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Illuminating Fear

Illuminating Fear

Have you tuned into the 24 hour news outlets lately? Yeah, me too. Tell me what you see and hear. I mean really what are you viewing, hearing, absorbing, and experiencing? There appears to be only one story. I wake up in the morning with the words “COVID-19” running across my forehead like a Times Square digital billboard. Why? Because this is all that my senses are taking in, especially within the past 28 days of our state-imposed quarantine.

I’m starting to wonder what in the world is going on! And yes, I mean that literally.

I’ve been a Christ follower for 36+ years, so I’ve been around the church at large for quite a few years. But I have never seen such a quick kneejerk reaction to anything like I’ve seen with this news of a viral threat. It’s like suddenly all the words uttered during worship declaring how “great is our God”, how “God is my strong tower”, believing that “He is our healer”, and “where He goes, we’ll go” have suddenly melted away like watercolor paint on a glossy surface. We are standing in a pile of meaningless words when the heat turns on and the fear overshadows any semblance of the sentiments we sing.

Our conversations have turned from encouraging one another with the truth of who we are and our purposes in this world, to what we’ll occupy ourselves with while we “shelter in place” (who coined that phrase, anyway?). The spirit of fear has broadcast its prophecy to us and we have bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

And let me say this at the onset: I have fallen into dread at times as I carelessly ruminated upon the possible outcomes this pandemic could have on our economy and the mental health and well-being of countless individuals. But Jesus clearly taught us to not worry about tomorrow and clearly to “seek first the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 6). Snapping out of the alarming future scenario, I’m transported back to the present, where I AM invites me to reside in His peace.  And the words of Jesus ring loud and clear and TRUE, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

Why am I afraid? I presume it’s because I choose to believe the anxiety-producing words which are spoken that are not in line with God’s words. Sadly, I internalize the exact opposite of whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. I nod in agreement and simultaneously shake my head in disbelief (though I DO believe what the talking heads are touting), and then continue the dialogue with well-meaning friends. And the cycle continues.

Jesus, upon asking the “why are you afraid” question, clearly expected His listeners to examine their own reasoning. And what conclusions might they have come up with?  “Storms are scary and can cause severe damage, affecting my livelihood, my income, my health, my life.”

And what of COVID-19? What of cancer? What of heart disease? What of automobile accidents? What of financial decline, divorce, or death? WHY AM I AFRAID??! The answer to these questions can be as numerous and unique as the individual who asks it. Yet, the remedy to these fear origins remains the same and it hinges upon the second question Jesus asked: “Where is your faith?” If my faith is in news reports, looping the dreaded details until they cling to my mind like parasites, they will suck the life out of joy and peace, destiny and purpose. But if my faith remains in the One who holds my very life in the palm of His loving hands…the One who numbers the hairs on my head…then the fear-filled circumstances won’t hold water to the security of His grasp. When my faith (which really is a gift of the Spirit) is in the One who proved His love for me (though He certainly did not have to) by going through His own personal storm so I could experience His calm, then I’m positioned to experience an incredible “peace that passes understanding”. But if I don’t choose to press my faith into the person of Christ, then my default will always be fear.

The news outlets know how to work their audiences using technology to create an atmosphere that compels us back for more. So how about we, the church, shine the light of love and faith into the abyss of trepidation? I desperately desire for this time to be an opportunity for us to push past our anxieties into courage, take a leap of faith, and live in belief of every word that Jesus has said. And as we do so, let this be the compelling factor to an unbelieving, distressed world.

After all, it seems to be what He has been preparing for us all along.

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Lori Travers

Lori finds the Joy of the Lord to be her strength. Born and raised an Italian Jersey girl, she has finally settled in the south as Reynolda Presbyterian church became her new home. Ministry to women, reading, writing, cooking, and anything having to do with animals are her sweet spots. Having a background in cardiac testing, she chose to stay home and raise three incredible children who are now married, and currently has 2 precious granddaughters and one faithful husband of 34 years.

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