As I considered all the new developments with the Coronavirus, I found myself struggling with fear. It’s easy to be afraid, especially when everyone around us is afraid too. Christians, however, are not called to walk in fear. We are called to walk in courage and boldness, knowing that our hope is not in health and safety, but in God. Even so, I can bet that I’m not the only one who is fighting worry. So, in this post, I would like to share with you four things that I have learned over the years through my own struggles with fear. Whether it is fear of the Coronavirus, or something completely different, I hope that it will be helpful and encouraging to you.
#1 Turn Away
All of us get occasional worries that dart through our minds when we are reading the news or are overwhelmed by life. It’s when we start to dwell on those worries that the problem starts. One of the most effective ways to fight fear, then, is to stop dwelling on them. Stop spending your time in the land of “what if.” Stop listening to the voices in your head that are telling you all the possible ways a situation could go wrong. Realize that focusing on your fearful thoughts is actually harmful to you. In fact, it’s sin. This is why, in Philippians 4:6a Paul says,
Do not be anxious about anything…
This isn’t a suggestion. Paul is commanding his readers to not be anxious, and that implies that they have the ability to stop their fears. You can stop being afraid. So stop. Make the choice to turn away from fear.
#2 Embrace Truth
If there is a pothole in the road filled with trash, just taking the trash out of the pothole isn’t going to fix the problem. After all, what’s to stop the hole from getting filled with trash again? What’s to keep the cars from being shaken every time they drive over it? No. You must pave over the pothole, you must fill it, to really fix the problem. It’s the same with your brain. Though choosing to turn away from the fearful thoughts in your mind is a good start, it still doesn’t take care of the problem. There is still a hole. Instead, you must fill that hole with something, and that something is the truth of scripture. Once again in Philippians Paul says,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8
Notice that this is only two verses away from the verse I cited earlier. Paul doesn’t just command the Philippians to not be anxious, he tells them to replace those anxious thoughts with what is true. And, if we’re being honest, what may or may not happen isn’t true. You don’t know the future. Instead, you must think on what you do know which is the hope revealed in scripture.
A couple years ago, I completely lost it backstage at a drama performance. I was crying, wanting my mom, and couldn’t seem to master the panic and anxiety that was clenching my chest for no apparent reason. It was, all in all, pretty traumatic. As a result, my biggest fear is that it will happen again, and that this time, I won’t have my mom on hand to help me calm down. Since then I’ve grown a lot in this area, but I still struggle with this fear (among others). So, when I’m in the thick of the battle, I do my best to think on what I know to be true by recalling to my mind Isaiah 41:10:
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
It takes discipline to focus your mind on truth instead of listening to fearful thoughts. And, to be honest, there are still many, many times when I fail to believe God’s word over the lies in my mind. Nevertheless, I know that I will never be able to fully defeat my fear if I can’t say no to worry and say yes to scripture. When you’re battling fearful thoughts, find a verse, write it down, memorize it, and hold on to it with an iron grip. Embrace truth.
#3 Pray Honestly
As much as we would like to think that we can handle the fears in our minds on our own, we can’t. When facing anything, we must come to God in prayer. More than that, we must pray honestly. So many Christians put on a different “face” before God when they pray to Him. They never admit what they’re struggling with, praying for their neighbor’s lost dog or their grandpa’s financial struggles instead. Of course, praying for your neighbor’s lost dog and for help in a financial crisis are wonderful things, but we must remember to never neglect the personal and the spiritual. When it comes to the God of the universe who is your father and who loves you, there is no such thing as over transparency. God wants you to bring everything to Him.
Consider the Psalms. As often as David asks God to help Him out of difficult circumstances, he is also very candid about how he feels and how he is struggling. In Psalm 22 we find David crying out to God saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (v. 1) Of course, we know that God hadn’t forsaken David, but that didn’t change the fact that to David, it felt like He did, and he wasn’t afraid to express his distress. He was honest with God.
When you are struggling, pray honestly and confess your fears to Him. God is ready and waiting to answer you when you do.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.Psalm 34:17-20
#4 Love Others
As much as loving others is a way to fight pride, it is also a way to fight fear. I think Wayne A. Mack & Joshua Mack say it the best in their book “Courage, Fighting Fear with Fear”:
Fear springs from an intense focus on self. The more selfish we are, the more fearful we’ll be….You are fearful because you are more concerned about yourself than you are about others. When you are dominated by fear, ask yourself who or what you are primarily concerned about.”p. 59, Ch. 3
When we are in situations of crisis, including the Coronavirus, it is right and natural that our first concern is taking the necessary measures to protect our family and friends. The problem is when that good concern turns into fear. Think about it. What about all the empty shelves at Publix? What about the brawls breaking out over people who want toilet paper and water? Is fighting someone else with a wine bottle in the middle of a grocery store aisle really a right expression of our concern for our family? What are we really saying when we grab all the bread at Aldi even though we know there are plenty of other people who need bread too? America is dominated by fear, and therefore it is themselves that they are primarily concerned about.
When we are afraid, then, one of the best things we can do is focus on loving others. Love for each other fights back against the selfish tendencies that come when we are controlled by fear. This is why, in 1 John 4:18 it says,
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
As we face the threat of the Coronavirus, we have been given a wonderful opportunity to witness to the world. What if Christians responded differently to the Coronavirus? What if we weren’t ruled by fear, but stood in faith, trusting God’s plan for us? What if we showed the world that our hope is not in health and safety, but in God? What would that say about our faith? What would that say about God? What would be the message that we would be communicating to the world? What is the message we are communicating to the world? I’m really scared, I’m not gonna lie. I’ve always been really fearful (you could call it a besetting sin), but I don’t want to waste this opportunity God has given me to act on what I’ve said I’ve believed my entire life since I was six. After all, a world epidemic doesn’t come around everyday. Why don’t we use it to glorify God?
In closing, I would like to draw your attention to the two links below that I found helpful in considering the suffering and danger of the Coronavirus. One is from Desiring God, and the other from a blog I follow. I hope that they will encourage you just as much as they encouraged me. I’m praying for you, Christian. We’re gonna be okay.