People are afraid. A pandemic has and continues to spread across many countries. Some countries have, however, contained the coronavirus. For example, China reported only 8 new, local cases of COVID-19 on March 12. South Korea too has seemingly controlled the spread of the infection. This demonstrates that the infection can be contained. At the same time, Italy has not successfully contained the coronavirus, and so its medical system has and continues to struggle.
While the number of infected individuals in Canada remains low, the Canadian government has shut down parliament, Ontario schools are closing down, and many have rushed to stock up on supplies. Through the speedy availability of news through social media, many now are experiencing a sense of uneasiness or fear.
The future remains unclear, and most of us do not have the expertise to make judgments about vaccines, infection rates, and other related matters. As Christians, we do however know how to deal with fear.
What Is Fear?
Fear can mean our body’s response to a dangerous situation. For example, we may flinch because we draw too close to a fire. When I talk about fear, I mean specifically the underlying fear of uncertainty. I mean the fear that leads someone to stock up on piles of toilet paper.
This latter kind of fear flows from the fear of our mortality and of our fragility and weakness. We often act for the sake of self-preservation. This type of fear has its roots not in the prudence of washing our hands nor in the wisdom of buying appropriate food, but in a place far darker and disquieting.
Hebrews 2:14–15 explains: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Jesus Christ became frail by taking on human flesh and blood. He did that to destroy “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Yet he did more. He also became human to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Deliverance from fear
Jesus did not deliver us from the fear of a burn nor from the fear of slipping on ice. These fears or perhaps worries help to keep us safe. He delivered us from fear concerning our mortality and fragility.
He “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa 53:4) so that he might deliver us from ultimate grief and sorrow. Not all sadness and grief disappear now, but they will when God “will wipe away tears from all faces” because “He will swallow up death forever” (Isa 25:8). From Isaiah’s perspective, that “will” happen. From ours, it has happened at the cross and will finally happen at the resurrection of the dead (Rev 21:4).
John tells us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).
Christians have the sure hope that Christ conquered death, mortality, and corruption—all the weaknesses that our flesh contains (e.g., 1 Cor 15:43). So the fear due to our frailty follows from not yet realizing what we have in Christ—who is our life.
Dealing with Fear
Most of us live without, to borrow an old phrase, contemplating our death. But to contemplate death is not to fall into morbid self-despair. Rather, I am using the idea to speak of contemplating that death which awaits all and of preparing to die well with faith, love, and hope.
Since Christ has conquered death, what ultimate fear can overwhelm us? Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10). In short, the antidote to fear over mortality and fragility is the Gospel because the Gospel is Jesus Christ.
He lived, died, and rose on our behalf. In him, we live, die, and rise. When our short life on this globe ends, we will continue to live in Christ for one-hundred years, one-thousand, and for years without end in a continually and growing sense of joy and satisfaction. In short, we will see God.
This means that whatever else happens, in Christ fear has been overcome. We only need to accept it. The natural fear of pain and of being sick remains. God gave us this for our own good. But the fear of death belongs to the devil’s activity as Hebrew 2:14–15 explains. That is his tool.
He wants to use it to conquer Christians. But we can turn to Christ who gave us immortality to overcome the devil. Resist him by saying, “I will not fear,” and he will flee. Resist him by the blood of the cross, and he will fall to the ground. Resist the fear of death and replace it with hope in Christ.
Because when it is all over and done, our testimony to Jesus Christ will be paramount. It will provide the antidote to mortality and the vaccine to the fear of death. In the meantime, be wise and cautious. Wash hands, love your neighbour, be compassionate to those at high-risk, and support efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
But throughout all of it, remember Jesus Christ, sitting in heaven, our Life who will come to raise our mortal flesh into immortality and incorruptibility and whose victory over death is sure: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:53–54).