Do Not Fear

Way back in 1989, New York Magazine published an article by journalist Eric Pooley titled “Grins, Gore, and Videotape – The Trouble with Local TV News.” I mention this, because it is the first verifiable use of the phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Eric meant, the stories that get the most attention are disasters. Whether they are natural like hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, wildfires, or manmade like shootings, robberies, rapes, riots, etc. Tragedy sells papers. Gets ratings. Rarely does a story about a man who collects broken down cars and fixes them so he can then give them away to people who really need reliable transportation like single moms or someone trying to find work. That’s a true story, but front page? Sell papers? No. It’s not “sexy” enough. For whatever reason, calamity, heartbreak, misfortune, fear gets our attention.

Since we are still trying to recover from a pandemic, let’s talk about fear. Over the past eighteen months or so, we were all afraid of being infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Otherwise known as Covid-19. Did you know the only reason it’s called Covid-19 is because it broke out in 2019? Now, I remember the year Renée and I were married, 1981, was the first time AIDS really came to National attention. At the time, we had no idea if it was the next Bubonic Plague of the 14th century, which killed some 200 million people (60% of the European population) or not. Everyone was afraid of contracting AIDS. At the beginning, we did not know how it was transmitted. Similarly, early last year, we were still not sure if Covid-19 would be like the seasonal flu or smallpox. During the 20th century, smallpox killed 300 to 500 million people. Our first minister Rev. John Whiting died from smallpox in 1689. So, fear is understandable. 

Fear is also not always a bad thing. Fear of contracting AIDS led to widespread use of condoms. Fear of getting into a car accident makes us put on our seatbelts. Fear of getting Covid-19 led us to social distance and wear facemasks. Fear of hell can motivate one to seek forgiveness in Jesus. However, fear can also be destructive and incapacitating. It can stop us from applying for job. Asking someone on a date. Entering a talent contest. Going for our driver’s license.

The Bible is clear. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). When David was facing a powerful Ammonite army, God told him, “…be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Paul reminds us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). 

We need to be smart. As we have been over the past eighteen months. We cannot live recklessly thinking, “Oh, I have nothing to fear. God will protect me.” That’s arrogance. When Satan tempted Jesus to jump off the Temple saying, “[God] will order his angels to protect you.” Jesus responds, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God’(Matthew 4:7). There is a difference between believing and testing the Lord. Between trust and plain stupidity.

Look, I promise you. Even in the midst of these variants, we can survive Covid-19. Just as we did smallpox and AIDS. What we cannot do is live in fear. God has our back, and our front, and our top, bottom, left and right. Yes, even though, at times, we are walking through a valley of the shadow of death, we should fear no evil: for God is with us. He comforts us. He anoints our heads with oil until our cups run over. Be smart, but trust Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. He will never let you down.  


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