Theology

Fear and Its Antecedents

The coronavirus is the topic on everyone’s mind. Your community, your family, and even yourself may have been or could be affected. Maybe not by the virus itself but by the economic and societal fallout of the cancellations and shutdown of communities.

Many experts, much smarter than I, are speaking erudite words of “stay calm and be wise.”

I land on the fact that God is bigger than any virus. He is not surprised by it; only we have been surprised. Therefore, we should trust in His sovereignty over all things.

Consider these words:

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

God says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

I want to thank Matt Smethurst for posting the following on his blog for the Gospel Coalition last Thursday (you can find the original here). He found a brilliant selection of words from C.S. Lewis that apply to us 72 years after they were first published. Just substitute the words “atomic bomb” with the word “coronavirus.”

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

Wise words indeed. If you find yourself quarantined or feel the need to stay isolated, remember that there is a community of people one or two clicks away. Plus remember that your phone still works (!!). Reach out to others first. Let them know you are thinking and praying for them. Ours is a small community, but one that truly cares for one another. Writers are a peculiar people. (HAH!)

Oh, and while you’re at it? Get to work on your next project. Don’t let fear paralyze you.

 

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