The Fear is Real.
This last Sunday we, as a small congregation, met for worship as usual, but it was anything but normal. Given the widespread concern over the spread of the COVID-19 (Corona) virus, we took the advice of the CDC and our local health department and made some adjustments in how we conducted our services.
Among the precautions we took was to
- repeatedly sanitize hard surfaces such our door handles and counter tops
- provide hand sanitizer for those who came
- insist that those who were sick or have a fever stay home
- live stream our services for those who were home (first in our history)
- and, probably the most difficult, we encourage everyone to give “air” high fives rather than shake hands and hug.
For a congregation like ours that is known to be very loving, the “no hugging or handshaking” part made things a bit strange. But in spite of this, we were able still sing, and listen to the reading and preaching of God’s word. This ultimately reflects our church’s attitude which is to take this health issue seriously while not panicking and giving in to fear. As a result we were able worshiped the Lord as a congregation, both in person and virtually.
This is important for all of us who profess faith in Christ. Regardless of the circumstances and the difficulties we face, we must not allow ourselves to be ruled by fear, because fear is a huge distraction in our lives, but more importantly it can get in the way of the relationship we need most at all times; our relationship with God.
Fear is a subject that I dealt with in my book, Distracted: Finding God in a Chaotic World. I in light of the growing fears and concerns of those around us I have included an excerpt of Chapter 3 titled “Keep Your Eyes on Jesus”. I pray it is helpful to you or someone you know.
Fear in Your Life
The circumstances of your life can begin to play on your fears and cause you to become anxious, worried, and lose sight of God and His power. Like Peter [in Matthew 14:28-30], you begin to sink and drown in your own emotions, replaying and questioning decisions you have made in faith. You fall prey to the negative consequences of fear. These consequences are very persistent.
You begin to worry, ruminate, and experience deep anxiety. You think about things over and over. You experience less joy and peace, and you find it hard to concentrate. Fear overwhelms your emotions.
Fear also affects your physical body. You lose sleep, don’t eat, get fatigued, depressed, and anxious. Fear, anxiety, and worry are often linked to things like heart disease, strokes, migraines, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and many other health issues.[i] Many of these things need a doctor’s care, and you should never ignore the symptoms.
Fear affects all your relationships. Many people find it hard to spend time with someone who’s always worried, negative, fearful, and fatalistic. Fear and anxiety hamper your work relationships with your co-workers, your bosses, and your subordinates. People distracted by fear tend not to make solid decisions; they waffle and hesitate and get hung up in analysis paralysis. Fear can make it difficult to get anything done at work.
Anxiety impacts our relationships with our spouses and children. Parents who worry all the time tend to raise kids who worry all the time. Children whose parents struggle with fear tend to feel less secure and less loved.
Most importantly, your fears and worries divert attention away from Jesus to other things. They can distract you from the strength and the confidence you have in Christ. When you take your eyes off Jesus, you focus on the dilemma at hand. I think that’s why the Bible tells us over and over and over again not to be afraid (Deuteronomy 1:29) or anxious (Philippians 4:6).
Fear may cause you to forget about God’s faithfulness if you get cancer. You may lose sight of the fact that God is your Provider when the money runs low. Or you may forget that you’re forgiven by the grace of God when you make a mistake or fall headlong into sin. Fear is a horrible distraction from your walk with God because it causes you to lose sight of the gospel. It causes you to try and walk in your own strength, and it makes you more susceptible to temptation, sin, and discouragement.
Categories of Fear
Fear is not always a bad thing. It can have a purpose when it is appropriate. For example, when you step off the curb onto the street and you hear a car horn, fear can motivate you to get back on the curb where you’re safe. The right kind of fear can help you be prepared for emergencies or make you cautious when you’re surrounded by people you don’t know in an area you’re not familiar. But there are other kinds of fears that are crippling and that overwhelm your life and distract you from all your relationships, especially your relationship with God.
