No one is now unaware of the outbreak of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19). It has personally reminded me of the early 1990s with the HIV virus outbreak (which can lead to AIDS). There was a lot of fear, anxiety, and hysteria. The average person didn’t know what we were dealing with and how to protect oneself. Could it be passed through kissing or by sitting on a toilet that had been used by someone with the virus. But I think the response to the most recent Coronavirus outbreak is even more heightened as we live within the digital and social media worlds of today. There is a lot of info at our fingertips, which includes a lot of info from amateurs or worse. The Lord knows we need wisdom in this time.
In an effort to help people in this period, I have seen some Christians and pastors posting about fear. They are encouraging people not to fear. Not so much a chiding of others, though some perhaps. Yet the reminder I am seeing is that fear should not be a part of the Christian life. Or, even more, that fear is the opposite of faith.
As I read in one recent post, it carried an evocative message, coupled with multiple Bible verses about not fearing. And while I think there was some good food for thought, I still believe it was missing something. It had me pondering some things that I have learned about fear over the past few years. And, so, here are a few thoughts to consider about the gift of fear.
That’s right, I said the gift of fear.
Fear is not the opposite of faith. Fear is a gift that opens the door to help us move toward wisdom and trust—trusting our Father, even when there is uncertainty. We are definitely in a period of uncertainty in our world.
Consider this: We do not (or should not) tell someone who has lost a loved one, “Don’t feel sad.” We do not (or should not) tell someone who has been stabbed in the back by another, “Don’t feel hurt.”
These are real (and good) responsive feelings to the situation the person is walking through. We might say these feelings—of sadness and hurt—actually demonstrate that their heart is alive, that they have not moved completely into the realm of hopeless despair.
We must, I think, guard against saying, “Don’t feel fear,” or, “Don’t fear,” when there are real dangers at hand, including today. Again, we wouldn’t tell someone to stop being sad in the midst of real loss.
Of course, we are not speaking of or advocating for panic. Nor do we want to be controlled by a “spirit of fear” (I am aware of 2 Tim 1:7). But these are wholesale different from the feeling of fear we do encounter in our lives.
It is true that fear can push one toward anxiety and, even further, rage. Rage can more likely stems from fear than anger. But fear is also a gift to help push us toward wisdom and trust. For those who “fear the Lord,” they have learned wisdom (i.e., what the book of Proverbs tells us) and have learned to trust in the goodness of God. Not a happy-clappy trust that pushes aside reality. But a rooted trust in who God is and what we know of him through Scripture.
Here’s another example in life: Our finances can be used for good or bad. The Christian believes finances are given as a good gift, all that we might uphold good stewardship of what God has given. Yet, many use such for greed. With our funds, the badness comes from what we choose to do with them, where we move toward in light of them.
But our finances are a gift themselves.
So, with fear, it can move us toward anxiety and rage, yes. But it can also move us toward wisdom and faith.
Look how many people are trying to be wise in this challenging time of the COVID-19 virus through the closure of major events, large gatherings, schools, etc. Over-reaction? Perhaps. But most are trying to be wise. And I stand behind that wisdom.
Furthermore, in this time, many are looking with trust to the one God we’ve come to know in Christ Jesus. Many are looking to trust their leaders. That trust also asks us to consider how to love our neighbors as ourselves, even in the midst of uncertainty.
In the midst of such widespread tragedy and danger as seen with COVID-19, let us speak truth. Let us pray, let us cry out as the psalmists have done in Scripture, let us serve our neighbors (especially the vulnerable and elderly), let us be wise, let us lean into God with all we have.
Yet, let us also consider this: Fear is not the opposite of faith. Rather, fear is a gift to move us toward something better. That better is trusting our good Father and moving into wise living as our world needs us to today.
That is the call in the midst of fear that we may face and feel today.
I am grateful for Chip Dodd’s work The Voice of the Heart, which has helped me learn much about our feelings, including fear.