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.

 

31 Responses to Fear and Its Antecedents

  1. Avatar
    Deena March 16, 2020 at 5:10 am #

    An excellent post! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Avatar
    Jane Duquette March 16, 2020 at 5:36 am #

    I am finding that spending more time away from functions, meetings, rehearsals, practices, and sermons is allowing me Solitude time for meditating, reading, taking walks in the Beautiful spring morning, and eating a meal with my family at home. I am so grateful the God I know is in control.

  3. Avatar
    Laura Selinsky March 16, 2020 at 5:44 am #

    Perfect for the anxiety season.

  4. Avatar
    Andra M March 16, 2020 at 6:16 am #

    Well said. Thank you.

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    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 16, 2020 at 6:33 am #

    Face the fear and light the candle,
    face the dread and banish dark,
    face the things that you can’t handle
    face the monster like the lark
    that flew above the Flanders’ fields
    scarce heard amidst the guns below
    as its innocence wouldn’t yield
    to what was, yes, a passing show
    that swept the ground with rain of steel,
    to water every hidden dell,
    that seemed to bring the earth to heel
    in obeisance to dictates of hell.
    Recall, though, that which time did bring;
    the poppies nod there, every spring.

    The ‘Flanders lark is homage to John McCrae’s classic poem, “In Flanders’ Fields”.

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47380/in-flanders-fields

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    Jeanne Takenaka March 16, 2020 at 7:22 am #

    What a great post, and I so appreciate C.S. Lewis’ words. They are still pertinent today. We’ve definitely felt fear in our community. Even as Hubs and I choose to go on each day with our sons home, we’re working to keep things normal and not give in to the fear mentality that pervades our community.

    And yes to reaching out to others with encouragement and practical help as needed.

  7. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver March 16, 2020 at 7:28 am #

    Wise advice, Steve. And yes, I’ll be working on my next project.

  8. Avatar
    Debby Kratovil March 16, 2020 at 7:45 am #

    Good thoughts this morning! thanks for every word. Found myself reading Revelation this morning. Reads like the front page of the Washington Post! Only I know how it ends, right? With my two teaching trips cancelled this month, I do have quite a few extra days to get back to my writing. Thanks for that reminder.

  9. Avatar
    C L Burger March 16, 2020 at 7:45 am #

    Perfect response.

  10. Avatar
    Suzanne Bratcher March 16, 2020 at 8:30 am #

    Well said Thanks so much for this thoughtful post.

  11. Avatar
    Sharon K Connell March 16, 2020 at 9:29 am #

    Absolutely!

  12. Avatar
    Courtney Sherlock March 16, 2020 at 9:32 am #

    I’ve already been at it! I’m immunocompromised, so I’ve been working from home for a few days already. There’s been a lot of down time, so I’ve gotten plenty of writing in. Some of my best material yet!

    Thank you for the encouragement. Though I’m having to be mindful and take precautions, fear does not have a hold on me! God is greater!

  13. Avatar
    Karen March 16, 2020 at 9:36 am #

    Thank you Steve. I am reminded of Paul’s words to rejoice in our troubles. We should be the happiest people on the planet. Empty grocery shelves? Wait and see how God fills the pantry! Isolation? Ask God to fill the time. We have an amazing God!

  14. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca March 16, 2020 at 9:41 am #

    How timely! Especially the last sentence in C.S. Lewis’s essay: “They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

    In response to another blog this morning, I quoted Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search For Meaning.” Reflecting on his experience as a prisoner in a WWII concentration camp, Frankl wrote:

    “.. it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

    You highlighted right action and right conduct: reaching out to help our neighbors and encouraging each other. We may not be able to control the problems that come our way, but we can control our responses.

  15. Avatar
    sara March 16, 2020 at 9:47 am #

    Thank you so much Steve. It has been a hard time. The president of South Africa as just announced that all schools would be shut down from Wednesday the 18th and would only open after the Ester holidays. So that means no more school, and, although some of the learners -and maybe teachers- are excited for it. I, well… am not. Lots of school work will be lost.
    Either ways, I pray that our Heavenly Father gives us courage as we near the end of the world.

