by Emily Conrad
The map tracking the spread of COVID-19 on Johns Hopkins University’s site is covered in red circles. It’s the sort of thing I’m used to seeing in movies, and now it’s the world we live in.
History is unfolding around us.
Actually, this time, the events are closer than “around us.”
When a neighbor started to approach to say hello while I was walking my dogs, I held up a hand and said, “Don’t come close. I think I have a cold, but we can’t be too careful.”
She stopped where she stood, fifteen feet away.
History, this time, affects the little moments of our days.
I’m against panic and fear.
I am for love. For responsibility and consideration of others.
Because of that, I’m practicing social distancing and trying to heed the advice of the experts.
They have told us lives depend on us doing our part to prevent the quick spread of this virus, and I believe them.
But the virus is not the only thing that is spreading across our globe right now.
I haven’t seen a map of it, but it seems the only thing spreading faster than COVID-19 is fear.
One of my Facebook friends dragged it right out into the open by posing a blunt question a few days ago: Are you afraid of the virus, or are you afraid of dying?
I was surprised by the answers I saw. Without qualifying or explaining much, people answered. We all have fears, and it seems we’re ready to own and talk about them.
The good news—the Gospel—is that no matter the trials we face, death included, we needn’t fear.
But even as a believer, I find fear creeps in sometimes. Especially in the face of threats to my life or the lives of my loved ones.
My first instinct tends to be to stuff the fear down and minimize the true danger.
My second, to find comfort in platitudes and the little things I can do to ensure my own physical safety.
The first tactic is counterproductive. The second helps, but only so much.
Because as long as this life endures, we will face threats to our livelihoods, our way of life, and our lives themselves.
In the ultimate, eternal sense, no stockpile of groceries and toilet paper can protect us.
Even in the finite sense, seat belts and doctors can’t always save us.
We don’t always have enough money squirreled away to weather a hardship.
And on and on.
So we must do more than ignore fear or cope with solely earthly precautions. We must ask the tough questions and seek truth.
It’s in grabbing hold of the fear and dragging it to the throne of God for resolution that we find peace.
In Christ, we need not despair, no matter the threats we face, because our hope is not the length of our lives. It is not in our ability to avoid this virus or any other disease.
Our hope is also not in staying safe on the road, the ability to buy whatever we want when we want it, unhindered access to quality healthcare, the security of our property, the quality of our sleep, the size of a savings account.
Yes, I want those things. Yes, I will take what precautions I can. I will pray for protection and deliverance for myself and others.
But I also recognize that, despite my best efforts, I cannot insulate myself or my loved ones from all trials.
I’m a novelist. My characters all experience trials, too. If they had minds of their own, they’d probably wish they didn’t have to face the trouble I choose for them. Yet, I tailor their experiences to make them into better versions of themselves.
If I, a finite, faulty human, can see the necessity of trials for my characters, how much more so can the omniscient and perfect God see just what I need?
He is infinitely more trustworthy than I am. And so, my hope is not in living the story I would choose for myself.
My hope is in Jesus Christ. When my mind is fixed on Him, there is no more room for fear. When I do fear, it’s because I need to draw closer to Him.
Years ago, I was struck by this verse:
The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever! Amen.
2 Timothy 4:18, NET
With very few exceptions, entering the heavenly kingdom means passing through death.
Death has never seemed safe to me.
Yet Paul writes of God bringing him “safely” into heaven because with Christ, we are safe, even in death.
He alone can bring us safely through.
Not only can He, but He’s promised to for all who believe.
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16, NET
“Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.”
John 14:1-3, NET
He is penning a story I don’t understand in this pandemic and in other trials past, present, and yet to come. But when we put our faith in Him, we don’t need to fear, because we have assurance that all things will work together for ultimate good.
So, I’ll walk this road with Him, wherever it leads. I’ll both stay home physically and rest spiritually in the green pasture of trust. I’ll strive to operate in the spirit He’s given me of power and love and self-control.
As I pray this pandemic will end without taking more lives, I am also praying that these days will draw us closer to the only One who can offer us eternal life. Life that will outlast pandemics, wars, and accidents–and death itself.
In all things, He is able. In all things, He is just and good.
If you don’t know Him, now is the time. Jesus died on a cross to pay for the sin that brought death into the world and separates us from God. When we turn from our sin and put our faith in Him, we no longer have to fear–He restores our relationship with Himself, and our eternity is secured.
He extends His offer to everyone. All we must do is ask. To learn more, here is a post on becoming a Christian from John Piper. Or, check out resources from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association here. Whether you want to learn more or are a new Christian looking to grow, reading the Bible is also important. The advice my dad gave me when I was a child was to start with the book of John. Still good advice today.
If you are a Christian and you’re feeling the fear right now, you’re not alone. Draw close. Jesus is the answer.
Dig into His word, pray, and reach out to believing friends. Even when our churches cannot meet, volumes of resources are available online.
Even better, God Himself has promised to be with us.
He is our hope, the anchor for our souls, and the cure to our fears.
“Look, a time is coming—and has come—when you will be scattered, each one to his own home, and I will be left alone. Yet I am not alone, because my Father is with me. I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” Words of Jesus, John 16:32-33, NET
I’m practicing social distancing and trying to heed the advice of the experts.
But the virus is not the only thing spreading across our globe right now. @emilyrconrad on #fear and #hope
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