The Dutch Christian writer and Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, said, “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once…Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Dear friends, this speaks to the season we are now in, and it’s not just worry about Coronavirus. It’s political battles and elections, cultural shifts and revolutions, environmental fears, and economic downturns. This new disease was planted right in the middle of it all, and no matter how mild or severe it really is, the anxiety may prove more endemic than the virus itself. Fear can spread as fast as this new virus.
The leaders of the ACNA, along with medical professionals and government officials, have already advised wise caution. In addition to other practical advice, spiritual leaders tell us to pray, and medical leaders tell us to wash our hands. Together, they help stem the tide of both fear and sickness in very real ways. And while there are many sources of good advice, both for worshippers and non-worshippers, we want to contribute a word on dealing with this equally malevolent and fast-spreading disease of the soul – fear. As phone calls come in announcing school closures, emails flood our inboxes from church leaders and businesses offering advice, and the news reveals economic troubles, how do we push back on a growing sense of anxiety. Or, if you’re a bit more skeptical of it all, the gnawing doubt that perhaps, you need to be more worried, if you aren’t already?
First, it’s important to reiterate that prudence and fear are not the same thing. Wash your hands. Stay away from crowded public events. Do not unnecessarily interact with those who are sick. Submit to those in authority over you, both those in charge of your souls and those who govern your physical bodies. Pray for protection from this disease. And then, strive to put worry aside and keep on living your life, doing what you are able in order to answer the call of God: love Him with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.
No doubt, fear will still creep in to try and move you from prudence to panic. A voice may whisper, “Did God really say, ‘Do not be afraid’?” What then?
We must do as the leaders of our churches have told us to do – pray. Not only for protection from the virus, but also for protection from fear, worry, and anxiety. Protection from the virus is momentary. Protection from fear, which implies strengthening our trust in God, has eternal value. Fear is the greater enemy and robs us of eternal benefits – peace, joy, contentment, and trust. Coronavirus, and any disease like it, robs us of what is temporary, whether school, jobs, or even our very lives. Conversely, the God who bids us to ‘Fear not’ lives beyond these things which, though good, should not distract us from the freedom He provides – freedom from the fear of losing what is temporary in order to gain the joy that comes from embracing that which is eternal.
So, this Lenten and Coronavirus season, let us pray not just for protection from physical disease but from the disease of worry about the future which robs us of our strength today. Let us take each day as it comes and do what we need to do to get through each day while still striving to love God and those around us. After all, school and public events may get canceled, but His commandments never do, and His promises endure forever. Let us avoid useless talk that leads to unnecessary worry and speculation based on information that comes from second-hand worriers and social media warriors. Instead, let us focus on trusting in the One who exists beyond these ever-changing and ever-perilous times that affect our dark age. Let us pray for what matters more deeply than our health – a trust in God which alone vanquishes fear.
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours
of this day, so that we, who are wearied by the changes and
chances of this life, may rest in your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.