken as we headed quickly back to our bus, and I began to think about the possibility of rabies. I copiously applied hand sanitizer to exposed skin and prayed, “God, please don’t let me be infected.”
God swiftly provided me with a comforting answer…it turned out that an infectious disease doctor was in the group with me during the attack! After I cleaned up back at the hotel, this kind physician examined my legs and assured me I had virtually no possibility of problems: no broken skin, no reason to believe the dogs were rabid. Whew. Thank You, God. Thanks for standing beside me in the midst of the storm and keeping me calm.
Like my situation in the dogfight, the coronavirus pandemic is out of our control. Yet what we can control is our response to it. Instead of being paralyzed in panic, we can take charge of what we can accomplish. We can pray, listen to God, and approach life with complete trust in His purposes that we cannot see. We can choose faith instead of fear.
Over and over, Jesus promises He will always be with us. He tells us that having faith the size of a mustard seed is enough for Him to produce fruit and growth in them. He reminds us again and again that with God, all things are possible. Not all things will go swimmingly…but God is the God of good plans, according to His will, not ours.
I am hopeful that by the end of this year, when we look back and see His powerful hand at work in answer to our prayers, we will wonder why we ever doubted Him. We will see just how small our faith was and just how big His love is.
Walk today, therefore, in faith and trust that God is who He says He is. Work, knowing He has good plans for you. Sleep, comforted by the peace of His Holy Spirit that surpasses all understanding.
Shine, so that others can share the same hope and joy of Christ with us.
Jesus, You are our mighty Savior. We come to You helpless…unable to face our fears…unable to move…unable to make this situation right. Teach us again about Your strength in the midst of our weakness. Forgive us for our fretfulness. With Your love, calm all our fears.
Remind us that this fear is not from You—it is orchestrated by Satan. Instead, give us Your spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. When we can’t sleep, remind us that You left us with a huge gift—peace of mind and heart, something the world cannot give. You have commanded us to be strong and courageous, unafraid, not discouraged, because You go with us wherever we go.
Your faithful promises are our armor and protection. Help us not to dread the disease that stalks in darkness nor the disaster that strikes at midday. You alone, O Lord, are the only One who can answer our prayers, the One who has admonished us over and over again not to fear. You are the One who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, comforting us with Your rod and staff…we will fear no evil.
In accepting all this, help us turn our greatest fears completely over to You. Let us to look up to You, for Your good purposes and perfect plans for our lives. Make us beacons of Your light in a fearful world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Here’s my message for those kids in El Salvador—memorize these three things to do when you’re afraid:
- Remember that you belong to Jesus Christ—Your salvation is through Him alone, and heaven is His free gift.
- Prepare to act—Get out of bed, make your plans, and get moving wisely…do not give in to the paralysis of fear. Follow His commandments for you.
- Pray—Ask God to do the impossible for you.
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