Virus, Floyd, Riots, the 1-2-3 Punch: Choosing Not to Fear
How is your heart today? Seared by that slow-motion, snuff-film video? Rattled by the riots? On top of the virus threat that lurks out there as we begin to venture out? Don’t they feel like a 1-2-3 gut punch?
My heart is grieved and angry over that video. And I’ve been ambushed by fear several times in the last few days. Maybe you have too.
I determined to choose to trust God during this pandemic. He has been so faithful to me. I’ve wanted to honor him with my wholehearted trust.
By God’s grace, as I’ve faced fiery-darts of fear and worry from the Enemy these last two and a half months, I’ve been able to hold fast to him. And then last Thursday came along.
Ambushed in Re-entry
My state, South Carolina, is opening up. For the first time in eleven weeks I popped into my car to run multiple errands — to the doctor’s office for lab tests, to Talbots to return some online purchases, and to Walmart and Publix to pick up prescriptions.
I am not prone to be a fearful person. It felt freeing to be out of the house, zipping around in my car. Almost … yes, almost normal. Then I arrived at the doctor’s office where I was greeted in the lobby by several healthcare professionals wearing masks.
First I was interrogated about my risk of exposure to Covid. Then a temperature gun was aimed at my head. Well … okay … but then the elevator. I loaded up with two other people. Then two more boarded right before the door closed. I backed into a far corner. Even though we were all masked, I suddenly felt fearful. Visions of New Yorkers catching Covid in elevators danced in my head. I got in and out for my blood draw.
From the Talbots parking lot I called in, and an associate, masked and gloved, soon came out to take my clothing items and receipts back in the store. She said she would send me an e-receipt for my refund. It was very convenient. It was absolutely no fun.
At Walmart, I passed a masked woman who was picking up and inspecting every ear of corn in the bin. I perceived everything through the lens of threat and contamination. Back in the car I popped open the hand sanitizer for the third time and headed for home.
Somehow that ride up the elevator had completely drained me of any “spirit of power, love and self-discipline.” I spent the afternoon in a spirit of fear. Not panic. But the unsettled, high-alert feeling of living on defense, surrounded by invisible enemies, and not feeling at home in my own community. My hopes of returning to normalcy took a big hit that day.
Floyd’s Suffocation and the “Mad as Hell” Response
Thursday evening I watched the ceaseless coverage of “that video” on cable news. That knee on George’s neck. The callous, pitiless, stare of arrogant police power right in the camera. The breaking point. People pouring into the 3rd Precinct Police Station in Minneapolis. Setting fires. Burning it down. People in Columbus, Ohio breaking the windows in Ohio’s capitol building and heading inside. In New York City more fires and the desecration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral with messages of BLM and “F—.”
Throughout the weekend … A fire was set at St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House, a historic church where many presidents have worshiped. Fifty Secret Service agents were wounded. Genuine outrage over the police killing an unarmed black man became muddied with other messages brought in from airports and buses ferrying outsiders to add to the chaos. Voices in the cameras threatened, “We’re going to burn the city centers and then we’re coming for the suburbs.” Police found pallets of bricks strategically located for protesters’ use. Pages of instructions on how to inflict maximum damage with minimal detection.
We “tremble for our country.” And yet … dozens of times God commands us in his Word, “Do not fear.” “Do not fear anything frightening.” “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” “Do not fear. Only believe.”
What God commands he will enable us to do. We can choose not to fear. How? “Only believe.” It sounds so simplistic. Believe what? We all know that “Aslan is not a tame lion.” That people who follow Jesus do get hurt. Stoned. Torched. Crucified.
“I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18)
“… [I]n your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
Death is not the end. It is a door. And when the days that were written for you and me come down to the final one, the Lord Jesus is the only one who can slip the key in the lock, open the door and bring us home. We can choose to believe that until that final day we are immortal.
“You hem me in behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. (Psalm 139:5)
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me … You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:4-5)
The Hebrew for “hem me in” conveys the picture of a dense protective hedge. God surrounds us with his hedge of protection and nothing gets through it without his permission. For each thing he allows through it, he shields us from thousands of others. The car that miraculously didn’t hit us. The food or money or insurance that arrives just in time. Every day we wake up virus free.
Not only does he lay his protective “hand” on us there, we can choose to believe he is present with us. He will never leave us. He gives us abundance of provision, even in the presence of danger and enemies. Even if he allows the virus … we still suffer under his protection and in his presence.
Fear Not! And Believe…
“… [F]ear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
In the elevator … in the store … re-entering our world … watching the injustice, riots, looting and fires on TV … we choose not to be swept up in fear, but turn our hearts to God believing he will give us everything we need to overcome this temptation to fear. We ask him for his strength and help. We have a “confident, alert expectation that he will do what he has said he will do” (Eugene Peterson). He will strengthen and help us. And we will have the joy of partnering with him in his transforming work in our lives.
Fear Not! And Pray…
“… [D]o 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. (Philippians 4:5-6)
These prayers restore my soul. They drain away my anxiety. The longer we pray over this crisis the more our heavenly Father truly erases our fear.
Is your heart afraid? So was David’s. In Psalm 56 he wrote, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” But then, surprisingly, in Psalm 56 he also wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
David proclaims his trust. But in the next breath, a fiery dart of fear hits. When virus and injustice and “anarchy is loosed” as it is right now the darts inevitably find us. “When I am afraid.” Our hearts can turn on a dime. David stops and remembers, he looks up and chooses to believe again. May God guard our hearts with his presence and promises. And turn our fears into prayers of trust. “I shall not be afraid.”
Lael Arrington is a national speaker and author of four books — most recently, Faith and Culture: The Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith.
Copyright 2020 LaelArrington.com. Republished with permission. (NOTE: edited for length.)