Every year has its fears—but this year has had more than its share of them.
We’ve had fires, threats of war, and now this unknown that could be hiding anywhere among us—the Coronavirus. There are a hundred things we want to do. Be afraid. Hide. Use every bottle of hand sanitizer. Stock up on toilet paper. Live in a hazmat suit. As we see more and more people come down with this virus, it seems like all the world is caught in this panicking, despair, and fear.
But what should our response to the Coronavirus be as Christians? Here’s three things to remember:
1: Christians Aren’t People of Fear.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In this passage, Jesus is giving His disciples some of His last advice—His last message to them before they suffer the fear of the Romans, the dismay of their leader being captured, and the despair of seeing Him dead. This is also among the last things He tells them before He sends them out to preach to all the world, facing peril and persecution and pain. What does He want them to remember, before they face all that the world may throw at them, death, disease, and dismay? Don’t be afraid.
I’ve heard somewhere that the phrase “fear not” is used 365 times in the Bible, one for each day, and while I haven’t counted for myself, it still holds true that this idea or variations of it appear in almost every book and story. Believers are not to be characterized by fear. It has no part in our story.
We don’t need to fear death—for we are promised eternal life. We know that while to remain here is good, to leave is much better (Philippians 1:23), for it is to instantly be in the presence of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8), the one who is fullness of all joy (Psalm 16:11).
We don’t need to fear suffering—for we know it grows us. It is for our refining and perfecting (James 1:3-4), and by enduring through it, God uses it to bring glory to Himself, and rewards upon us (James 1:12).
We don’t need to fear financial difficulties—for our heavenly Father provides for us, and we are worth much more than the sparrows and wild flowers (Matthew 5:31-33).
We don’t need to fear at all—for worry saps all our energy and ability. The worst thing to do in any survival situation is to panic—rather we are to pause, assess, and determine the first right thing to do. The same skills which apply in the woods apply in a widespread scale. Our world needs steady, calm people—not ones running about in panic. If we are truly people who have no fear of death, then we should not be responding in the same way as those who have no hope. We are not of this world—so we should not fear what anything in it, even viruses, could do to us.
2: Practical Actions Aren’t Fear
We shouldn’t live in fear—but neither should we live recklessly. This is a real threat, and one that will shape our lives for a quite a while—as many college students are already learning. We can’t write this off as merely fear-mongering or propaganda; for to do so is to show a selfish, me-first mindset. That is the opposite of what Christ has called us to. We are young, and healthy, and strong, and the Coronavirus, even if we catch it, likely won’t affect us much. But it could be deadly to those we interact with.
So follow the guidelines. Wash your hands, avoid crowds, avoid traveling. Yes, it is inconvenient in the extreme—weddings are getting canceled, trips are laid to the side, and friends remain far away and unseen. But we don’t follow these precautions out of fear—but out of love.We don’t follow these precautions out of fear—but out of love. Click To Tweet
This is showing love to those who are most vulnerable around us. This is showing love to those who could get sick, who have those underlying causes, who are elderly, who simply couldn’t handle getting the infection.
And there’s Biblical precedent for combining faith with common sense. David wrote Psalm 27, which speaks of not fearing though an army or war come against Him—but he also didn’t let Saul pin him with a spear, not sit and wait in one singular cave while Saul was trying to hunt him down. He moved so Saul wouldn’t find him. When Paul was taken as captive to Rome in Acts 27, he advised the captain not to sail, because of the winds—would we say such action show that Paul didn’t have faith in God? This is the same man who experienced and knew that “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10).
Having faith in God’s protection and sustaining power is not contrary to taking common sense measures—especially ones that protect those around you as well.
3: God is in Control
This epidemic did not catch God by surprise. He’s not updating the news page every few minutes to see how it has spread. He knows—and He will use it for our good and growth. Our lives are not any more precarious now than they’ve always been, nor do we have any less control—the illusion has simply been stripped away. As C. S. Lewis said when facing the terror of his day, the atomic bomb:
“It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.”
There’s not less danger, it’s simply more visible. Which gives us more chance to trust Him.This epidemic did not catch God by surprise. He’s not updating the news page every few minutes to see how it has spread. He knows—and He will use it for our good and growth. Click To Tweet
Maybe all our worst fears do come true. Maybe society shuts down. Will you trust Him then? Maybe someone that you love gets sick. Will you trust Him then? Maybe everything you know falls to pieces. Will you trust Him then? Maybe this virus spins out of control, maybe all our communities are affected, maybe our summer plans are also cancelled, maybe normal college classes don’t start back next semester—the question is, will you trust Him then?
Fortunately, these questions aren’t ones we have to face currently—and He gives the strength when it is needed. But will you trust Him now with the unknown? “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” We might not know what will happen with this new threat. But we know what God has done, and who He is.
He is the God who made us, who cares about every hair on our head. He is the God who went through suffering, and sickness, and death itself for us. He is the God who is our refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 31:2), who is day by day transforming us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), and through whom we are able to sing with triumph, “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
He is the one who holds our future.
Don’t stop living because death is roaming. Don’t stop trusting because fear abounds. Christians are to be a light—living lives full of faith, loving their neighbors even when it’s inconvenient, and trusting the God who holds all things in His hands. Though there be “great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:11) we do not lose hope, but look all the more eagerly ahead because of them. This world is not our home, and we know there is coming a kingdom with no more sickness, death, or fear, where everything is made good and new once more. So we have faith in His ways, waiting eagerly for that day.