First, there’s the tingle. It cartwheels from your finger tips to your toes. Then, there’s the shiver. It moves from the borders of your body to the engine behind your ribs. Now all you can feel is the pounding of a heart that was supposed to keep to 60 beats a minute.
We’ve all felt it.
Last time I remember fear doing a number on my body was just a few weeks ago. Below my ski tips sat a slope that was more than a stone’s throw past my comfort zone.
In my favorite documentary, 180° South, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard says, “Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all.”
What made me afraid of the ski run several weeks ago was the simple fact that I didn’t know it. It was new, mysterious, unknown. I imagine the fear many of us are experiencing in the wake of COVID-19 is exactly that kind of fear. It’s fear of the unknown.
We don’t know how long it will last. We don’t know who will get sick. We don’t know what the aftermath will look like.
We. Just. Don’t. Know.
So here we are, with a fear to reckon with, and the most obvious question is this: what should we do with it?
Out of curiosity, I googled the definition of fear. Of all the descriptions, these two stood out: “something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension…” and “reverential awe, especially toward God” (dictionary.com).
So we have dread, or we have awe. What a dichotomy!
Throughout the scriptures, God repeatedly commands his people not to fear. But do you know what he also commands? He tells his people to fear him! This sounds like a little bit of mixed messaging, huh? Actually, I think it is in this command that we can learn what to do with fear.
If fear of the unknown is the “greatest fear of all,” the surest way to not fear would be to know, right?
When I was deciding whether or not to ski down that slope, my fear would have been nonexistent if I knew that the pitch of the slope was calmer than it looked, and the snow was soft and easy. Unfortunately, I only found that out after I decided to go down it. As obvious as it sounds, knowledge kills fear of the unknown.
The same principle is true in our spiritual life.
There are many things we can’t know (pretty much everything revolving around this pandemic). But in all the earth, there is one thing, or rather, one being, that we can, without a shadow of a doubt, know.
I believe the knowledge that will banish our fear of the unknown is not knowledge of how this pandemic will pan out. It’s actually knowledge of God.
But where do we get this knowledge? Funny place. This knowledge actually starts with a kind of fear!
In Proverbs 1:7, the wisest man in history wrote,
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Wow! Solomon says knowledge starts with the fear of God. So if we want to kill bad fears, we have to start with a good one. What a concept.
So here we go. Three steps to handling our fear during COVID-19:
1. Begin with God. Fear God.
That’s the first thing we should do when we feel crippled by fear of the unknown. We have to make the conscious decision to fear God. Just that. Don’t worry about your other fear yet. Simply begin with God. How?
I find it most helpful to meditate on the power of God. The Psalms make a great camp spot for that:
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
Friends, our God holds billions of galaxies in tension. He lifted the Himalayas from the bottom of the sea. He is worthy of awe. Worthy of fear.
When we fear God, it’s like we’re invited into this endless museum of knowledge and wisdom. Maybe it sounds too simple, but at this point I like to make lists of everything I know about God. These are my favorite three:
God is good.
God loves me.
God is in control.
When we know God, other fears seem small. That’s when we naturally want to move to step 3:
The tool we use to swap out the wrong fear for the right one is trust.
This is the time to believe truth recklessly. With full abandon. This could look a lot of different ways. For me, it often looks like harnessing my worst-case-scenarios, sitting them in a corner, and telling them about my God.
“Hey, fear that I’m not worthy of love, listen up: I have a God who’s inner being yearns for me. He cares so much that he sacrificed the dearest thing to him, his son, so that I could live eternally with him! Your voice is nothing compared to my God.”
Try it for yourself! Name your fears. Then name your God. Which one is bigger?
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
4. Rinse, and Repeat.
Friends, this is a CYCLE. I’m sure none of you are as forgetful as me, but I know that I find myself back at square one all the time. Don’t be afraid of being human. The Lord understands! Keep fighting for hope.
Fear is real. Your feelings are so valid. I don’t want to minimize them in any way. But my prayer is that our only fear would become the fear of God. May we be people of peace and a people of hope. Let’s replace our lesser fears with a higher one.
Fear God. Know him. Trust him.
Just watch what peace will come!
Hope Was knowledge of Him One thing I could Hold, the thought The thought.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie Ten Boom
What are the fears that control you?
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