Sober, but not scared
At first the enforced isolation and connecting online seemed novel and even fun – until I realised that our sources of income are being cut back one by one.
At the beginning of April, a report was published on the findings of the Italian-based AI company Expert System. They had been researching tens of thousands of social media posts in order to gauge the changing public moods in relation to COVID-19. What they found was no surprise; that for the fourth day in a row fear had been the most dominant emotion expressed in posts. “There are many reasons why fear is growing,” the team wrote in their daily update.
Yes, there are many reasons to feel fear, to be scared about what is happening. The report suggested that apart from the fear of dying, fears are based around not knowing what the plan is, or how governments will find a way forward.
There was a time when I would read these reports and feel sorry for these unfortunate people that had no faith in God, no expectation of a “life hereafter” that would be a buffer against fear of the future.
The reason I felt like that was because I have been a comfortably smug woman who can trip off good verses to other believers in troubling situations. Verses like:
“Be anxious for nothing …” Philippians 4:6-7.
I had always got a lot of strength from that verse because it is a command: it does not give me a choice. It tells me what to do – pray to God with my needs and requests – then it tells me what will happen – that the peace of God will guard my heart and mind.
I have practiced this verse throughout my life, and goodness knows I have needed to. It has saved me many, many times from the panic that can grip our hearts when something unforeseen and unwelcome comes crashing into our lives.
I had this faith that as long as I was aI believed that God was with me whatever happened. I became an expert in it. I knew how to approach difficult situations, and I thought I had got this sussed, and so I could trip this verse off to others without going too deep into what their problems were.
Now, even with the global reaction to a virus that is killing apparently huge numbers of people quite quickly, I have felt calm. It’s not been exactly “what will be, will be,” yet I know that nothing can touch a hair of my head unless God allows it. And that applies to my family too. I felt sober, but not scared.
But then, the lockdown in the UK happened. At first the enforced isolation, the restriction of movement, the connecting with friends, colleagues and students on Zoom was novel and even fun – until I realized that because all the members of my family in my household are self-employed our sources of income are being cut back one by one. My husband’s customers are cancelling, my patients can’t come for appointments, my son’s students can’t come and be taught piano …
And if the tenant in our rental property can’t pay his rent because he can’t go in to work – that will be two mortgages we will have to pay coming out of our rapidly reducing income.
Then the fear suddenly hit, coming sideways, unexpected and harsh – a physical gut punch that jerked me out of the complacent confidence that I had anxiety “sussed.” In a flash my thoughts were: we could lose our house, lose our pension, lose our businesses.
I hadn’t expected to be hit like this. I’m a disciple. I know my life is in God’s hands. I’m not tossed to and fro by what worries other people, people who don’t have faith.
So, do I really live this verse – be anxious for nothing? Strange that I have not been tempted to be anxious about the virus attacking my body, but I can be anxious about losing my house.
There is one thing I must never lose
I had to think soberly. What is the worst that can happen? What if I die? – I go to be with Jesus. I lose my business? – I can find some other work. We lose our house? – we can find something smaller. Ah, but if I lose my faith? – That is the worst thing that can happen.
My faith has to be tested so that it can survive the shaking that comes with trials. If I don’t get the temptation, then I don’t get the victory. I may not have a clue what will happen to me or my family; I don’t know what direction God will take us in health-wise, emotionally, or financially but I do know that my faith must go deeper.
Yes, I was surprised that I was tempted to be scared, but should I have been? It has woken me up to be a lot more watchful: to notice these insidious smug feelings, to challenge my platitudes, to develop an empathy for those who do feel scared and unsure. It has knocked me out of my comfort zone and that is good. Anything that tests my faith is good for me. In these uncertain times confidence in God has to be the centre of my life, my day, and my thoughts, because without that I have indeed lost everything.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.