DO NOT BE AFRAID, FOR SURELY GOD IS WITH US
It’s fair to say that many people have responded to COVID-19 with fear: fear for one’s own health and fear over what might happen. Perhaps you have fears about travel and closings and shortages and work and school. Maybe you’re fearful about someone who is close to you, or maybe you feel overwhelmed because you don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s all outside of your control.
Fear comes to us naturally and easily. Fear is powerful; it’s one of the most potent human emotions. Fear can be an important sign that something is wrong, and we shouldn’t ignore it when it is. But fear is easily manipulated, fear can lead us to unreasonable thoughts, unreasonable actions and depression, and fear can cause us to do things that will hurt others and ourselves.
So, what is the Christian response to fear?
The Bible says “Fear not!” It is very important that Scripture repeatedly tells us not to be afraid. God commands and encourages us by saying, “Fear not!” or “Do not be afraid”. And he says this for good reason.
God doesn’t say it because there’s nothing scary or dangerous out there. Obviously, there is. Life is scary. Threats are real. Harm befall us. Bad things happen.
God says this not because there’s nothing scary, but because of what He does. Many times, in the Bible when God says, “Do not be afraid” He then explains what He is or will be doing as the reason why not to be afraid. Here are some examples:
Exodus 14:13 Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Judges 6:23-24 But the LORD said to him, ‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’ So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace.
But it’s not just about what God is doing. It’s also about how He himself is with us. For example:
Psalm 46:1-2 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.
Mark 6:47-50 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and He was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
Jesus is God-with-us. And Jesus says things like:
John 14:1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
When we feel our fears swamping over our hearts or elbowing other thoughts out of our minds or leading us to anxiety and worry, that’s when we must remind ourselves what we know to be true about God. There are two key aspects of fear. First, we fear the unknown—Are people around me ill? When will church resume? Will I get stranded? What will this mean for work and school? —but God knows and plans our future. He has no question marks about any of it. Second, we fear what we cannot control, but God is the Lord of All. Nothing, even this, is outside of his sovereign power.
So, let us all be wise: follow the advice of health officials and other authorities, wash your hands often, wear your masks in public, etc. But brothers and sisters, do not be afraid. Because even today, God is with us.
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