The events over the past year have changed lives around the world. A novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has spread across multiple countries. At the time of this writing, there have been over 29 million cases in the United States with over 500,000 deaths. Worldwide the number of cases is over 120 million and over 2.5 million deaths. There have also been many people who have recovered from COVID, over 22 million in the United States, and 96 million worldwide. We interpret numbers and they can tell different stories. Often in the United States, the number that is most emphasized is the number of new cases and deaths, rarely do you hear about the number who have recovered. This also leads to how we react to the news since there is a constant minute-by-minute news cycle about the Coronavirus. News, social media, and even elementary school children are talking about the coronavirus. The coronavirus has altered our way of life, some trends will stay with us in the long term. Not only is it impossible to escape the non-stop coverage of the coronavirus and the effects on us, but it is also impossible to escape the response of our hearts?
The natural response
One common response is fear. You hear it in the words of those in leadership when they speak of staggering possibilities of how bad this outbreak could become. You remember it in the initial reactions of people who hoarding food and the unintelligible stockpiling of toilet paper! Some downplay the situation while others are taking every precaution. You may have even felt the physical aspect of fear and anxiety in your body. As image-bearers, we respond to the world events around us and this is a good thing. Fear is not the problem; the problem is what we do with our fear? There are real and genuine fears…death, job loss, and economic loss. All of us face a natural tendency to respond in fear and not faith. The Lord often uses circumstances to reorient us back to faith, so that amid fear we would respond wisely to the circumstances we find ourselves in.
An Old Testament story of fear
The Bible is full of events that we can relate to. There is a story in the Old Testament that shows how a faithful leader led his people through a crisis. This story can teach us how we might respond to the fear around us. The event was deep in Israel’s history during a time when the people who led by various Kings. King Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah and was one of the good Kings. He walked in the ways of his father David and sought God (1 Chron 17:4). God established his kingdom with great riches and honor (1 Chron 17:5).
One day King Jehoshaphat received some bad news. Three nations (Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites) were going to attack them at one time (2 Chron 20:1). The people could have defended themselves against one nation attacking, but three nations caused Jehoshaphat to feel powerless (2 Chron 20:12). Jehoshaphat responded to the situation, “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah and they came to seek the Lord.” It is okay to be afraid, the question is what you do with your fear? Three times we read in these two verses that Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah “seek the Lord.”
Fight Fear with Faith
Jehoshaphat was afraid but he took his fears to the Lord. He sought the Lord by calling the people to fast and pray. His prayer reminded the people of the character and power of God. This God is the one who oversees the entire universe (v. 6), rules over all the nations (v. 6), and no one can withstand his power (v. 6). This is the God who helped them in the past, delivering them from other nations and pestilence. After recalling to mind all that God had done, he placed his fears in the faithful hand of God, “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12).
Seeking the Lord
Where are you finding comfort in this time of fear and uncertainty? There are many theories of how this crisis will end, but no one knows exactly. Are you watching the news constantly to see if the numbers have gone down? Are you anxiously waiting for the next news conference on when the social distancing will be lifted? Are you putting your hope in the vaccine?
We all have an opportunity to seek the Lord. We cannot control the outcome and the only one who knows how it will end is the one who has been and always will be the Sovereign God who rules over all (Ps 103:19). Keep your eyes on the Lord and use your fear as an opportunity to seek God instead of finding comfort in the things of this world.
(Stats taken from CDC Website https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_casesper100klast7days and https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, accessed January 29, 2021).