One of the challenges many are facing as we experience the “COVID-19” world is “fear.” That word comes up repeatedly in news reports, Zoom discussions, and person to person exchanges. Fear is defined as “a feeling of dread or apprehension”; Roget’s Thesaurus lists “terror, panic, despair,” and “uneasiness” as strong synonyms. Think about how many times one of those words has popped up in a conversation lately, and you’ll understand how deeply fear has permeated our lives in these past months.
We Christians know that fear is not supposed to be a driving emotion; after all, “do not be afraid” appears as a phrase more than seventy-five times in the Bible. Of course, the challenge is getting our hearts around what that means for us. Simply put, most of us don’t have a “fear switch” we can click to make it disappear.
An important step toward an answer is understanding that the Biblical antidote for fear is not primarily “courage” or “bravery.” Although God does tell us at times to step up and be brave, He points us far more often to another—and I would argue most important—response to fear. The Biblical opposite of fear is not “bravery,” as if God was asking us to “buck up and be more bold” in the face of uncertainty. Instead, the more direct Biblical antonym for fear is “trust.” The Biblical antidote to fear is to trust God and His character.
Consider Jesus’ words: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1, NLT). Further, in Isaiah 43.5, instead of asking persons to face fear by finding it in themselves to “ratchet up some willpower to be brave,” God says “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Trusting in His presence is the answer to anything we might fear. It’s not about our effort or our trying to be brave; it’s about our willingness to trust in His promise of constant care and concern. It is not our inner courage but His perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
If we catch ourselves saying, “But why doesn’t God just erase the scary stuff,” that would be quite common, and it would also be a symptom of the problem of being “too much like an adult.” The “trust element” is the key to Jesus’ statements that we must be like children to enter and experience the Kingdom. Of course, maturity is a required part of life; but if “maturity” is understood as becoming more dependent on our own ability, effort, and understanding and less dependent on childlike trust in our Heavenly Father’s heart for us, it is ultimately damaging to our relationship with Him.
In the face of COVID-19’s temptation to fear, let’s decide to run into our Father’s arms and trust His promises–that He will never leave us or forsake us, that He will give good gifts to those who ask Him, and that He is working all things together for our good. His door and His arms are always open. As Hebrews 4:16 puts it, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”