We are living in a time ravaged by fear for many. We are seeing countries around the world being brought to an almost standstill. The future seems uncertain, and everyone has their own thoughts and opinions regarding what has and should be done.
Social media has been flooded with everything from news articles with facts and opinions to memes joking about buying to much toilet paper. For many, the thought persists that what has taken place within our country is no less than an overreaction. But for others, there is real fear. The concern they feel for themselves and their loved ones, it’s just as real and valid as the opposing opinions.
Watching my middle schooler grieve the premature end of the school year hurts. They feel the loss of social interaction with their friends, the seemingly unending solitude of the forced social isolation they must endure.
Those feelings are real.
The elderly in our families and community who understand the elevated risk they face with this illness, while also facing isolation from friends and family. What for many is already a lonely stage of life, has now indefinitely been exacerbated. No more visits from children and grandkids. No more social activities to attend.
It’s in these times, these situations, that often times our fears and concerns can overwhelm us. While we acknowledge the realness of these feelings, it’s critical we fight allowing them to over take us. But as we have seen, and continue too, many already have been overcome. Many feel a sense of hopelessness in these uncertain times.
So how should we respond?
What should the approach of those who are not overwhelmed by fear be?
It’s interesting how even in the midst of a modern crisis, Scripture provides us with timeless guidance. Listen to Paul’s words in Romans 14:13.
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”Romans 14:13
Now Paul wasn’t dealing with a viral outbreak. He wasn’t even dealing with a community ripe with fear over an uncertain future. He was however, dealing with people who had very different outlooks and opinions regarding an issue of great cultural and religious importance.
On one hand where those who believed passionately that eating certain foods was wrong, while others believed there was nothing wrong with it. You could say they even felt the opposing party of view was overreacting. Huh, now that sounds familiar.
Paul’s point in all of it was simple. Your opinion doesn’t really matter. What does matter, is putting the needs of your brother and sister first. Specifically, those struggling, don’t be a hindrance to their growth.
Maybe you don’t think this virus outbreak is a big deal. That’s ok, you have that right to think that way. But what affect does downplaying the fears and concerns of others have? Are you considering the needs of those around you who are feeling and struggling with fear?
I love Paul’s other words in Philippians 4:8-9, I think they are so immensely practical for us right now.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”Philippians 4:8-9
Paul’s focus was on Jesus. No matter what he faced, how hard life got, his eyes did not waver from Jesus in the picture. Remember, this was a guy often writing letters of encouragement to others while imprisoned because of his faith. He did not allow his circumstances to shape and dictate his view on life, or how he treated others.
Despite where he found himself, he encouraged and spoke life into those who were struggling to cope with the issues they faced.
What is your response in these times?
Have you been overran with fear and concern of the unknown future? Are you looking forward in fear, facing uncertainty in finances, work, what you will do with your kids in the midst of this crisis? I encourage you to pray on Paul’s words he wrote to the Philippine church. Break the cycle of living in fear, and put your eyes on Jesus. Trust that He will give you the strength and endurance to persevere through the hardships. Find hope, that He has put people in your path to walk this journey with you.
Do you find yourself less concerned about the crisis we face than others? Is fear of the uncertain future something you find you just don’t struggle with? Count yourself blessed! But don’t allow your peace and confidence be a stumbling block to those who are not at peace or confident. This is not a time to downplay the fears and concerns of others. You may think certain reactions are blown out of proportion, or that people just need to get over their fears. Remember, their feelings are real. The fear and uncertainty they feel is real. What are you doing to build that person up? To lead the way in restoring hope in dark times? Stop passing judgment, and instead focus on spreading hope through words and actions of encouragement.
This is a time for the Church to shine. Christ made it clear, that we are to be the purifying element in a sick world, by and through Him. Be the salt of the earth, speak life into pain, be a beacon of light in dark times.