‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.’ John 14:1
We are going through times when fear has invaded everyone, including some Christians. The fear generated by COVID-19 is another virus that is even more contagious and more virulent than COVID-19 itself. The psychosis it generates is, therefore, a more serious pandemic than that of COVID-19.
However, the Lord Jesus Christ reassures us that we have absolutely no reason to worry in such a situation, if at least we believe in him. Fear has never helped to overcome a difficult situation, on the contrary, it only makes things worse.
Fear, a powerful weapon of destruction
Fear is indeed a weapon that the devil has always used to destabilise and destroy human beings. Likewise, in war, one of the main strategies used to destabilise the enemy is that of panic. The first battle often turns out to be one of thoughts. If one of the parties loses the battle of thoughts, it has lost all chance of winning the war. If you give in to fear of the enemy, you are already defeated even before the actual war begins.
Remember the war between the Philistines and the people of Israel during the reign of Saul in 1 Samuel 17. The two armies encamped on both sides of the valley, each physically and materially prepared for the war. But the Philistines took a big step ahead of the Israelites by preceding the actual battle with that of fear. A giant named Goliath, about three meters tall, armed to the teeth, was responsible for spreading terror in the camp of Israel, morning and evening. The Israelites were terrified by his imposing stature, his heavy armor and his arrogant threats. They were certainly about to capitulate and deliver all the people as slaves to the Philistines, when finally, on the fortieth day, the diminutive David who, despite all the threats and intimidation (coming both from his fellows as well as from Goliath) succeeded in defeating Goliath using a single slingshot!
Fear destroys one’s entire defense system, starting with one’s mental defense weapons. It leads to deep discouragement, total lack of concentration and a tendency to inaction or to inappropriate or even dangerous actions. It also attacks one’s weapons of spiritual defense, especially faith in God, the real shield of the Christian (Ephesians 6:16). It finally weakens the one’s physical defense (the immune system), thus giving free access to any germ and disease to destroy the body of this person. So, Job’s experience could be yours: ‘What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me’. (Job 3:25).
Why should we not be afraid?
Let me share with you three reasons not to give in to this psychosis. I think they can encourage us and keep us from this scourge.
1. God reassures us of his protection
The first object of psychosis is the fear of being infected with the virus, and therefore of contracting the disease. But the Word of God contains many promises from the Lord concerning our preservation from all danger.
In Psalm 91, it was said in verses 5 to 7: ‘You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.’
As the children of Israel, residing in Goshen, were saved from the plagues in Egypt, God reassures us of his protection during this pandemic and any other scourge. Our Goshen is Jesus, and we are marked by his blood. If we stay under his shelter, no harm can come to us, unless it is His will.
This is not, however, a license not to comply with the protection rules recommended by national and international authorities. On the contrary, the Bible encourages us to submit fully to such provisions and encourages our relatives to do so.
On the night when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God himself had recommended that each of them should remain locked in his house, after having marked the sides and tops of his doorframe with the blood of the Passover lamb. Thus, they would not be affected by the last plague with which he would strike Egypt: the death of the firstborns (Exodus 12). If someone, negligently or stubbornly, does not mark his home with the blood of the Passover lamb, or stays outside, or even circulates freely, they would certainly be affected by that wound. We must therefore submit to the recommended preventive measures, while being aware that it is God who protects us first.
2. We have a definitive victory over death
In the end, what is everyone afraid of? Is it the simple fact of contracting the disease that scares so much? Obviously not! In fact, it is the fear of death that makes people tremble most of all.
Death is the final and ultimate object of every fear. People tremble before death because they do not know what will happen after it. Death derives its terrifying force from the fact that it remains a totally unknown and impenetrable mystery for natural man. And the uncertainty of this unknown creates fear in most human beings.
In fact, by being afraid of dying, they subconsciously fear hell, reserved for the devil, demons and all those who have not accepted Jesus Christ during their life as their personal Saviour and Lord.
On the other hand, if we are confident that we have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, we need not fear death. If we are born again, we must also be reassured of our complete and final victory over death. The Apostle Paul could cry, ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’(1 Corinthians 15:55).
King David, the man after God’s heart, says: ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me’. (Psalms 23:4)
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, facing the threat of the fiery furnace, affirmed with unshakable confidence: ‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’ (Daniel 3:17-18). What assurance before an imminent threat of death!
We are reassured that our covenant with God in Christ preserves us from death before the time planned by God. The Lord can protect us from any serious and dreadful disease; but if perhaps we get sick, he also is able to heal us and deliver us from physical death. And if in spite of everything, it happened that he allows, by his unfathomable sovereignty, that death prevails through any disease, we are reassured that it would only be a passage to eternal joy and happiness, infinitely more than what we could have experienced on this earth! ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ (Philippians 1:21).
Billy Graham could declare before his death: ‘Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.’
This must also be the assurance of each of us, if we are truly in Christ.
3. We are carriers of life
In the current situation, where everyone is stressed and distraught, and where many are desperate; we, children of God, are the only ones who can truly communicate hope and peace to the world. If the world is afraid and we, Christians, are also afraid, who will reassure whom? If we are discouraged, like unbelievers, who will comfort and encourage others? Who can transmit hope and new life to distraught souls if it is not we who believe in Jesus Christ?
Furthermore, these times are more than favourable for the proclamation of the gospel. And if we are filled with fear, what message shall we give to the people? Can we tell them firmly that Jesus Christ is coming soon and that they have to repent and believe in him before it should be too late?
With fear, how can we pray? And if we pray, would our prayer be effective? Certainly not!
Jesus said to Peter: ‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked you to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Luke 22:31-32).
Fear, as we saw above, is an enemy of faith. It destroys our faith and paralyzes us spiritually, psychologically and physically. Let us therefore be strengthened in our faith in Jesus Christ. And, being relieved of all fear and worry, let us stand up to rescue the afflicted souls.
Luc Mahougbe Kouwanou is ICMDA Area Representative for Francophone West Africa