It is no mystery why the words “Fear Not” are repeated so much throughout scripture. Fear is one of the most powerful motivators you can experience in life. The problem is, because it isn’t from God, it motivates you to do things you would not normally do. Fear forces you to forget and let go of the things you would rather hold on to. The promises of God and faith experiences that have served as anchors for you in the past, all of a sudden, seem less powerful or reassuring in the face of fear in present circumstances. When fear is given real estate in your mind, it leads to irrationality and impulsivity. Don’t believe it, just take a walk down isle thirteen in your grocery store right now where toilet tissue is kept. In the end, fear lies to you and invites you to take matters into your own hands. With almost a survival of the fittest mentality, you abandon the ultimate for the immediate. Instead of resting in the promises of God and what history has taught you, you settle for things that bring quick relief and lessens your fear.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) did not create this phenomena; rather it is revealing what has always been true…The enemy uses opportunities like this to flex fear and dominate your faith. This can be traced all the way back to the Garden. The fear of missing out led two people to make a decision that changed everything. Later, in Acts 27, Paul and some other prisoners found themselves on a ship heading to Italy when a life-threatening storm arose. Paul had just reassured the entire crew that God would save them a few verses before when the sailors began to listen more to what was being reported by their depth meters instead of what had been reported earlier from Paul. Which leads me to say that science and technology can inform us of situations but God is the only One that can transform us in the midst of them. In a desperate attempt driven by fear, they wanted to abandon the ultimate for the immediate. The sailors in Acts opted for the life boat instead of staying on the boat that was already promised to save their life. When Paul’s tone changed and reassured them that they would die if they left the ship, the sailors decided to cut the ropes and let the boat fall off. They chose the ultimate over the immediate.
What do you do when fear flexes on your faith? How do you live informed and yet trust in the One who has demonstrated that He can transform you no matter what the situation is? May I make a few suggestions?
- Fear is a part of life; Don’t run from it. Running away and acting on fear only serve to intensify it. Call it what it is and bring it close so you can speak truth over it. “God I fear __________, but You have promised me ___________ in your Word.” “I’m scared about _________, but You have never let me down and have always supplied me with what I need.” You can’t fight a battle you can’t name. Name the battle and introduce Truth into it.
- Make a choice. Fear and Faith both require you to believe in something that has not happened yet. You have to choose which one you will listen to. A practical suggestion is to write down what both of them say. “Fear, you say _____________.” “God (and my past experiences with Him) have demonstrated ____________.” Look at both lists and make a decision on which one you will listen to. (You may have to do this regularly in the beginning!)
- Stay informed. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to what science is teaching us. After all, science is just factual explanations of God’s creation. Listening to what science and our government are recommending isn’t the opposite of faith. It is actively demonstrating love for yourself and your neighbor. As a believer, there is an active role for you to play to protect the temple God has given you and to help your neighbor do the same thing.
- Stay in a routine. While larger gatherings are being discouraged right now, continue to stay connected to family, friends and those in your community that are a part of you spiritual, emotional and physical journey. Continue to work, stay in the Word, go for walks, go on dates with your spouse, hang with your friends, attend small group, and see your counselor/doctor/dentist. Try to maintain as much of your day to day life as possible. Establishing and maintaining a routine helps you navigate days that seem anything but routine.
When fear flexes on you, flex back with an active faith! Paul told the sailors, “..take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.” Paul was right. It was true then, and it is still true now. Things will be as God determines them to be. Take courage!
“…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” Isaiah 43:1-3
Lee Smith M.S., L.P.C.