Fears from the past. Maybe you did something wrong in the past—a crime, a betrayal, an act of unfaithfulness—and you’re worried about getting caught. Maybe you did something you are ashamed of and you don’t want anyone to find out. The fear of this becoming public is more than you can bear, so it eats away at you. Maybe someone who did you wrong in a relationship or in a business deal wants to talk about it in private.
Fear of current circumstances. Maybe you lost your dog or you’re not sure if you’ll get a good grade on an important test. Maybe you felt a lump where there wasn’t supposed to be a lump. Maybe you have a child serving in the military in the Middle East from whom you haven’t heard in a few days. Or you open the mail and find a bill you weren’t expecting and realize there now isn’t going to be enough money to buy groceries. Or you have a neighbor who has someone stopping by every fifteen minutes all night long, and you realize what’s going on.
Our world is full of question marks, dangerous situations, and uncertainty, which can leave you so overwhelmed and fearful that you lose sight of your Savior and begin to drown in your anxiety.
Fear of the unknown. The future is full of unknowns, things you can’t see, things that are beyond your ability to know and control. A quick way to identify this kind of fear is by asking, “What if?” You hear it all the time. What if the economy tanks? What if there’s a government shutdown? What if you buy a new house but then lose your job? Or what if, heaven forbid, the Patriots win yet another Super Bowl?
Many people have debilitating fears of the unknown that can consume them and cause them incessant worry. Again, this kind of fear draws attention away from God and sidetracks you. Sometimes, it’s pervasive enough to require medical attention.
Fear of the unknown causes you to lose sight of His ability to take care of you and the promises He has made, like the promise that He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Another promise states that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). It is also encouraging and empowering to remember that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
The modern world seems to be steadily growing darker, at least in the Western world. Fear of the unknown and the other destructive categories of fear can cause you to lose sight of the sovereignty and the power of God, which is really the issue.
A Need for Control
Your fears are rooted in trying to control what you cannot control. That’s really the heart of fear. You want to control the past, your current circumstances, and the unknown, but you are not in control.
Stop right where you are and acknowledge this truth: you are not in control.
You’re not in control of the weather, the economy, or even your own kids. You’re not in control of elections, or Syria, or what Russia does in response. You’re not in control of the traffic on the freeway. You can’t control cancer, the planetary alignments, gravity, the wind, or the pace of technology. If you’re honest, you’ll admit that at times, you can’t even control yourself!
Your fears also stem from a misplaced trust. This probably smarts a little bit, but fear tends to be a sign that you’re trusting in something other than God. There’s a reason why the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, emphasis added). You may find yourself trusting your intuition, your ability to figure things out on your own, other people, or the government. But God alone, the Creator of the entire universe, is in control. He is sovereign. All things are within His power and will. Stop trusting in other things more than you trust in God.
Fear is debilitating. It distracts you from God and is rooted in your desire to control what you can’t.
So how do you overcome fear and keep it at bay? Spend time in prayer and apply yourself to seeking the truth in the Word of God. It’s about time with Him.
Remember that God’s sanctifying work is not done yet. You are broken and live in a broken world full of broken sinners, so you will probably at times fall into fear and worry; you will lose sight of Christ at moments when the troubles around you begin to overwhelm you.
When that happens cry out, “Lord save me from my fear! Save me from my doubts! Strengthen my heart, turn my eyes back to you.” Cry out to Jesus. He will reach out His hand and take hold of you. He will steady you and strengthen you and set your feet back firmly on the rock (Psalm 40:2).
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and your fears, doubts, and worries will begin to fade into the background of the glorious grace that He has for you. Your fear should instantly remind you to immediately turn to Christ, because that is where your hope is. Not matter if you are facing the unknown of the economy, the results of an MRI, [the Corona virus], or the loss of someone you love. Jesus is your anchor in the storms of life and He will not fail you. Turn to Him.
Please let me know if this is a help to you and certainly let me know how I can pray for you.
If you would like a copy of the book you can purchase it on Amazon.
Grace and peace,
[i] “Anxiety and Physical Illness.” Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. May 9, 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/