The pandemic has caused many people to be afraid—afraid of illness, the unknown, losing their job, loneliness, or radically altered retirement plans. The list goes on.
So how do we respond?
With the Presence of God
We need to know that the antidote to fear is confidence in the powerful presence of God. Here are two of the better-known examples which highlight the point:
In Isaiah 43:1-2b (ESV) we read: “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…”
In Psalm 23 David writes: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (Psalm 23:4).
In short, the powerful presence of God is more significant than the powerful presence of fear. The reason the Israelites and David don’t need to fear is because God is with them. The closer God is the more courage there is.
We know that, right? Maybe we use different words to communicate this same idea, but we hear the pastor preach about it or share a picture on Instagram about it, right? But when we are actually afraid—when something like COVID-19 shakes our confidence—how do we take something in our heads and implant it deeply within our hearts? How do we trust in God’s powerful presence in our day-to-day lives if we don’t audibly hear him speaking to us?
James 4:8 counsels, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Fortunately, God has given us practices that help us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to experience his closeness with greater intimacy in the face of fear. I’d like to suggest five, and I’m going to call them weapons.
After all, and as the title of this post suggests, I consider the war against fear to be just that—a war. And war is fought with weapons. There are many more spiritual weapons, of course, but I’d like to focus on these five because they are accessible and realistic in a time of daily disruption and confusion.
The Bible is the primary place where we learn about God’s will. If you’re not sure where to start, download a reading plan, or work through the Psalms or Gospels. Read it every day. A Study Bible can also be very helpful. The more you get into God’s word the more God’s word gets into you. As a result, you’ll be better equipped to think and act from a place of faith, firmly rooted in God’s promises, instead of just reacting to the noisy cultural buzz which bombards us 24/7.
Simply put, prayer is conversation with God. Speaking to the elders in 1 Peter 5:7, Peter says to cast “all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” We talk to our loving, Heavenly Father, praising him, thanking him, asking for forgiveness, and boldly asking for help.
Because of Christ, who is our great high priest, we can confidently “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). You don’t need to use fancy words; but you do need to be sincere (Matthew 6:5-8). Set time aside to pray, daily.
Memorizing and Meditating on Scripture
You won’t find the word ‘memorization’ in the Bible. But Joshua was told to “meditate” on the book of the Law “day and night” (Joshua 1:8), and in Psalm 119 the psalmist frequently spoke of meditating on Scripture, as in verse 15: “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” This can be done through reading, but also through memorization.
Today, the word “meditation” can make people think of eastern religious practices. But memorizing and meditating on Scripture is something different. It is embedding God’s word in your mind with the goal of filling yourself with a more intimate knowledge of his word and will.
As such, it is portable, and you can more easily recall God’s wisdom as you journey through the ups and downs of life. My suggestion is to start small, perhaps a verse or two a week, and go from there. Recite verses to yourself while driving, walking the dog, or when you can’t sleep.
Worship and Preaching
These are normative for God’s people. We gather weekly for worship, when possible, to praise God and to renew ourselves in clarity of thought and action as the hands and feet of Christ. They fix our eyes on the Triune God and strengthen our faith.
At a time when church buildings are closed out of a concern for public safety, we lament that we can’t encourage one another face-to-face, celebrate sacraments together, experience 3D congregational singing, or benefit from in-person youth programming, but we can still access worship and preaching resources online—as individuals or as families—like never before.
Acts of Service
In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus teaches that whoever does good for those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, in prison, or who is a stranger or in need of clothing, is also doing it for the King, who represents Jesus: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40).
A true commitment to the King means a true commitment to his kingdom. This is a kingdom where both spiritual and physical care is extended to others. One of the things I’ve discovered, whether it be working at an Out of the Cold program, writing letters of encouragement, or helping with kids, is that when you serve others you experience greater intimacy with our servant Saviour.
As you take up your weaponry, let me highlight two obstacles you might face. The first is simply doubting that these weapons make a difference. The second is a frantic, ramshackle schedule. This is a particular concern today because many people are currently living a new and disrupted version of their own lives.
Many are working from home, navigating classes and schoolwork online, or trying to find daycare and home school for haywire children while avoiding parks, public places and playdates. But if we want to look on the bright side of things, there’s nothing like a change in routine to lay the groundwork for a better one.
Recently, someone pointed out to me that when you take the words “Do not fear” and write them backwards you get, “Fear not, do.” When we engage in godly practices—in doing things that honour him—we are drawing nearer to our almighty God of angel armies who overshadows the presence of fear.
For many, the fear is real. Anxiety is high. I get it. But the powerful presence of God is more significant than the powerful presence of fear. It’s a battle. And a battle is fought with weapons: the Bible, prayer, memorizing and meditating on Scripture, worship and preaching, and acts of service. At first, you make your habits, and then your habits make you. And you belong to the God of angel armies. “Fear not, do.”