During COVID-19, Fear is Contagious, Too—But There’s Hope!
March 25, 2020
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By Pastor Dudley Rutherford
In difficult and uncertain times like we’re experiencing right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with fear and worry. Fear often stems from a lack of trust in the Lord’s faithfulness, love, and ability to provide. If we trusted in these unwavering qualities of our ever-present God, we would never entertain a single fear. And yet, everyone in the world fears the exact same thing: losing. Think about what scares you the most. What keeps you awake at night, wrestling with worry? Right now, it’s probably this serious and widespread virus…but whether it’s your health or the health of a loved one, concerns about school or your job, the fear of death, or not having enough money, we all fear losing something that we value. These are all valid concerns, but they wilt and wither in the light of God’s greatness and His promises.
Lloyd Ogilvie, former chaplain of the United States Senate, once noted that there are 366 passages in the Bible that direct us not to worry or fear. That’s an encouraging verse for every day of the year, including leap years! For example, Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” And I love Isaiah 41:10, in which our heavenly Father said, “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.”
Of course, there are hundreds of other verses in the Bible that admonish us not to fear besides the two that I highlighted above. I think the Word is filled with so many of these bold reminders because God knew that His beloved children would easily lose sight of the fact that He is in control.
John Ortberg, in his book If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, discussed another reason. He wrote:
The single command in Scripture that occurs more often than any other — God’s most frequently repeated instruction — is formulated in two words: Fear not. Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous. You can trust me. Fear not. Why does God command us not to fear? Fear does not seem like the most serious vice in the world. It never made the list of the Seven Deadly Sins. No one ever receives church discipline for being afraid. So why does God tell human beings to stop being afraid more often than he tells them anything else? My hunch is that the reason God says ‘Fear not’ so much is not that he wants us to be spared emotional discomfort. In fact, usually he says it to get people to do something that is going to lead them into greater fear anyway. I think God says ‘fear not’ so often because fear is the number one reason human beings are tempted to avoid doing what God asks them to do.
We learn from Scriptures like Joshua 6, Esther 4:14, Proverbs 21:30, Isaiah 6:8, and Isaiah 14:27 that God’s plans always will succeed, and that He uses willing and trusting people to bring His plans to fruition. But fear tries to immobilize us from doing what God has purposed for us. Fear is our enemy. It sabotages our good intentions and paralyzes us from doing what the Lord has called us to do. In the midst of this pandemic, we absolutely must follow the recommendations of medical experts. We must be wise, look out for others, and stay at home. But in the meantime, don’t allow yourself to be gripped by fear.
We discover in the Word of God that love is the secret weapon for combating fear. First John 4:18 reveals, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Stop focusing on what you’re seeing on the news, or doubting that God is working in the middle of all of this chaos around us. By focusing on the purity, perfection, and strength of God’s love, you will be able to cast aside your fears and be reminded to trust in the One who always keeps your best interests at heart. Fear not, my friend.
Pastor Dudley Rutherford is the author of “Compelled: The Irresistible Call to Share Your Faith” (available on Amazon) and the senior pastor of Shepherd Church, which has three campuses in the Greater Los Angeles area—Porter Ranch, Woodland Hills, and Agua Dulce. You can connect with Dudley at www.LiftUpJesus.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.