Don’t Be Afraid–and especially, Don’t Panic

 What a crazy world out there as we see the response to the Covid-19 corona virus which appears to have started in Wuhan, China.  As the virus has spread to pretty much every country on the globe, we have witnessed how people panic in times of crises, with some countries, like Italy and France on total lockdown, stock markets plunging, travel restricted, schools and other business establishments closing temporarily, sports shutting down—even the NCAA basketball’s “March Madness” being cancelled. Broadway and Disneyland have closed.  Yesterday, many church-goers had to stay home and stream the message on line.      And people are panicking and cleaning off the shelves in stores of canned goods, bread, and especially toilet paper!  Last week our son, who lives near Portland, sent us a couple pictures of totally empty shelves in a Target store. The WinCo store, normally open 24 hours a day had to close to clean up the mess shoppers had made and to try to restock. We were thinking that wouldn’t happen here, but as we visited our local grocery store on Saturday, sure enough, the toilet paper shelf was empty and several others were nearly so!  People are people, subject to fear and panic, no matter where they live.  There have been accounts of fights as shoppers try to get the last package of toilet paper in the store—crazy!                             I did a little Bible search and found that fear is mentioned some 400 times and 331 times we are told to “fear not” (38 times in Isaiah alone, and 19 times in Luke).  Thirty-three time we are told: “do not be afraid.” The Greek word for “fear” in the New Testament is phobeo (fob-eh’o), from which we get our word “phobia.”  Although the word “panic” doesn’t appear in Scripture, it is often the result of fear. It refers to “a sudden, unreasoning, hysterical fear, often spreading quickly, such as might happen in a crowded auditorium if someone shouts ‘fire’.”   When people panic—as has been happening in the world over the spread of the corona virus—they lose their reasoning powers and common sense, and act irrationally, which just exacerbates the whole situation. Obviously the media hasn’t helped either! 

     There was no fear until sin took place in the Garden of Eden. There was nothing to fear and man’s nature wasn’t prone to do so. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they suddenly experienced guilt, shame and fear and tried to hide from God, and to cover up their mistake by making themselves garments from fig leaves. I guess, in a sense, they panicked and did something irrational.  Everyone born since, except Jesus, received that Adamic nature and has a tendency to disobey, to experience guilt, shame and fear and to act irrationally as a result (Ro. 5:12,19).
     But what’s with hoarding toilet paper?  One psychologist suggests that since during a time of crisis many feel they have lost control over the situation, their response is to do something that gives them a little sense of security and control and so, when shopping, will especially look for big bulky items that they can stock up on, giving them some feeling of regaining control.  Of course, face masks and hand sanitizer were high on the list as well. If people acted rationally and just purchased what they normally needed, we wouldn’t be seeing all the empty shelves. 
     As Christians, we have an opportunity to demonstrate to the world of unbelievers the difference that Christ makes in our life. We don’t need to be afraid and panic and respond in an irrational manner. We can show others that we have confidence in a sovereign God who is in control, who lives in us to give us calm and peace, and who will never leave us.  With the Psalmist, we can say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though the waters foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride…When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (Psa. 46:1-3; 56:3,4).  Isaiah, in a hymn of praise, wrote: “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and song…” (Isa. 12:2).  As Israel faced opposition from her enemies, God, through Isaiah, said this to them: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you (don’t panic!), for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
     When God commissioned Joshua with the formidable task of leading the Children of Israel into their Promised Land which would involve many battles—even against giants—God, through Moses, encouraged him, saying, “It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall possess them…Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Dt. 31: 3,6,8). No matter where God leads us or what is happening to us and to the world around us, as Christians, we have Jesus living in us who promised: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you!” (Heb. 13:5b). 
     It is not wrong to take precautions, to plan and to prepare, but there is no need for fear and panic.  “For this we have Jesus!”  God is sovereign and God is good—all the time!  Trust in our unchanging God during changing times.  Share your hope with those who have none.
            Forever His,
                Pastor Dave

About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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