From the Pulpit: We are not the first to fear or panic
Panic buying! Toilet paper and disinfectants disappeared from store shelves, and even now we find that some products are scarce. As the pandemic spread, we quickly discovered an undercurrent of fear in our society.
Fear is not a bad thing in certain situations. It is a reasonable response to dangerous situations. The snarling, growling dog could be reason to fear, as is the smoke detector screaming in the middle of the night. Other fears, like irrational phobias, can be paralyzing with little good reason.
The panic buying was a symptom of the fear stoked by the pandemic, a perhaps unreasonable response to the unknown consequences of the virus. Fortunately, the panic buying did not cause significant problems. But there were plenty of other fears that showed at the peak of the pandemic.
Most obviously, a fear of the virus; that is, the fear of getting a terrible disease and the possibility of death. 1 John 4: 17 – 18 ties fear of punishment to God’s judgment. If we are unsure about God’s judgment of our lives, we probably should be afraid of death. But John also reminds us that if we confess Jesus as Savior, we can know God’s love for us. That love drives out our fear of death.
Some were quick to judge their brothers and sisters for following government recommendations about church closings, suggesting that they should not be afraid of the virus because they shouldn’t be afraid of death. Setting aside that there were good reasons for closing churches that had nothing to do with being afraid, many of those critics were showing fears of their own.
Some of those fears were related to government – of losing rights or of “big government” in general. Others were afraid of vast conspiracies designed for economic or political gain. Some just seemed to fear losing money. Now with the protests, and the events that caused them, we might be in fear of each other.
As Paul talks about living “worthy of the gospel,” he tells us not to be frightened “in anything.” Many pointed out that we need not fear the virus if we trust the Lord. That is true for anything we might fear. The Psalmist also finds release from other forms of fear: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1). If we are wracked by fear, whatever the cause, perhaps we should be asking ourselves how much we trust the Lord.