"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear" (Psalm 46:1–2a).
As most of us would agree, we are living in troubling times. With the arrival of the Coronavirus and its potential for widespread societal chaos and high death toll among certain members of the population, the times have suddenly become exponentially more troubling. It is also clear that fear has overtaken the lives of many people, and they are deeply concerned by the current crisis.
"Coast to coast, large public gatherings and major events have been canceled. Employees have been told to work from home, universities have moved all classes online and elementary schools have closed for sanitizing. The stock market has seen meteoric crashes. Declarations of emergency are being proclaimed, and New York has deployed the National Guard to the hard-hit city of New Rochelle, north of New York City.
"As the number of confirmed cases of illness grows, so too does the nation's collective uncertainty. Psychologists and public health experts say public anxiety is high, and it’s largely fueled by a feeling of powerlessness" (USA Today, March 12, 2020).
To be afraid and troubled by such things is a perfectly normal first response, even for a Christian. But it’s not the place we are to remain. In speaking to His troubled and frightened followers, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1, NIV). A troubled heart is quite often due to fear, and the apostle John told us, “fear involves torment.” But he also said, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
HOW SHOULD WE AS CHRISTIANS BE RESPONDING TO THIS CURRENT SITUATION?
Not in Fear
So how should we respond? Numerous times, the Bible declares “fear not.” We are not to respond in fear.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore …” (Luke 12:7).
“Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:17–18).
Martin Luther spoke these words to the Christians during the time of the Black Death:
"When anyone is overcome by horror and repugnance in the presence of a sick person he should take courage and strength in the firm assurance that it is the devil who stirs up such abhorrence, fear, and loathing in his heart. He is such a bitter, knavish devil that he not only unceasingly tries to slay and kill, but also takes delight in making us deathly afraid, worried, and apprehensive so that we should regard dying as horrible and have no rest or peace all through our life. And so the devil would excrete us out of this life as he tries to make us despair of God, become unwilling and unprepared to die, and, under the stormy and dark sky of fear and anxiety, make us forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbor in his troubles. We would sin thereby against God and man; that would be the devil’s glory and delight. Because we know that it is the devil’s game to induce such fear and dread, we should in turn minimize it, take such courage as to spite and annoy him, and send those terrors right back to him …"
Secondly, we are to respond in faith. Our trust must always and ultimately be in the Lord. However, our faith should not be foolish or presumptuous.
Again, from Martin Luther:
"Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are."
So how should we behave?
“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness … Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:3, 5).
“You will keep them in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for in the LORD is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:3–4).
“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides Me there is no God’” (Isaiah 44:6).
Who is speaking? He who is the first and the last. He who knows the beginning and the end.
Lastly, we are to respond in rest.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).
What is currently happening in our society? People are panicking and hoarding. In contrast, those who follow Christ should be looking out for others, not for ourselves only. We have been forced to be still. And in our stillness, we should meditate on the goodness of God.
Getting a realistic view of the situation is always helpful. But the “bad news/good news dichotomy can make people feel as though they are getting mixed messages. Reports say most people who contract the coronavirus experience symptoms similar to the flu. Then people hear stories about the National Guard helping with quarantine containment” (USA Today).
So, if the risk to most people is mild to moderate symptoms, why does it feel as if the world is shutting down?
Public health officials are “trying to tamp down the infectivity curve.”
"Think of it like the top of a wave. They’re trying to keep it from going up too sharply. If it goes up too fast and too high, the people who need health care will be crowding hospitals all at once, making it impossible for everybody who needs it to get care. … Health experts say the media has an important role to play. It must dispense accurate information without being sensational, and it must avoid exploiting people’s fears … saying 'deadly virus' can be misleading, because the virus is not deadly for most people." (USA Today)
As of today, there have been 400,000+ cases worldwide, 18,000+ deaths, and over 100,000 recoveries. There are 287,816 active cases, 95% of those being mild. However, that means over 12,988 are serious or critical. The Coronavirus has brought to mind some of the deadly plagues of the past like the Black Plague (1300–1600), which killed as many as 200 million people. The Spanish flu (1918–20) took the lives of 20 to 50 million people (Worldometer).
Historically, things like this remind us of our mortality. And the rampant fear and anxiety we are seeing in our nation and in the world testifies to the fact that people are thinking about eternity. An Epicurean philosopher once said, “It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls.” This is true. But there is a way to escape death. There is one person who conquered death, and His name is Jesus Christ. He lives today to deliver you from not only the fear of death, but from death itself.
Receive Him and receive life forevermore.
If you have never received the peace of God through Jesus Christ, you can do it right now by praying this simple prayer:
“Dear God, I believe that Jesus died for me and rose again to save me from all of my sins and from fear and from death. Come into my heart, be my Savior, and give me peace. Thank You for making me Your child, and help me to follow You all of my life until You receive me in glory. Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer, the Bible says that you are God’s child now and that God has begun a work in you that He promises to finish; putting to rest all of the old sinful ways and giving you a new heart, filled with new love and new peace. There is no darkness in the world that can rip you away from His love. Your next step is to get connected to a healthy group of Christians who want to help you grow in your new relationship with God. This is a little more difficult right now due to the coronavirus restrictions in place, but you can always call or email a Bible-teaching church near you and let them know about the prayer you just prayed. Go here to find a church near you that can support this new work that God began in you today.
This article was taken from Pastor Brian Brodersen’s message, “Hope in Troubling Times,” on March 15, 2020. To listen to it in full, go to cccm.com. There, will you find this and other helpful resources.