Them: Don’t panic about the coronavirus! It’s only elderly and vulnerable who die of it!
Me: I’m glad my potential death brings you such comfort…?!
If you are worried about the coronavirus, you have plenty of sympathy here. Although I’m not immune-compromised in the way someone with AIDS or post-chemo is, my lungs aren’t the strongest and I can end up weak and unable to do much at all after a simple cold. For me, my main fear isn’t so much to do with dying but tipping my already severe ME into very severe ME, being bed-bound and in constant pain and not able to see my son.
Others’ fears will be varied and valid: parents, grandparents, friends or neighbours dying or being very ill without you being able to help them, children being left without a carer, cancelling weddings, giving birth in a time when the hospitals may be a no-go area, the short-term and long-term financial implications, or their business and livelihood going bust. There are logistical fears (how will I get enough soap if the shops sell out?) and fears that you can’t admit to online (But also what if they run out of CHOCOLATE?)
It can be tempting to get into a competitive fear zone, working out the hierarchy of other people’s fears over yours as to who has dibs on moaning rights. To some extent, this is polite, but it means that often we feel we have to carry our fears alone and not voice them.
How do we deal with fear in these times? What can help navigate the understandable fear we have without it descending into crippling anxiety?
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”
The phrase, ‘perfect love casts out all fear’ has been running through my head. The apostle John wrote this in the context of not being punished in the final judgement, but as it points to the character of God, it has universal applications. God is not out to punish us.
“…because he first loved us”
Reminding ourselves of the love of God helps. I know all too well that God’s love doesn’t mean that we are magically protected from disaster, nor that we don’t have to act to protect others, nor that we won’t get sick. But it does mean that when we fear, we can run to God as a child to a loving parent, and be held and loved; even if we don’t understand, even if we are not sure we completely trust God.
“We love (because he first loved us.)”
Whenever I feel myself beginning to panic about what this means for me, I stop and ask myself the question, ‘What can I do to help others?’ What God has asked us to do in loving others is also beneficial psychologically. It puts me in a different headspace of thinking through creative solutions and instead of feeling like the victim I remember the choices and power I do have. Even if we have few resources in terms of material goods or time, we can pray for others, and there is power there, too.
Constructive communal compassion casts out individualised anxiety, if I may paraphrase John. Perfect love casts out all fear.
In a time of uncertainty, let’s be people who love.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us.
– I John 4:16-19, NIV
Over to you:
- What has been helping you deal with coronavirus fear?
Have you read Those Who Wait yet?
We’re in a weird time of waiting and uncertainty right now, and my book Those Who Wait is written to help you navigate it.
Honest and creative exploration about how hard it is to wait, and how the lesser-told Bible stories help us find God in disappointment, doubt and delay.
Do check it out (or leave a review if you have read it) and get it from your local Christian bookshop or by using the links below.
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