It’s easy to sacrifice our time and thought lives at the alter of the news, meditating on the constant stream of updates, and in the meantime, neglecting our trust in God to carry us through the crisis we currently face.
Our fears are only natural — we are facing a bizarre set of circumstances the likes of which hardly any of us have ever seen. It’s not wrong to be afraid, according to one pastor, who says, “Be afraid, but don’t give way to fear.”
Paul Tripp, an author and pastor based in Philadelphia, described fear as one of “God’s good gifts to us,” before outlining three kinds of fearfulness he believes are in line with Scripture.
He shared his thoughts on fear as the U.S. is facing the spread of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, which has infected more than 5,000 Americans and led to the deaths of more than 100 people.
Tripp said Christians should fear God because it is what inspires “holy reverence” and submission to Him. There is also what Tripp called “rapid response fear,” which “is our instinctual ability to react in a moment of danger.” That, too, is healthy, he said, offering this example: “Think of a parent who spontaneously leaps into action to protect their child right before they hurt themselves.” Then there’s “appropriate concern,” the kind of fear he said is warranted by this evolving situation.
While Tripp said it “may seem contradictory” to claim it’s OK to be afraid while at the same time warning against “giving way” to fear, he explained that God “designed us with the ability to be afraid because he loves us and wants to protect us.” We should have appropriate concerns about COVID-19, because it is dangerous.
“Giving way to fear is characterized by meditating on the trouble we are facing and forgetting God in the process,” he said. “This fear reveals itself when we allow our minds and hearts to be controlled by what was initially appropriate concern.”
“Is the pandemic (or anything that makes you afraid, for that matter) all you think about, all you read about, and all you talk about?” the pastor asked. “If any type of trouble consumes your meditation, the larger it will loom, the more impossible a solution will seem, and the more frightened you will become.”
When we allow our concerns and fears to consume us — when they become an idol — we have “ultimately forgotten God,” Tripp explained.
“We have forgotten that there is a Lord of glory, wisdom, goodness, power, and grace who sits on the throne of His universe,” he said. “No difficulty of any kind — no person, place, or pandemic — can negate His good and glorious promises to his children.”
As believers, it is paramount we keep this in perspective. We have a responsibility to pray: to petition God on the part of those who are on the front lines fighting this illness, our medical personnel and first responders, as well as those who are infected with the virus. Pray also for our leaders as they navigate how best to protect the country from the spread of COVID-19 and for one another, remembering to extend grace to your neighbors, because we are all figuring this out together.