Whom shall I fear?
March 25th, 2020 / By: Gary Ledbetter | Editor / comments
Are you a little nervous these days? Being of a certain age, I’m anxious to see the stock market in free fall today. It’s unlikely I’ll get sick—it’s unlikely you’ll get sick—but it is already probable that a lot of things will be disrupted. Any list of cancellations and closures I offer in evidence will be out of date by the time you read this; things are shifting daily. You know this. Are you afraid?
This is a test, sisters and brothers, something that proves our aspirations regarding what we love, and where our hearts might be. If your treasure is here, watching your retirement account burn is a catastrophe. If your life is here, your future, the threat of getting sick because of where you shop, is terrifying. Reverse that. A panic in your heart over the stock market may indicate that you love the wrong things. This is not the worst thing that’s happened and this is not the only upset the world is facing, but it does seem to be the challenge of 2020. If you are over 60 you may look at this with more anxiety than you looked at the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It threatens to impact you in ways the attacks on the East Coast did not. So maybe this test is more personal for you, but it is a test of what you love and fear.
As is often the case, guarding your heart in the midst of troubled times begins with guarding your ears and eyes. I learned years ago that some people are negative or hysterical in a way that makes me think dark thoughts; I avoid them. Some publications tempt me to despair; I’ve started reading them selectively. Public figures who seem to only talk in hyperbole, in all capital letters, have lost their ability to bless my life these days. These filters have not hindered my ability to stay up on things but it has made it less likely that I believe anything a person or nation can do will make the sky fall.
Filling my eyes and ears more and more with Scripture has given me a greater heavenly perspective on even the truly bad things that happen in the world. The Bible doesn’t speak to how to treat the coronavirus, does it? But the larger issue for Christians is always how we live as believers in the God who never changes though we are in an always-changing world. The Bible does tell us who the eternal God is and how we should live before him, regardless of our immediate context. The Bible also tells the stories of those in horrible affliction—war, slavery, exile and martyrdom—who still found God faithful for this life and the next. Economic upheaval and disruption of my plans are not yet on par with being dragged to Babylon and being ordered to worship an idol. Scripture gives me a little perspective on current events as well.
I also find it helpful to focus on the things I’ve been given to do today rather than on what might happen months or years from now. That’s a biblical precept as well if you think of Matthew 6:33 and Jesus’ command to stop worrying about things beyond our power. Living in the moment is a matter of faith. It is a statement of trust in the God who knows the future on the part of a servant who does not.
Certainly there are matters of prudence and planning appropriate to any day. There are experts who can tell us how to limit our risk in the midst of a global health crisis. These are usually pretty mundane suggestions that have to do with how we live our daily lives since we can’t control how someone else lives his. Taking care and good advice is not a lack of faith. But I do believe worry and stress can indicate that we are afraid of things that can only threaten us for a limited time.
The promises of God are forever and sure, and not of this world. It seems to be a fine balance to look intently at the daily work we’ve been given and to at the same time do it with a mind toward eternal things, looking over the temporal things that threaten and tempt. That’s the nature of the race we run, one step at a time but with the victor’s crown as our focus.
My anxiety is often about money and normalcy and long life. God doesn’t promise us these things. And we can’t do anything to ensure that we’ll get them. So join me in asking each morning, and maybe several times a day, “What do I have to fear?” and “What do I love more than anything else?” You’ll either be calmer or convicted as you consider these things.