  16. Avatar
    Carmen Peone March 16, 2020 at 10:07 am #

    Well said! God is in control and knows the outcomes. When you stated that God is not surprised, we are, is so very true. Wise words. God bless you and keep our nation safe. I pray Jesus takes this time to bring his sons and daughters closer to him, brings prodigals home, and covers the lost with His salvation and peace. Let us all take time for our families during this season of rest.

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    Donna Wichelman March 16, 2020 at 10:48 am #

    Steve,

    You have very poignantly pointed out what I have been thinking for days. Everyone is in such a panic, but indeed it is no different today than it was before the coronavirus came on the scene. Our lives have always been vulnerable. It’s just more in our faces with all the media attention. I thank you for making the case in your blog. I intend to pass it on.
    Donna Wichelman

  18. Avatar
    Kristen Joy Wilks March 16, 2020 at 11:38 am #

    I was thinking that the publishing industry is uniquely suited to continue on as before since so many editors and agents can work from a home computer. And yes, us writer’s too! It is much harder for my friends who work in the food industry.

  19. Avatar
    Joan March 16, 2020 at 1:53 pm #

    What gifts you offer to writers and all folks. Good will come out of this crisis and God will get the glory. I am a mental health counselor. When we do all to stop virus spread, we can trust God who gives us strength and comfort. Thank you for the tips on writing a well written book. At first I thought you were a hard taskmaster. I woke up, realizing we both had the same goal. Socially isolating, I have time to revise my book.
    Gratefully
    Joan

  20. Avatar
    Jenn Lees March 16, 2020 at 1:57 pm #

    Thanks for your wise and encouraging words, Steve. And good old C.S. Lewis. God reigns and nothing is a surprise to Him. The time of self imposed isolation may be stressful for some but, as most writers are introverts, it can be a welcome change. I read a Facebook post where a writer says they’ve been preparing all their lives for this (lol).
    Please pray for those of us who must continue to work through this crisis.
    Health care workers (my ‘day job’) as we face the corona virus head-on. As we go about our tasks, may we always be professional and compassionate, and keep well.
    I awoke to this song in my head. Can’t get rid of it, and don’t want to.
    Glory, glory. Hallelujah. He reigns!

  21. Avatar
    Meredith Resce March 16, 2020 at 2:17 pm #

    Wise words. Thanks for the encouragement.
    Many blessings from Australia.

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    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 16, 2020 at 6:26 pm #

    If anyone wants a cooled-out Zen cowboy vibe…

    We are cherry blossoms
    at the end of spring,
    dying in perfection.

  23. Avatar
    Peggy March 16, 2020 at 9:33 pm #

    Steve,

    Thanks so much for this post, and for the C. S. Lewis quote. As I read the comments, I realized again that we are in a war–a war against fear.

    Earlier I thought about Paul. He kept on preaching during extremely difficult circumstances. He never gave up, never gave in; he kept on going. That’s what God wants us to do now–keep working, keep growing as writers.Those of us who have computer/internet access at home are in the exact position to encourage, and give hope.

  24. Avatar
    Donna K. Stearns March 17, 2020 at 11:36 am #

    It is a blessing to belong to the family of God. We may not know the middle of the story but we do know the end and the Author.

  25. Avatar
    Cindi Noble March 17, 2020 at 4:25 pm #

    Thank you for sharing, Steve, especially at a time when so many churches are closing – it’s good to hear encouragement from the Word. At this time, as writers, we can use our pens to encourage people to trust in the Lord, no matter what’s happening.

  26. Avatar
    Judith Robl March 17, 2020 at 7:38 pm #

    Thank you, Steve. Wise words, indeed. And what a perfect expression of the Christian worldview. God is in charge no matter how it looks from human perspective.

  27. Avatar
    Loyd Uglow March 18, 2020 at 12:23 pm #

    What an appropriate piece of counsel. You can depend on Lewis to hit the nail on the head. Thanks for sharing this, Steve.

  28. Avatar
    Mrs. White March 18, 2020 at 4:02 pm #

    This is excellent. Thank you!

  29. Avatar
    Thokozile March 22, 2020 at 11:44 pm #

    Fear will not paralyze me in the Name of Jesus

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