Our nation is facing a real challenge right now, and it is a real gut-check for Christians. Will we trust in Christ, suffer faithfully, show compassion, and bear witness? Or will we get swept away by the panic that seems to be unfolding in some places?
I want to be clear about what I mean. I am not winding up to rebuke those who are taking seriously the novel coronavirus and who are being vigilant to do all they can to stop the spread and to encourage others to do the same.
This is not a drill. It’s real. We all need to be vigilant. And we need to take our responsibilities seriously to love our neighbors well by taking practical measures to slow the spread of the disease. So this is not a rebuke of vigilance.
But it is a challenge to any believer tempted to being swept away by panic. And let me explain why this is so important.
This what I mean by panic:
A sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals (source).
The very definition of panic is sudden inordinate fear that produces behavior that reflects such fear.
Fear is a very real human response to uncertainty, but it is nevertheless the opposite of faith.
The only kind of fear that can coexist with faith is the fear of God. But the fear of man, the fear of the future, the fear of calamities, and yes even the fear of pandemics can only exist where the fear of God is absent.
So if we want to have courage and bear faithful witness to Christ in the days ahead, we need to strengthen one another’s hands to trust in Christ and his word. And we need to turn from panic and from the fear that wants to swallow us up.
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. -2 Timothy 1:7
Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10
Perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. -1 John 4:18
Anxiety is a vice. It drives out love, joy, peace, patience, and all the other fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:21). That is why it is our duty to oppose fear with all our might when it comes upon us. How do we oppose it? What can be done?
I want to suggest one really practical thing:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. -Philippians 4:6
The prohibition “do not be anxious” is a prohibition on fear. But the prohibition is immediately followed by the means that God intends for us to use to fight fear: “let your requests be made known to God.” In short, pray. Cry out to God in humble dependence.
Are you terrified about the future? Make your request known. Ask God to care for your future. Are you terrified about pandemics? Ask him to take it away and to have mercy on us until he does. Are you scared of dying? Ask God to save you. Make your request known.
The very act of crying out to God is an act of faith. The weaker you are, the louder you cry. And the louder you cry, the more your dependence on him comes through. It’s not about your strength but his.
And when you have done this, then will the next part come true:
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:7
This is how you connect to God in the midst of trial, and this is where he meets you. At the point of your greatest desperation and need:
We had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. -2 Cor. 1:9
I am praying for you, brothers and sisters. Please pray for me. And let’s pray for our neighbors and for opportunities to show glad-hearted faith and hope and love in the midst of the panic around us.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, & to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion & authority, before all time & now and forever. -Jude 24-25