India is currently ravaged by the impact of Covid 19, with the reported death count increasing rapidly each day. It is tragic and heart-breaking. It just shows how helpless we can become despite all that has been achieved in our country.
As much as we mourn the loss of life and all the damage being done by this virus, more people are being shackled by fear and panic. Some news channels are doing nothing but spreading fear. Countless people who are glued to television sets are being negatively impacted by what they see. Because they are constantly watching gruesome visuals, what they see is what they think is happening to them. The fearmongering type of negative reports are producing adverse effects. I do not suggest that we should be ignorant of the reality, or less empathetic towards the suffering, but we have a duty as Christians to consider how we respond to fear.
Let me say briefly how our mind functions in this regard. Our mind is a strange thing. It is a kind of a factory that produces all kinds of feelings and reactions, both good and bad. Depending on what you see and perceive, you have a corresponding reactions that takes place in your mind. For example, if you see a beautiful scenery, the immediate and natural reaction to that is to react in a mood of excitement. If you see a man lying in the pool of blood, you are bound to react with fear and horror. Your blood boils when you hear about a 10-year-old girl child raped and killed by a group of men. If you are stuck before a computer watching pornography, then it will follow that your mind is filled with lustful thoughts. Moreover, if you are constantly watching news channels that only show visuals of people dying, then your mind is gripped by fear. In all these cases, depending on what you’ve seen and heard, you have the corresponding reactions of fear and panic taking place in your mind.
When fear grips us, it literally grabs us by the throat and will soon shut down all our rational thinking capacity. When we are swayed by fear, we become mentally incapacitated. When our minds are dominated by fear, we let our guard down. We become hopeless. Ultimately, fear becomes the victor and we become the victim.
So, how should Christians who believe in the Sovereign God react to all that is happening around us? Here are four practical applications.
1. Do not Fear: The Sons of Korah wrote. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever -present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” (Psalm 46:1-2). That little word ‘therefore’ in the second verse of Psalm 46 has volumes to speak about our confidence in God. ‘Refuge’ is a place where you hide when your enemies attack you. In those days, to gain political advantage, sometimes people who offer you refuge may suddenly change their minds and conspire with others and might betray.
But that kind of a thing will never happen with our God (Isaiah 54:10). Because He is the covenant-keeping God who will never leave us nor forsake us nor betray us. So, the Psalmist’s confidence stems from a belief in a God who is unshakeable and unchangeable. Therefore, let us not be afraid of anything, let alone of coronavirus.
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28). Jesus is unequivocally saying that there is no point in being scared of death.
If I can apply the principle behind this verse to our present-day crisis, we must not fear about what coronavirus does to us. But we need to be more concerned about what happens after we die. If there is nothing beyond ‘death’, there is no point in trusting Jesus (1 Cor 15:19). But if there is life after death, we should do everything to think about it. And Jesus promises eternal life to be enjoyed with God in a place that is devoid of death, decease, sin, pain and suffering.
2. Accept Your Fears: The God whom we worship is not a hard taskmaster obsessed with punishing those who fail to adhere to his rules. Yes, he delights when his children walk in his footsteps (his commands) and disciplines when they don’t (Heb 12:5-6). But he does everything out of the abundant love he has towards his children.
Remember how Jesus introduces Yahweh to his listeners. He addresses God as ‘our Father’ (Matt 6:9). Yes, our God is our Father before whom we can lay bare all the layers of our fears and anxieties.
Jesus, before he went to the cross, in the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death….” (Mark 14:34). Mark records in 14:33 that Jesus was deeply distressed and troubled. When the Son of Man, Jesus Christ himself could pour out his heart before His Father in foreseeing the crushing wrath of God on the cross, why can’t you and I do that before God? In his humanity, troubled by what would happen to him on the cross, Jesus went to the Father in prayer. We must do the same.
In the Old Testament, many times, we see the Psalmist openly complaining to God about his fears, anxieties and problems (Psalm 10,13,22,38,63,64,74). So, my friend, if you are scared about coronavirus, there is nothing wrong in that. It only becomes problematic when you don’t take your fear to the Lord. We do not have to show how chauvinistic we are before God. We can be vulnerable and admit our fears before God. And our hope is that our God would help us in the end. That is the beauty of the relationship we have with him. Remember, our God is our heavenly Father!
3. Share the Gospel: How do we instil courage and confidence in someone who is struggling with fear and panic? It is by pointing to Jesus who died and rose again from the dead. By sharing the gospel, we give hope to the hopeless and help the helpless.
The Apostle Paul, knowing of his imminent death (2 Tim 4:6), tells his co-labourer Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5). Because there is nothing that more important, urgent, and life-saving than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is amazing how willing people would be to listen to something that is good news, especially when they are scared. One thing I have observed while visiting the sick is they are willing to listen to me than they otherwise would be. I believe there isn’t any better news than the gospel itself. And, there isn’t a better time to share the gospel than doing it right now. If you’re willing to do it, there are many ways to do it. Just think aloud!
4. Meditate on something that is wholesome: Divert your attention to something that is wholesome, beautiful, pure, praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). It is our responsibility to fill our heads with what is right and true, as people created by God to the Glory of God. As I said earlier, because our minds can take the information and produce various kinds of reactions internally and externally, we must make sure that our minds are exposed to what is good, lovely and pure. Our hope as Christians is in life and death, and when we meditate on the beauty of what God has created, the reality of what Christ has restored, and the joy of what lies ahead, what a difference this makes.
Whatever we do, let us glorify God and put behind all our fears on the back burner and run the race that is set before us. Remember, our affliction is momentary, and our joy in Christ is everlasting!