"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
As the pandemic rolls on, seemingly without end, I wonder...what are we putting our trust in these days?
The main cultural narrative is unmistakable, and intentionally one of fear. It is loud, it is repeated, it is effective. Our attention is always directed to the worst case scenario...the modelling numbers reported to the general public are usually projecting outstanding numbers of cases and deaths due to COVID--not what is, but what could be--and the numbers are always jarring. Add variants into the equation, with all of the accompanying unknowns, and fears of impending doom intensify even more. The projections justify harsh protocols and extreme limitations on personal freedoms, all for the fear of what may come, but not necessarily what is occurring at present. We are told that if everyone follows the rules, the worst will not happen, and we will be “safe” and not die. Nor will we spread infection or cause others to die indirectly. We like to feel safe, we want others to be safe, we respect our governing authorities, and so we obey. The antidote to our fears is control, the elimination of any possible risk to make us physically safe--and make no mistake, physical safety has become the ultimate goal. This has been the narrative at large for months on end, and, while we have not ever experienced the worst case scenario, there have been record high reports of anxiety and depression, substance abuse, deaths by suicide, increased incidents of spousal abuse, job loss and poverty, undiagnosed and untreated cancer, and a myriad of other secondary and tertiary effects of Public Health orders in the general public. It is an absolutely tragic situation.
The worry of impending doom, the belief in the prophecy or prediction, no matter how exaggerated or unlikely, has led us to a place of unrelenting fear and anxiety. It has paralyzed every area of our community. It has divided family, friends, and those in the church. And this, dear friends, is why I write this.
I am concerned that as much as we proclaim Christ, we have been influenced so greatly by this narrative of fear, and our theology has taken a back seat. That we too, as Christians, have become paralyzed. As I mentioned earlier, the narrative is effective--it taps into an emotion we all have within us.
I am not accusing. It is a battle, for sure, and I am in it with you. As someone who is prone to anxiety, I have had to navigate this carefully. I have to resist the forecasting and predictions and remember to live life one day at a time, not being concerned about tomorrow. This is quite a challenge when the very basis of the way of life we are having to live is focused on what could happen in the future. This is the very definition of what leads to anxiety in the first place! What has to be possible for us as Christ followers is that although we are being ruled by fear, we do not have to be ruled by fear. Because it is such a strong temptation to follow the louder, oft repeated narrative of our worldly culture, I am asking that we take a moment and examine how we are thinking and conducting ourselves at this time, and that we would allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us clearly if this is what has happened in our minds and hearts.
Are we reminding ourselves that because we belong to Christ, that our lives are no longer our own? That the days we have lived thus far have not been because of anything that we ourselves have done, but that God, who numbers our days, has granted them to us (Job 14:5)?
Are we remembering the words of Christ when he tells us that “whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)? This means denying ourselves control over our lives; we are not our own. Are you living sacrificially during these days of the pandemic, or does self-preservation rule? It is important that we remember that our Lord is sovereign over our lives, and always has been. We are only alive today because He has ordained our days (Job 14:5). As well, we can find comfort and confidence in 2 Timothy 1:7, which assures us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgement.” Are we exercising sound judgement as we interact with the world around us, or are we allowing emotions to lead the way?
Our all-wise and loving Father in Heaven has much for us to learn during our time in isolation, and He also has much for us to do. He tells us to have courage and not fear (Joshua 1:9) because He knows we will tend toward the opposite. He makes clear his requirement of us that is to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). He wants us to show the faith that grows within us through the works we display towards others (James 2:15). We cannot turn inward, hide, and be silent at a time when there is so much need around us. Christ who is our advocate, also desires for us to advocate for the poor and the weak, both physically and spiritually, and who are being affected disproportionately during this time. We are called to look for them, and to have compassion on them, bearing their burdens with them (Galatians 6:2).
As we look ahead towards gathering as God’s church once again, it is imperative that we consider these things deeply. There is no reason for the local church to be rendered ineffective or paralyzed during a crisis, no matter what that crisis might be. As we turn our thoughts towards Easter during the Lenten season, let the Holy Spirit reveal to us our sinfulness, and lead us to confession, remembering the forgiveness we have because of Christ’s sacrifice made for us on our behalf. It is in Christ’s power that we now walk, freeing us from all fear, enabling and empowering us to witness to others through word and deed, giving the certain hope needed in an uncertain world.
Will we do it?