We live in a place and time where the news is designed to play on our fears. Fear is a lucrative business. People who are afraid stay tuned to find out whether their fears will be realized. So, fear is peddled and profited from in every form of media. The media truly loves crisis, and will do what it takes to get one. Too many people in the field of journalism are longing for their day of glory, when they are able to report from ‘the eye of the storm.’ They don’t mind if their reports create panic because that makes more drama for them to report on. It is vicious, but it is part of the freedoms we have in this country.
In my life group, this week, we discussed fear in a different context, but I couldn’t help but think of all the anxiety that is building over the coronavirus. I confess that I am paying more attention to the news than usual, and it is tempting to worry. But followers of Christ are not supposed to live in fear and worry. How we respond to frightening situations is part of our testimony. We are called to respond in a way that demonstrates our faith and hope in Jesus Christ. Many of us know Philippians 4:6-7 by heart. Verse six picks up in the middle of Paul’s sentence, but we don’t usually go back to look at the verses that precede it: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything. . .” (Philippians 4:4-6a) A few years ago, I spent time meditating on this passage and was struck by the statement, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” If believers are to demonstrate reasonableness, we must respond to situations with wisdom, not anxiety or panic. What allows us to do this is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” described in verse seven. This peace sets us apart from the crowd.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
It isn’t easy to respond to the news of the day with peaceful reason. I often feel as though my body betrays my rational mind. My mind knows that I should not fear with God on my side, but my body responds to the cloud of doom with physical manifestations of anxiety. News reports hit me in the pit of my stomach, and my gut tells me that I don’t trust God as much as I want to. Still, I am slowly learning to do what 1 Peter 5:7 instructs, “casting all [my] anxieties on him, because he cares for [me].” It’s working, but I have to be intentional about what I am feeding my mind. For every news report, I need a dose of Scriptural encouragement. News flash: God is still in control. Special Report: God is still on His throne. This just in: God cares about me and will be with me, whatever happens. God’s Word is sweet comfort to my soul.
The world is full of uncertainty. Every day, people around us are facing the often unexpected trials of life. Even as we are on the cusp of panic over the coronavirus, there are people facing other problems that, at present, far outweigh the theoretical trouble to come. God wants us to minister to people’s needs, but if we are overcome by worry, we cannot be of service to others. Often when we think of Jesus’ admonition not to worry about tomorrow, we are focused on the regular every-day needs that He had spoken of: food, clothing, and shelter. We don’t apply it to the major threats to our health and safety. But the promises of God are even more relevant in the storm than in smooth sailing. Jesus didn’t say, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow. . .unless there is political unrest, war, or a deadly virus on the loose.” There were no exceptions; we aren’t supposed to worry. We have His promise that He is always with us, no matter what we face. The only thing we are supposed to fear is our Holy God.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
I am looking to be prepared and never panicked. I know that God is in control. The life of faith means that I do what I can and then trust God in everything. My mother raised me to always take precautions to avoid germs, but if God wants me or someone I love to get sick with a potentially deadly virus, that is what will be. He asks that I trust Him and praise Him, whatever comes. Panic is not befitting a child of the Most High God. I love the last three verses of the book of Habakkuk. It is an Old Testament version of Philippians 4:13. Uncertainty about the future causes fear, so we need to program our minds ahead of time, like Habakkuk. We can determine beforehand that, even if the worst-case scenario happens, we will find our strength in God and trust Him with our very lives. In this we find perfect peace for our souls.