Americans remain highly concerned about the coronavirus, even as parts of the country begin to reopen. While the root cause for these concerns varies -- recent polling indicates that a slightly higher percentage of Americans fear the economic effects of a prolonged period of quarantine (49 percent) than the health threat posed by the virus (45 percent) -- the fact remains: Americans are afraid.
A certain level of anxiety is understandable. We live in challenging times, in which concerns about rising unemployment, access to healthcare, and the possibility of an economic recession dominant the headlines. Loved ones are losing jobs, small businesses are struggling, and churches are having to reevaluate how they do ministry. In this context, fear is a natural human reaction.
But Christians need to think very carefully about the current moment and the important conversations taking place around us. In the weeks ahead, those in authority ought to be guided by the principle of neighbor love and ensure all their decisions honor the inherent dignity of everyone made in God's image. Christian doctors, businessmen, and policymakers should prayerfully consider how to balance the reopening of the country with protecting the health of Americans.
Unfortunately, there are always those who try to exploit a crisis by further stirring up fear. There have already been examples of state and local authorities using the current situation as an opportunity to amass more power for themselves. However, Christians must recognize the dangers of allowing fear to drive the national response. We should caution our friends and neighbors about the hazards of an alarmist mentality that could ultimately lead to the government assuming excessive power. Such conditions have historically lead to the suspension of civil liberties. The government has a vital role to play in addressing the crisis, to be sure. However, fear-driven people placing all their trust in government is highly dangerous. That is why Christians must be vigilant and ensure they are being guided by faith in the principles of God's Word, rather than fear.
The Bible frequently addresses the topic of fear. For instance, Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Despite facing many harrowing situations in his personal and public life, David believed that followers of God should not be ruled by fear. In Psalm 27:1, he wrote, "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?" Likewise, the Apostle Paul rejected fear, reminding his young ministry partner, "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7).
Remarkably, every genre contained in the Bible (historical narrative, epistle, poetry, and prophecy) features admonitions to not be afraid. Why is this? Why does the Bible say so much about fear? I believe humanity's natural inclination to fear is a result of living in a fallen world where we are estranged from our Creator. Even Christians -- who have been reconciled to God through faith in the person and work of Jesus -- are still affected by sin. As a result, they do not yet experience full peace and assurance. Unfortunately, we are often consumed with our own struggles and circumstances, and when the concerns of this fallen world press in on us, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. When this happens, even the most faithful Christians are often tempted to act on fear and seek help in the wrong places. The consistent message of Scripture is a reminder to God's people that, no matter how difficult our trials become, we must keep our eyes fixed on God. We must trust Him to work even difficult situations for His glory and our good.
Notably, when God tells His people not to fear, He usually provides a reason why they shouldn't fear; namely, He reminds them of His presence. For example, immediately after instructing Joshua to "not be dismayed," He adds, "for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9). This is important for us to remember. Like Elisha's servant, we often needed to be reminded that no matter how dire the situation appears to be, "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16).
In the coming weeks, Christians have an incredible opportunity to model what sincere trust in God looks like. Although Christians are facing the same challenges as everyone else, we can have peace and confidence that surpasses all understanding if we stay rooted in the character and promises of God. And hopefully, when we look back on these times in the months and years to come, we will be able to see God's good hand of providence and how these difficult days produced opportunities for gospel advancement that would have been impossible any other way. Let us choose faith over fear, and trust God to preserve and keep us as we lean on Him in these difficult days.