AN UNPRECEDENTED TIME
Life feels shockingly different than it did just a month ago. This same feeling is being experienced all over the world by millions of people and the scale of this alone is hard to believe. When this feeling is coupled with the unknowns on the horizon and the looming threat of an invisible virus, it is not surprising that panic and chaos has come over the whole world.
While most broadcasted information about the coronavirus is focused on the bad, I want to point out some really good news for our souls that may come from a surprising source. The truth is, our situation and the fear that we face is not new! Our unknowns, the countless potentially terrifying outcomes, and the various ways that our culture is tempted to respond are all but unique. We can consider situations on every scale and clearly see that nearly nothing we feel is new.
Consider a personal or regional scale. There have been rebellions and revolutions, mass migrations, and natural disasters of every sort. Going smaller you may have lost your job or a loved one in the past. You may have had to make a decision that totally changed the course of your life. Regardless of the circumstance, a lot of the feelings that we experience in these difficult and life-altering moments will be quite familiar to each other.
If we go beyond our own life experience we might be surprised with the number and regularity of drastic events that change cultures, economies, and lives all over the world. Within the last hundred years our global society has had run-ins with fearful circumstances in the form of the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War, recessions, World Wars, and even past pandemics far worse than our own without the same level of technology and access to communication to deal with it.
I want to encourage you to reflect on each of these and you’ll realize that the fear we feel is far more normal than we would like to admit. While our circumstance may be unique, a lot of what we feel is very similar to what we experience every time we have a run-in with a new unique circumstance.
OUR INVISIBLE PROBLEM
From this trend I see that we as humans are prone to two extreme behaviors.
- We find so much hope in our own security that we deceive ourselves of our frailty. This behavior comes between periods of difficulty.
- When our security is threatened we choose fear and panic as our security and sense of normalcy collapses around us.
On top of that there is an essential feature of this fear that we face. All of our fears are essentially invisible.
I don’t mean to say that they aren’t real. It tangibly impacts our emotions and thoughts, yet they aren’t physically existing. In fact, our greatest fears almost never come to pass or it is the fear and panic of the invisible threat that makes the threat a reality.
Consider our recent toilet paper scarcity. We by no means have a scarcity of toilet paper. It truly is our petty fear, in this case a fear of losing comfort, that leads people to stockpile and creates a shortage for the rest of us. This is silly but we should pay attention to it as it will give us insight to the real source of our fear.
THE SOURCE OF FEAR
As I get to the root of our fear, I want to make a quick definition. I want to refer to this physically invisible but very real fear as a spirit of fear. By “spirit” I mean to define the things that deeply and tangibly that affect us in profound ways without necessarily being physical realities, although they may certainly influence our physical realities. It is this spirit of fear that has descended on our culture during the coronavirus pandemic because it is showing us our ultimate frailty that makes a fundamental truth, and the source of our fear, more obvious than we like.
We will all die.
This might seem extreme, but as the foundations to our security in life begin to crumble, we only fear the situation that does not exist yet.
Let’s take our toilet paper situation to its logical conclusion. We fear discomfort because we fear difficulty and suffering on a fundamental, although shallow, level. We fear suffering because we fear pain. We fear pain because suffering ultimately leads to death. And beyond death, well, we don’t really know what untold new versions of suffering may await. Or perhaps death itself is just the ultimate suffering for us and those we leave behind. At the very least, at death we lose any hope of controlling our physical existence.
Don’t get me wrong here, there are circumstances that profoundly affect our lives and we need to give them our attention and action, but they do not require our anxiety, yet as a whole we give ourselves over to a spirit of fear without much thought or conscious choice.
In the Bible, people as a whole are described as “those who all their lives [are] held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:15) Even at our slightest sight of difficulty, our enslavement to fear gives us no option but to rush to save ourselves even when the true threat doesn’t physically call for it. The interesting fact of the matter is that our past experience even tells us that we can overcome our challenges, so the core issue isn’t in our fear.
The strength of our fear is where we find our security.
We are fundamentally prone to find our security in ourselves, but deep down we know that it is fragile. This powerlessness makes us slaves to the spirit of fear as we try to save ourselves time and time again, but there is a way out.
The truth is, we have another option to the spirit of fear stemming from our own self-made security, but in order to access it we need to fully acknowledge the truth that we cannot find security in ourselves. If we acknowledge this, we will place our trust in the only thing that can give us security and free us from our bondage to the spirit of fear.
Security, just like our fear, is invisible yet very real. We crave security and I believe that this craving proves its existence. Just as hunger proves there is food to be eaten, our craving for security proves there is hope for true security. All that we have to do is look for it in the right place. We primarily look for our invisible security in physical circumstances, but since security is invisible the source of it must also be invisible.
The right place to look for our security is Him who is invisible. God is spirit, and He provides everything for our security. The true spirit that we want to have is one of peace, joy, and fullness of life that is independent of the physical circumstances and the only one who has this is God. When we put our trust in Him rather than our own ability to make security we will find ourselves free from the spirit of fear and in union with the spirit of God.
TO SEE THE INVISIBLE
A common question I hear is “If God is invisible, how do we know anything about Him?”
Well, just as fear is invisible yet it influences our physical life, God must have shown Himself in the physical. Jesus Christ is that physical expression of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15) He was the first person to live a life free of the spirit of fear. He went so far as to give Himself over to the source of all fear, death itself. Although He died, He came back to life to show that He has overcome the spirit of fear that finds its power from the reality of death so that any who believes in Him may also find freedom from the spirit of fear and access to the spirit of life that comes from God. Jesus even said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
At this point you may wonder why God would allow something like war, or disease. For what it’s worth, it is not God who desires death, but rather the one behind the spirit of fear, that is, the devil. (John 10:10) God, however, will use all things for the good of those who love Him that they may have abundant life. (Romans 8:28)
God sees what we do not. He knows that there is much more to life than the physical existence that we have. Even though we are influenced by the invisible, we go about our lives blind to its reality until the physical starts falling apart. He uses these times of physical weakness to open our eyes to our own deception of false security to help us see where our security can really come from. He wants to shake everything that can be shaken so that what cannot be shaken may be all that remains. (Hebrews 12:25-27)
God is using this time to call all nations to forsake the spirit of fear of death that comes from our misplaced trust in ourselves and choose to trust Him instead.
What will you choose?