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Living in a Time of Fear

May 5, 2020 | Jay T. Smith

Several new words and phrases have entered our vocabulary that were not included even 3 months ago: “Coronavirus,” “Covid-19”, “pandemic,” and “sheltering-in-place.” There is new urgency in the question, “How are you doing?” and a new fear that occurs almost every time the television or the radio is turned on. What new cases will be reported in our area? Are there any new deaths? Who were they? How old were they?

But then there are the questions we ask ourselves after the television is off, the computer is stowed, and we have gone to bed: will everything be OK? Have I done everything I can to protect myself and my family? How could this be happening? How can the most powerful, technologically-advanced nation in the world be intimidated by, of all things, a virus? Where is God?

Remembering the Truth

There is no doubt that we are living in a unique era—a frightful time. There is political turmoil around the world, economies are in disarray, and there is talk that our world will not be the same once the virus runs its course.

There is nothing amusing about nations divided by ideologies, retirement accounts being wrecked by an economy in free-fall, and the real possibility of dying by a new virus. Politicians, corporations, and medical professionals cannot fix the fear in which we live. The virus will have its way.

Now I have no desire to create a greater level of fear. But I want to remind you of the truth.

1) We live in a dangerously beautiful world. As human beings have become more creative in what we eat, or to that to which we expose ourselves, we encounter the potential for greater harm from diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, and microorganisms. The more humans become “self-sufficient,” and disregard our limitations and weaknesses, the greater the chances are of being infected.

2) God did not cause this situation to occur. Theologically, we live in a world that has been disconnected from God—a “fallen world”—and the beauty of our world now has a dangerous aspect. We must trust God and use wise, reasoned thinking about what we should or should not expose ourselves to.

3) There is an “end,” but this is not the end. I have had several people ask me—not Christians—if we are living in the “end times.” My answer? No. To you, my Christian brothers and sisters, I would say this: “We’ve been living in the ‘end times’ since Christ was resurrected.” As human beings, we must face facts: we live a “limited” existence. Like all living things in this world, we have a physical beginning and an end. We are born, and then if all goes “well,” we die/pass/breathe-our-last at a “ripe-old-age.” But this is not the end. There is a personal, living existence beyond physical death. This is the promise of Christ, the “end” —the promise—of our faith. But what does this mean for us? Our physical existence today has an even greater purpose than we can imagine. We live—now, today, right this instant—to love God, and to love everyone around us. Be kind, show mercy, bring healing, release the captives, forgive the debtor, and give love away as if it were candy on Halloween. You see, it’s when we live this life without fear, knowing of tomorrow, that we are able to live fully and completely.

Fear Does Not Have to Dominate

Although “fear” is prominent today, it does not have to be so. “Fear” is the “awe” we allow or do not allow to dominate our thoughts and actions. Fear—as we commonly understand it—is born out of the anxiety engendered by the unknown. On the other hand, Scripture tells us the only thing we should “fear” is God—in this sense, the awe engendered by the unknown (who is now “known”—God) is the absolute Love of God. That Love conquers human fear (1 John 4:18).

Don’t give into political name calling, economic worry, or medical paranoia. Tomorrow may be our time to pass; yet, so might 30 years from now. None of that matters. No worrying or fear will change it. How much, how well, and how thoroughly you love, does.

Jay T. Smith

President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

Dr. Jay Smith leads the Yellowstone Theological Institute as its president. Dr. Smith has served as minister of youth, music and as senior […]

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