Managing Fear in the Midst of a Pandemic

For those of you who don’t know, I live in San Jose, California.  Now, in most contexts, that would not have much significance, but drop that piece of data into a point of time, say March 2020, and suddenly, its significance is great.

San Jose is the scene of the third-largest outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States.  The situation is changing so rapidly, that as I have been writing this over the past week, I have had to edit the information I am about to present several times.  The World Health Organization has officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic and our governor banned all gatherings of over 10 people across our whole state.  In my county and the counties surrounding mine, we are under a “shelter-in-place” order, meaning we can only leave our houses in cases of supply runs and emergencies. The President has shut our borders to those from the East as well as the West.  Oil prices have plummetted to their worst point since 1991 (is that the count now?). The stock market has dived significantly not once, but four times (is that the count now?).  There has been a run on all things from meat and cheese to baby Tylenol to toilet paper.  And, in the words our of beloved Woody from Toy Story: “This is the perfect time to panic!” (Did I mention Tom Hanks, America’s dad, was diagnosed with the virus?)

Oh my goodness, you guys.  Confession. As I was writing that last paragraph, I got a notification on my phone that trading on Wall Street was halted again for 15 minutes because of a 7% drop, and I can feel a stirring in the pit of my stomach.  (This paragraph was written on March 12. It has since dropped again.)

Should I start to panic too?  

FEAR VS. FAITH

I knew exactly what to do.  I should pray. I should ask God to fix this mess and protect His people.  That’s what a good Christian does, right?  And I did.  I began to pray, and as the first words came out, I stopped.  “God, please…” And a song popped in my head:

And all I did was praise

All I did was worship

All I did was bow down

All I did was stay still

And I just sat there.  And I praised. And I worshipped.  And I stayed still. I didn’t ask for intervention or express my feelings of fear because all of a sudden, I didn’t feel like I needed to.  The Holy Spirit reminded me in that moment that our God is bigger. He’s bigger than germs. He’s bigger than the economy. He’s bigger than mob mentality and panic buying.  He’s bigger than quarantine and cabin fever.

Fear is a basic human emotion like happiness, sorrow, and anger.  Emotions inform our actions – or reactions.  It’s what we do with our emotions that define our character and show others Jesus (Christians respond differently).  Panic is a response to fear, but so is faith.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

Psalm 56:3

REMEMBER TO REMEMBER

Now, this is probably the 10,000th “do not fear” piece/blog/meme you’ve seen in the past few weeks, but I think it speaks to our hearts that are inclined to worry.  They’re inclined to forget Who is in control and His promises.

As I mentioned before, I live in California.  The weather is spot on. It barely ever rains except for a short period of time during the winter months.  When it does rain, it’s usually only for a short while and the sun comes out not long after leaving so many opportunities for rainbows.  Whenever we see a rainbow, I ask my kids, “Do you remember what a rainbow is?” and they answer, “God’s promise!” I try to use these opportunities (seeing rainbows) to reflect on what He has promised and ask myself what promises I’m currently not believing at the moment.

It has been a particularly dry winter here in the Bay Area.  However, in the past week or so, we have suddenly had consistent rain and consequently, a few rainbows.  Coincidence? What are some of the promises God is trying to tell me to remember?

  • He is bigger (Matthew 19:26, Romans 8:38-39)
  • He is never surprised (Isaiah 46:10, Revelation 22:13)
  • He is in control (Deuteronomy 31:8, Genesis 50:20)
  • He loves us  (Jeremiah 31:3, Psalm 136:26, Romans 5:8)
  • He is faithful 

Friends, I want to emphasize the last promise.  He is faithful.  It is not only important to remember His promises but to remember how He has been faithful in the past so we can have faith in Him in the present.  We can trust Him. What’s a promise if it hasn’t been fulfilled?

You may notice I didn’t put Scripture references on the last promise because the entirety of Scripture itself is the reference to God’s faithfulness.  Just look at the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, and David. They all point to the ultimate reference to God’s faithfulness, Jesus.  However, I know practically speaking, these ancient stories can feel abstract and distant, so it’s also important to remember God’s faithfulness in our own lives.  It’s important to cling to these moments even if they’re little – like finding a parking spot close to the door when it’s raining and you have three small children in the car (yes, I’ve prayed this) – because “whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10).

So if you’re feeling fearful and worried today, I want to encourage you to stop.  Praise. Worship.  Bow down.  Stay still.  Dwell on His promises.  Remember His faithfulness.

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